Event organisers keep close eye on Novel Coronavirus development

It remains to be seen if the Wuhan flu outbreak will affect Chinese tradeshows

Two event organisers with upcoming projects in Greater China are keeping close tabs on the rapid development of the Novel Coronavirus which has spread beyond origin Wuhan city in Hubei province to other provinces and countries, saying that they will, for now, maintain status quo.

It remains to be seen if the Wuhan flu outbreak will affect business events in China

Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI, told TTGmice that UFI Asia-Pacific Conference 2020 and the preceding Digital Innovation Forum will proceed as planned in Macau from March 5 to 6 and March 4 respectively.

The main event, which is still open for registration, typically attracts around 300 exhibition industry leaders from organisers, venues, associations, service providers and government bodies.

Having said that, Hattendorf recognised that the outbreak “is a fluid, evolving situation” and emphasised that “the health and safety of our delegates and staff (will come) first”.

While UFI’s plan is to proceed with both events, an assessment will be conducted after the Chinese New Year holiday.

The Novel Coronavirus erupted just before the Chinese New Year, a time of massive Chinese migration within and beyond China for family reunions and holidays. The festive travel is expected to expedite the spread of the virus, which has as of this evening infected 830 and killed 26 people in China.

According to various news sources, Chinese authorities are said to be examining 1,072 suspected cases of the virus.

Beyond China, there are confirmed cases in Singapore, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the US.

ICCA, which on January 17 announced Xiamen as the host city for its second Asia Pacific Chapter Summit from July 23 to 24, 2020, has declined to comment on the status of the event as well as whether registration numbers will be affected by fears of infection.

Registration for the Summit will open mid-February.

Noor: ICCA’s top concern presently is of the well-being of its China members

Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director Asia Pacific with ICCA, said: “Our concern right now is for the safety of our members and their families, in particular those in Wuhan and China. ICCA currently has six members in Wuhan. We know that the authorities are doing their best to handle this outbreak.”

Informa Markets, a major events organiser in China, has four concurrent tradeshows in Shenzhen from February 24 to 26, 2020 – Digital Signage, Sign China, Commercial Integration and Retail China, as well as China Window Door Façade Expo in Guangzhou from March 5 to 7. An email enquiry on the status of these events this morning failed to get a response by press time.

Julien Delerue, founder and CEO of 1000meetings, an RFP technology platform with a database of hotels across China, remarked that “at this stage it is too early to evaluate if it (the outbreak) will translate into cancellations/postponement or relocation of some corporate events”.

He said decisions on event continuity will likely be held back until the end of the Chinese New Year break.

“The outbreak and travel ban (imposed by the Chinese government on Wuhan and 11 nearby cities in Hubei province) to restrict the spread of infection) practically happened while the majority of corporate event organisers were already on leave. As a consequence, we have not received any coronavirus related cancellation notice and will not (see any) before everyone resumes work in early February,” Delerue said.


Update, January 27, 11.53am: Informa Markets has responded to say that its regional headquarters in Hong Kong and major offices in China are closely monitoring developments of the coronavirus.

Its spokesperson said: “The safety of our staff and customers is always our top priority. As such, we are taking precautions and safety measures as recommended by the local Departments of Health in Hong Kong and China as well as the World Health Organisation seriously. As the developments of the coronavirus further materialise, rest assured we shall also update our plans and communications with stakeholders.”

Over the Chinese New Year holidays which started on Friday, Chinese authorities have reported more than 2,300 confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus infections and more than 80 related deaths as of this morning.

The government said most deaths involved the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions.

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