Major players on the Asia/Pacific exhibition circuit include
Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. Yet the region is evolving
with several new exhibition centres emerging. Some promise to have a
huge impact on the region, while others may only appeal to small, niche
The Shanghai International Expo Centre at Pudong, which opened in
September to host the 2001 APEC Organisation meeting, is already
attracting considerable interest. With facilities to rival the giants,
Shanghai is set to boost exhibition activity in China as well as provide
stiff competition to the region's established centres.
Beijing, as the capital of the world's largest expanding market, is also
having considerable success based on sound economic forces.
'China is fast developing its venues to become a global exhibition
destination,' says James Papineau, deputy general manager sales &
marketing, Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre
(SICEC). 'When it is admitted to the World Trade Organisation, more
countries and companies will target China.'
Smaller, poorer economies are also trying to tap into the exhibition
market. One such area is Nepal, which boasts new hotel and exhibition
facilities. But the country is only likely to attract exhibition
organisers from businesses with interests related to Nepal, such as
textiles and adventure travel, as well as to companies where the
location will attract a following, without being tied to the
'There's a mystique and romance to Nepal that people find irresistible,'
says Martin van Kan, general manager of the recently opened Hyatt
Regency in the country's capital Kathmandu. 'This is one of the poorest
and least developed countries in the world, but travellers can now feel
assured of good facilities and a comfortable haven of sophistication,
along with an array of amazing trips and tours.'
Birenda International Conference Centre is a well-equipped venue in the
capital with a 318sq m exhibition hall. And the established five-star
Yak & Yeti Hotel opened a high-tech conference and exhibition wing in
autumn 2000. In the country's second biggest city, Pokhara, the Fulbari
Resort combines a luxury venue with facilities for exhibitions,
conventions and banquets in the heart of the Annapurna mountain
Organisers are drawn to Nepal as much for its culture and recreation as
its facilities. Flights past Everest, trekking, rafting and elephant
safaris provide spectacular pre- and post-show opportunities.
Small, specialised markets, such as Nepal, offer a unique and memorable
experience for exhibitors, yet will never compete with centres such as
Melbourne and Sydney, where trade and industry are on a completely
The 2000 Olympics boosted interest in Australia in general and Sydney in
particular, with corresponding upgrading of facilities. Sydney
Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) undertook an Adollars 57m
(pounds 19.5m) expansion in 1999, which incorporated 2,200sq m of
exhibition space. During the Games, five exhibition halls were converted
into stadiums seating up to 10,000 to host five sports, making it the
fifth largest venue in Olympic history.
'International bookings in the post-Olympic period are strong and we
have won many major bids for medical-related conferences,' says SCEC
general manager Ton van Amerongen. 'It has the most advanced
technological facilities in any exhibition centre in Australia and so is
increasingly winning major computer and IT events, such as the Siebel
Systems E-Business World Conference for 1,500 delegates in August
SCEC has 27,200sq m of exhibition space, including five column-less
halls, each of 5,000sq m, with 10m ceilings. It is close to the city's
central business district and Darling Harbour, making it well placed to
host the Australian Motor Show each October and November, and the
country's biggest boat show from July to August. In February 2001 the
venue held the largest Gift Ware Show ever. The show, organised by Reed
Exhibitions, featured 730 exhibitors and occupied six exhibition halls
and the promenade area.
'The Asia/Pacific region is in growth mode with low unemployment, low
inflation and low interest rates. Also, the exchange rate makes
Australia the best value exhibition and convention destination in the
world,' says Sue Marsh from the SCEC's press office.
The biggest exhibition space in Australia, however, is Melbourne
Exhibition and Convention Centre (MECC), which has 30,000sq m of
uninterrupted space on a single floor.
'The centre is renowned for its flexibility,' says MECC director of
sales and marketing Petrina Gillespie. 'This applies to the buildings,
but it also refers to our staff who take a proactive approach when
dealing with clients.'
Stage two of an Adollars 26m (pounds 8.9m) upgrade of the MECC was
completed this spring. 'Everything is hassle-free,' says John Kelly,
organiser of the Wine Australia show. 'Good access, power supplies and
convenient loading bays means we save at least two days' setting-up
And in June 2001 the MECC will host the UK's Good Food Show when it
comes to Australia for the first time.
Singapore is one of Asia's major transportation hubs and has long been
an important centre for trade and exhibitions. It hosts more exhibitions
than any other venue in the Asia/Pacific region. SICEC offers close to
35,000sq m of exhibition space, with 12,000sq m of column-free space in
a single hall.
In a major marketing move, ten local partners signed a Memorandum of
Understanding last month to pool their resources on a joint advertising
campaign targeted at the global conventions and exhibitions market.
SICEC has also recently appointed the Convention Partnership in London
to be its European sales and marketing representative. 'In marketing to
the international convention and exhibition markets it takes a concerted
effort by industry partners such as venues, hotels, local associations,
attractions, airlines and tourist boards to be successful,' says SICEC's
'New exhibition centres can be built with all the accompanying
state-of-the-art facilities, but it is really the destination that sells
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is the largest
multi-purpose facility in Asia, with exhibition, convention, meeting and
banqueting facilities under one roof. The entire complex totals
246,000sq m, with 64,000sq m of exhibition space attracting 100 major
exhibitions last year.
Major exhibitions in 2001 include Asia Pacific Leather Fair in March and
April, International Computer Expo in May and Hong Kong International
E-commerce 2001 in July. A HKdollars 10m (pounds 893,000) investment in
telecoms technology was completed in April 2001.
'Exhibitors choose to exhibit in a trade or consumer fair for one reason
- to sell their products or services,' says HKCEC managing director
Cliff Wallace. 'Exhibitors go where visitors attend and purchase. Those
who travel the greatest distance, such as from Europe to Hong Kong, are
simply coming because they have experienced that success or believe that
potential business is here.
'Success has nothing to do with the uniqueness of a location. A lot of
people build exhibition halls because they have a great city, but that
doesn't have much to do with successful exhibition centres. Some
consultants offer poor advice to justify the building of an exhibition
venue. This keeps them employed and massages the city's ego.
'Many Asian exhibition centres are dependent on major subsidies.
Mainland China is building exhibition and conference centres like
they're the answer to the next economic boom. But they will suffer great
problems because they are not always based on sound reasoning.
Conversely, Shanghai and Beijing have every opportunity for success
because they are in a proven major market.
'Places like Nepal work wonderfully for the meetings industry, but my
gut tells me it's not a good exhibition market. They need to have a
clear vision, given all the considerations of that market.
'In Hong Kong, we tend to exhibit what we export - gifts, houseware,
jewellery. Emerging exhibition centres should be careful not to compete
with large established shows. If they get caught up in the hype, they'll
find themselves with a white elephant they have to subsidise even to pay
the light bill.
'Hong Kong's greatest competitor is Shanghai. It is a real emerging
market that will provide tough competition. We'll have to tailor
ourselves more for the Asian market, rather than promoting ourselves as
a gateway into China. They are going to keep us on our toes.'
Philippines Convention and Visitors Corporation deputy executive
director conventions Rosvi Gaetos endorses many of Wallace's views: 'I
consider Shanghai the most promising emerging exhibition venue in the
Asia/Pacific region. It has the facilities and is set to become another
The Shanghai government, which fully supports local tourism, spearheaded
the venue's construction.
'I believe the success of an exhibition destination is not only a matter
of marketing. The amount of economic activity in that destination is
critical in attracting exhibitions as well as the extent of government
and private sector support,' Gaetos concludes.