SXSW Will Not Be Refunding Tickets After Coronavirus Cancelation
On March 6, SXSW announced that for the first time in 34 years, it would be canceling the festival due to the coronavirus. The festival was scheduled to take place between March 13 and 22. However, disappointed ticketholders may be in for some more bad news: it looks like tickets will not be refunded.
SXSW maintains a strict no-refunds policy. It is unclear whether some sort of ticket insurance option was available to ticketholders. Prices for tickets to the festival were as high as $1600.
“SXSW may, in its sole discretion and at any time determined by SXSW,” the policy reads. “Cancel, revoke, or refuse from any individual or company the following: Credentials, purchases, and/or hotel reservations made through SXSW. SXSW will not be responsible for any penalty, fee, loss, or expense that might result from such action.”
“SXSW does not issue refunds under any circumstances. Any and all payments made to SXSW are not refundable for any reason, including, without limitation, failure to use Credentials due to illness, acts of God, travel-related problems, acts of terrorism, loss of employment and/or duplicate purchases.”
SXSW has changed its policy in one way: tickets for this year’s event can be deferred to 2021, 2022 or 2023. In an email sent to ticketholders posted to Reddit, SXSW said they were looking into rescheduling the event this year, “along with some online conference experiences and networking opportunities.”
According to SXSW’s website, if you cancel your hotel reservation, or decrease the length of stay, within 28 days of the start of the reservation, SXSW will charge a $50 fee. You may also incur an additional penalty fee, depending on the period of time between the cancellation and when the reservation began as well as the individual hotel’s policies. It is unclear if these policies are being adapted in regards to this specific cancellation.
SXSW may not be financially able to offer refunds due to the festival’s own insurance policy.
“We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather),” SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson told The Austin Chronicle. “However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”
Disease outbreaks aren’t typically included in artist or promoter insurance policies, according to Variety, but insurance in the case of a disease outbreak is often offered as an additional buy-back. Artists don’t normally take this out but promoters often do opt for it. However, since the virus outbreak began, the disease coverage buy-back is no longer available.
Some of the policies issued after the outbreak even exclude COVID-19, Billboard reported. And even if the policy includes the coronavirus, the risk of spread alone is not enough to guarantee the insurance payout — it has to be a forced cancellation, like a government-ordered shutdown. Meaning that if an event’s organizers voluntarily cancel the event, they may not get the insurance money.
The cancelation has been hard on SXSW employees as well — the festival laid off a third of its staff on March 9.
Swenson told the Wall Street Journal that he estimates the losses from the cancelation to be “tens of millions of dollars” and said that the festival could run out of money by the summer unless it manages to secure grants or other funding, leaving the future of SXSW in the balance.
“We are planning to carry on and do another event in 2021,” Swenson said. “But how we’re going to do that I’m not entirely sure.”
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