How the Coronavirus Outbreak is Impacting the Chinese Trade Show Industry

January 30, 2020

More than 7,700 people have been sickened and 170 people have died from the coronavirus in mainland China, while at least 68 cases have been reported in other places around the world, according to the World Health Organization. As WHO meets today to decide whether to declare the coronavirus epidemic an international public health emergency, the outbreak is beginning to impact the Chinese trade show industry. 

“With Chinese and international authorities very focused on containment, there is a growing consensus amongst the international organizers we are speaking to that this situation will lead to widespread postponements for shows scheduled in February and, most likely, in March,” says UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf.

UFI has decided to postpone two events — the 2020 UFI Asia Pacific Conference, which was scheduled for March 5-6 in Macau; and the Digital Innovation Forum, which was scheduled for March 4. “Although we know that this is disappointing, of course, we always put the health and safety of our members and staff first,” says Hattendorf. “Like many [trade shows] faced with similar decisions, and after discussions with our hosts in Macau, we have opted to postpone both events until later in the year.” New dates for both shows have not yet been confirmed.

Michael Kruppe, general manager at Shanghai New International Expo Centre Co., says most, and probably all, public venues in China — including Shanghai and SNIEC — will not hold shows in February, and there are rumors it might affect March shows as well. Public holidays are being prolonged due to the situation, adds Kruppe, with people not being allowed to come back to work before Feb. 10. 

At Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, organizers are closely monitoring the situation, says Monica Lee-Muller, managing director. At this time, two public exhibitions have been postponed: The Pet Show and the Education and Careers Expo, both originally scheduled for February. “We have stepped up our hygiene measures and will continue to serve other confirmed events,” adds Lee-Muller.

On Jan. 29, the SPS - Industrial Automation Fair Guangzhou (SIAF) and concurrent Asiamold fairs announced that its 2020 editions (originally scheduled for Feb. 26-28) will be postponed until further notice. Domotex asia/Chinafloor has also postponed its show, first scheduled for March 24-26, to a later date.

At this time, there is no way to estimate how much negative economic impact coronavirus will have on the Asian trade show industry, as it’s not clear how long it will take to contain the virus. The hysteria created in the news is not helping matters, notes Paul Woodward, chairman of global events consultancy Paul Woodward Advisory and former UFI CEO. 

“The global media is stoking fears [that] are rapidly becoming the thing which we have to fear more than the disease itself,” says Woodward. “[The virus] can and will be controlled quite quickly and, once it has been, there will need to be a period of careful planning to relaunch disrupted trade fair calendars and help exhibitors, visitors and the organizers themselves recover.”

Woodward estimates that there will be fewer Chinese visitor and exhibitor groups at most international fairs around the world, as well. This has already made an impact at major events such as the Spielwarenmesse toy fair currently underway in Nuremberg, Germany, he adds.

Update: Feb. 7, 2020

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, International Sourcing Expo will not open at The Inspired Home Show 2020, set for March 14-17 at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, according to officials with International Housewares Association. The rest of the show will continue as planned.


TSNN will continue to update this story as more announcements regarding postponements and/or cancellations are made.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.