Exhibition World Issue 2 — 2020 - Page 6

UFI Connects UFI webinar: Covid-19, an update from Asia EW tuned in to UFI’s latest webinar, which provided a welcome link and update to the industry in Asia as it reacts to the coronavirus threat. There were many insights and lessons for those joining remotely our senior UFI members offered local updates during an UFI webinar: Covid-19, Update from Asia, 27 March, for which 360 of their global industry peers tuned in to hear about the impact of the coronavirus on businesses and local markets. It was also an opportunity to ask questions and compare experiences. The webinar was part of a series of regional updates from UFI and its Regional Manager Asia/Pacific, Mark Cochrane moderated the 75-minute session from Hong Kong. First up was Michael Kruppe, General Manager at Shanghai New International Exhibition Center (SNIEC) who traced the affects of the coronavirus on China and the exhibition business in particular. He painted a vivid picture of 600m Chinese people’s travel plans being initially curtailed over New Year as the country locked down to stop the disease spreading, but said that daily life was now returning to something approaching normal in Shanghai. “Around 80% of office staff are back at work,” he said and described the government’s stringent ‘traffic light’ measures for disease control. Although internal transmission of the disease is almost negligible, he said foreigners were now not allowed in to China, something Kruppe thought was wise, given that waits of up to 50 hours have been common for entry arrivals via the necessary quarantine hotels. SNIEC had zero exhibition business for the February-April period, Kruppe reported, with most shows being postponed. “We are hoping for 6 Issue 2 2020 something in May maybe,” he said, and welcomed the news that Tier 2 city Shenyang’s exhibition centre had received permission to start operating again. He explained the measure was likely a way of testing the waters as few foreigners would be involved, given that pressure on decision- makers to not give the green light too early was immense. “We are working daily with Chinese local government explaining how we are getting prepared [for restarting],” said Kruppe. “But we are rigorously implementing the government restrictions in order to protect visitors. We follow protocols and are protecting our venues, even though they may be empty,” he said. Kruppe also explained the use of mobile technology and QR codes with GPS tracking for keeping tabs on visitors and their health status. “This system is working very well,” he said. Balasubramanian S Pillai, President of the Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA) asked whether Kruppe expected shows to shrink or grow when the situation “comes back to normal”. Kruppe answered the situation was complex, given that a typical large show could have 30% foreign participation in Shanghai, which meant the domestic stakeholders had to be convinced it would still be worth going ahead. It could be that the first shows in the new ‘normal’ had small square meterage, he admitted. Elucidating on the green shoots of good news from Shenyang, Diane Chen, General Manager at Shenyang New World Expo, in Liaoning province, confirmed the centre had been told by authorities the ban on exhibitions there had been lifted, with the city reporting no new Covid-19 cases for 28 days. The first show could be organised by Shanghai Modern on 27-29 April, she believed. Michael Duck, Informa Exhibitions Asia, took up the theme, greeting the UFI community and noting “it seems a long time since Rome and the w w w.exhibitionworld.co.uk