SECTOR GUIDE: ASIA PACIFIC VENUES - Treasures of the East. Venues in the Asia Pacific region have had a rough ride in recent times but they are bouncing back, says Stephanie Roberts

These are tough times for the Asia Pacific exhibition industry. Just as the region was recovering from the financial crisis of 1997 it had to endure an economic backlash following 11 September.

The industry is, however, proving resilient. Immediately after the attacks on the US, most venues were forced to reschedule events but there were few outright cancellations.

As a result, exhibition organisers such as Messe Dusseldorf Asia are taking a wait-and-see approach to new shows. "Organisers, as well as exhibitors, are waiting for better times,

admits Messe Dusseldorf Asia managing director Gernot Ringling.

Reed Travel Exhibitions director of sales and marketing Andrew Lee admits Reed has put some launches on hold, although it will be organising the first Batimat show in Asia this November.

CMP Asia, rather than launching shows, has invested in a Japanese media company with several exhibitions in the health field. "This links nicely to the Health Ingredients show launch in Tokyo,

says CMP Asia vice-president Michael Duck.

Another hot topic is the growing importance of China. Ringling says its exhibition industry is becoming stronger, particularly after its accession to the World Trade Organisation. "Many exhibitors now see China as the market of the moment,

he says.

CMP Asia has already invested in shows in Shanghai and will soon do the same in Beijing.

Marintec, Asia's largest shipbuilding show, is held in Shanghai, as is the September Furniture Fair. "We have many more shows in China and most of these have a good growth rate with future development,

says Duck.

Both Beijing and Shanghai are well versed in hosting shows. The former has six centres, with combined space of 180,000 sq m. The Beijing International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) is the largest, boasting 68,000 sq m, while the China International Exhibition Centre offers 60,000 sq m of space indoors and 7,000 sq m outside.

Adding more exhibition space

In Shanghai, the opening of the Shanghai New International Expo Centre in November 2001 has added 200,000 sq m of indoor and 50,000 sq m of outdoor space to the city's overall exhibition space, which is also found at the Shanghai Everbright Convention and Exhibition Centre, Shanghai Mart and Shanghai Intex.

Hong Kong, too, is making significant inroads. The 64,000 sq m Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre has upgraded its IT facilities and a 50,000 sq m exhibition centre will be built at Chek Lap Kok airport at a cost of $257m (£180m). It is scheduled to open in 2005.

North Asian neighbour South Korea is co-hosting the football World Cup this summer (along with Japan) and the country's venues, including COEX in the capital Seoul, are hoping the region's increased profile will bring in more business.

South-east Asian destinations such as Thailand with its Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (Peach), face stiff competition from their northern counterparts. Yet Malaysia Exhibition Services general manager Ian Roberts believes there is a solution.

"China appears to be the number one market in Asia so it is important the south-east Asian countries work together to maximise exhibitions in their respective countries,

he says.

In Malaysia, the capital Kuala Lumpur will soon boast a third centre alongside the 38,000 sq m Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre and the 35,000 sq m Putra World Trade Centre. A $260m (£182m) National Exhibition and Convention Centre is being developed at Subang on the site of the former international airport. It will offer 100,000 sq m of exhibition space when completed this year.

Malaysia's neighbours are also proactive. The 60,000 sq m Singapore Expo now has a direct link to the city centre after it got its own station on the MRT (Singapore's equivalent of the tube) last year.

In addition, Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre has changed its name to Suntec Singapore. The move follows a joint venture between the venue and nine industry partners to form a marketing campaign, the Singapore Intelligence Centre. Partners include surrounding hotels and the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau.

Flexible packages

Suntec chief executive officer Warren Buckley says: "We can offer flexible packages as we are now a one-stop connection and we are expecting more events with smaller budgets."

By contrast, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre (SCEC) general manager Ton van Amerongen believes the industry will see fewer, but larger, exhibitions as organisers veer towards consolidating events because of increased globalisation.

SCEC continues to attract big shows, such as the Sydney Motor Show, which occupied all six exhibition halls in November 2001. Despite the events of 11 September, last year's show attracted a record 320,000 visitors, a 22.5% increase on the previous year.

Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre is also seeing its large shows thrive. Its biggest exhibition is the International Motor Show, which occupies all 30,000 sq m indoors plus an extra 4,000 sq m outside. The annual event attracts 250,000 visitors.

Most venues and organisers agree that the biggest challenge to the Asia Pacific exhibition industry is the growing competition from China and the effect of globalisation. But when organisers decide that the time is right to introduce shows, there will be an increased number of venues from which to choose.

- Next issue: Furniture & flooring

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