One of the largest vendor-exclusive events of the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase has pulled out for 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After careful thought and consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the GJX 2021 gem show,” the group announced on its website. “With the stringent occupancy limits required, and considering the safety and well-being of our buyers, exhibitors and staff, we do not feel we can safely hold the show.”
GJX specializes in high-end gems and jewelry and is not an event open to the public at its tent across from the Tucson Convention Center at 198 S. Granada Ave.
“They are making their decisions based on can they keep their visitors and vendors safe,” said Andy Squire, a spokesman for the city of Tucson. “If the big shows pull out, the smaller ones may still go on.”
The announcement by GJX is the second cancellation for the 2021 event.
Last month the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, held at the Tucson Convention Center, announced it would be canceled. That event was open to the public.
The overall gem show, with more than 50 locations around town, had a direct economic impact of $131 million in 2019.
The potential of other wholesale vendors pulling out remains a concern.
“It’s a shock to the system,” said Dan Gibson, with Visit Tucson, “As the pandemic has continued, we knew it would be a concern but you’re never entirely, emotionally prepared.”
While not open to local shoppers, the wholesale events bring in visitors and vendors from all over the world.
“Nobody thought there would not have been some cancellations,” Gibson said. “But we’re trying to stay optimistic.”
There have been some grumblings about local officials being too restrictive with the upcoming event, regarding occupancy and distancing.
“It’s such an interesting balance,” Gibson said. “You definitely don’t want Tucson to be in the news because the gem show caused many infections. That people are safe is the biggest part.”
Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents downtown, lamented the loss of income from private vendors who travel to Tucson, but said canceling was the right thing to do.
“The dollars that come into the local economy aren’t private and it’s a big deal to us but I think they are doing the right thing,” he said. “They’re doing the responsible thing.”
If the novel coronavirus gets worse in Tucson, it may be the city that needs to pull the plug on the show in January and February.
“I’d be lying if I said I can guarantee that we won’t need the TCC for an emergency operation center,” Kozachik said. “As difficult as it is financially, they’re cutting their losses now and looking forward to 2022.”