SF tech conference offers free tickets in response to inflation, recession worries

Cloud Wars Expo, a new tech conference at Moscone Center being held next week, is offering free tickets in response to inflation and recession fears.

The cloud computing-focused event taking place from June 28-30 features speakers from tech titans including Microsoft, Oracle, Google, IBM and SAP, which are also sponsors for the event. Free tickets include access to keynote talks, an expo hall, receptions and meals. Normally tickets would range from $99 for a digital broadcast to $1,099 for an all-access pass.

The move comes after persistently high inflation, turmoil in the stock market, rising interest rates and the relentless pandemic have sparked corporate belt-tightening and concerns about a potential recession.

“We are a first year cloud event on a big mission with amazing support from the largest cloud companies on the planet,” said John Siefert, CEO of event parent Dynamic Communities, in a statement. “And based on these uncertain economic times we have decided to forego profit and offer free passes to Cloud Wars Expo for business and technology professionals working their tails off.”

Siefert told The Chronicle that paid registration was strong but said “over the last few weeks a lot has changed — in the Bay Area, the nation and in the world — and the best thing we can do is respond to it and try to do the right thing for everyone, instead of pretending like we are not in a tough place.”

Hundreds of people signed up on Tuesday for free tickets, he said. The conference will take place in Moscone Center West, which has room for thousands of attendees.

San Francisco's Moscone Center West will hold the Cloud Wars Expo this month, a new technology conference that is offering free admission.

San Francisco’s Moscone Center West will hold the Cloud Wars Expo this month, a new technology conference that is offering free admission.

Paul Chinn/The Chronicle

Siefert declined to give an exact budget for the conference but said the event organizers plan to spend millions of dollars.

He said the event sought to distinguish itself from other conferences with sessions no longer than 25 minutes, having speakers who all have experience in business and technology and hosting an “Industry Cloud Battleground” with all the biggest cloud vendors in the same area answering questions.

Major conferences, a crucial cog in the city’s tourism industry, have returned this year to Moscone Center as the pandemic has eased. San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau, expects 72,500 conference attendees to spend an estimated $117.2 million during the second quarter

Leisure travel has also rebounded, with SFO reporting passenger traffic at about 75% of pre-pandemic levels last week, leading to hours-long security lines on some days.

San Francisco hotel occupancy reached 67.2% in April, a pandemic era high.

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