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China’s Expo Sector Shrinks 25 Per Cent

By Ian Neubauer

China’s domestic expo sector has shrunk by as much as 25 per cent as a result of the global economic slowdown, according to unofficial statistics presented by the organisers of IT&CM China in Shanghai yesterday (Apr 15).

“We have had a significant decrease in size of exhibitions in Chinese cities. There has been a drop of as much as 20 to25 per cent,” said MP International CEO Sylvia Phau.

“In fact organisers who are planning exhibitions in 2010 are putting ‘on reserve’ certain parts of [venues] they used to hire [in their entirety]. These are mega-shows that have been around for 10 to15 years.”

Darren Ng (left) and Sylvia Phau address a delegation of
Chinese and foreign journalists at IT&CM China

Phau said official government statistics would not be available for some time as the expo sector in China has only been hit in the last quarter. She also said that the sheer size of the country means that when statistics are finally releases, they often serve only as historical data.

Phau added that she has seen a similar slowdown in international hotels in the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou

“When you are at the lunch or breakfast area of these hotels it is frighteningly quiet,” she said. “After the Olympics we saw occupancy slow down and now the top hotels they are offering extremely good rates.”

Darren Ng, managing director of TTG Asia Media, whose Singapore-based company co-organised IT&CM China with MP, said the MICE tradeshow had shrunk five to 10 per cent compared to the pervious year, with the biggest no-shows arising from the accommodation sector.

“This year we were held back by hotel chains in particular that are cutting back spending,” he said, noting Accor and Starwood as the two most notable absentees.

“They are trimming back but I am sure once things settle down they will come back. They did not pull out not because they did not do good business here.”

The economic slowdown was also addressed during IT&CM’s keynote presentation ‘How China’s Global Reach is Altering the World Map’, delivered by author and columnist Dr George Zhibin Gu.

Gu, who offered insight into the phenomena of globalisation in relation to China’s hyper-development, said the county’s current woes paled compared to what the country experienced during the Cultural Revolution and other manmade and natural calamities of the last century.

“The global financial crisis is nothing compared to the hellish troubles the Chinese people have experienced over last 100 years,” he said.

“Thirty years ago we had a famine that killed over 40 million people in four years. [During the Cultural Revolution] schools were burned. Millions were tortured and killed. In the time I was growing up, my two elementary schools were shut, so was my high school and college. Talking about these hellish things today to young Chinese people, they can hardly believe it.”