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China powers regional exhibitions growth
Paige Lee Pei Qi, reporting from Singapore MICE Forum 2014, Singapore, July 18, 2014

EXHIBITIONS are migrating from the West to the East with China lauded as the driving force behind the region's growing appeal to organisers.


According to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), the net space sold at Asian trade fairs jumped by 6.6 per cent in 2013 to more than 17 million square metres, registering its strongest growth since 2008 – of which more than 55 per cent was sold in China. The space sold in Asia was approximately eight million square metres in 2004.


Edward Liu, group managing director, Conference & Exhibition Management Services, who organises at least five exhibitions in China every year, attributed this growth largely to the China market.


He said: “There is no limit to growth in China and you can see that every city there is pumping millions of dollars to build exhibition centres.


“Currently, China has 106 venues and 4.9 million square metres worth of space, which represents almost 70 per cent of the total capacity available in the region,” he said.


With new exhibition centres slated to open this and next year in Zhuhai, Tianjin and Shanghai, Liu expects the new National (Shanghai) Center for Exhibition & Convention – featuring 403,500 square metres of gross indoor space to make it Asia’s largest exhibition venue – will transform Shanghai.


Sharing similar sentiments, UFI Asia Pacific regional manager and BSG managing director, Mark Cochrane, said: “That remarkable track record of growth (in Asia) looks highly likely to continue with the new mega venue opening in Shanghai this year and additional space becoming available in key high-growth markets such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei in the next one to two years.”


Liu said: “Due to the current economic discontinuities and uncertainties in Europe and the US, MICE organisers are moving into Asia in droves.


“China and India especially will attract these global organisers and events with their huge population and immense economic development and potential,” he added.


Meanwhile, Liu said the South-east Asia region is set to shine even brighter with the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015, which will form a “new battleground” for foreign organisers.


“The challenge with exhibitions is, unlike meetings, conventions and events, they are more market-driven than destination-driven," he said. “This means that they are often anchored in the destination because they meet the market demand, and they do not rotate locations." 


As such, Singapore may be at a disadvantage due to its smaller population size, Liu pointed out, but with AEC 2015, small countries can leverage the audience size of 600 million in South-east Asia to promote itself better.

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