SXSW has been fairly reticent about commenting on the enforcement of its strict no refund policy following the cancellation of its 2020 edition over coronavirus concerns, but all signs have pointed to no refunds being offered. An email sent to badgeholders offered them the option to defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023. One badgeholder says they got a more definite answer from the festival when asking about refunds, however. The Reddit user posted a screencap of an email they say they received from SXSW. It reads as follows:
Thank you for reaching out to us.
We wish that the SXSW and SXSW EDU no refund policy (see Terms & Conditions) was just there as a safeguard and never imagined we would ever be in a situation where we would have to enforce it in this manner. We are devastated by the City's declaration of a "local state of disaster within the City of Austin," and we know you are, as well.
We are still wrapping our heads around the impact of the declaration, and in the meantime, SXSW has to rely on the registration terms you agreed to when you purchased your credential, which acknowledge that SXSW will not issue refunds. To provide value to customers who purchased badges we're exploring options to reschedule the events in 2020 along with some online conference experiences and networking opportunities. In addition, 2020 badge purchasers can opt to defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023, with additional benefits that we will update you on as soon as possible.
We appreciate your understanding as we navigate this unprecedented situation. SXSW will contact you as soon as possible about future opportunities available to you as a 2020 registration -- including the option to defer the registration.
Journalist Isaac Stone Fish shared the letter on his Twitter, too, saying it was sent to a friend.
Meanwhile, even without issuing refunds, SXSW is in major financial trouble following the cancellation. A third of the festival's full-time, year-round staff has been laid off, and as co-founder and chief executive Roland Swenson told The Wall Street Journal, their ability to return for future editions is not guaranteed. "I am most worried about my people and what this means for their future, and I don’t know what that is yet," Swenson told WSJ. "We are planning to carry on and do another event in 2021, but how we’re going to do that I’m not entirely sure."