Coronavirus takes toll on Asia events

Conferences, exhibitions cancelled or put on hold as economic impact of outbreak also hits airlines and China hotels

EVENT cancellations in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia are mounting as authorities battle to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers of events ranging from trade exhibitions and art shows to international conferences and sports tournaments have either cancelled or put scheduled events on hold as reports of deaths and people taken ill by the virus increase.

As of April 5, more than 1.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide were recorded with nearly 65,000 deaths. The World Health Organisation’s figures also show nearly 250,000 patients have recovered from the coronavirus.

At AIME in Melbourne, organisers told of the “ripple effect” of event cancellations including World Mobile Congress in Barcelona and the decision by Cisco to cancel its live event, which has been held for the past nine years at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The outbreak has also taken a toll on the airline and other segments of the travel industry. Travel-industry analysts OAG reports that since January 20, the number of weekly international seats operated from China has fallen by 1.4 million.

Statement by Events Industry Council CEO

OAG adds that the coronavirus outbreak has also had an impact on other markets including Japan, where hopes of increasing visitor numbers on the back of the Tokyo Olympics have been blighted.

One premium Asia sporting event to be postponed is the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which was due to be held in April. The annual rugby event has been put back to October. . The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon and Longines Masters showjumping, both due to be held in February, have been cancelled.

More: PCMA lists global events hit by outbreak

Among the international business and conference travel-trade shows effected is IT&CM China, which was due to be held in Shanghai in March. Organisers have now postponed the event to August 3-5 “in the interest, wellbeing and safety of all valued delegates and stakeholders”.

Reed Travel Exhibitions inaugural IBTM Asia Pacific in Singapore has been put back a year to April 13-14, 2021.

Messe Berlin’s ITB China, due to be held in May in Shanghai, has now been postponed to a date yet to be announced.

Global exhibition organisers association UFI postponed its 2020 Asia Pacific Conference & Digital Innovation Forum, which was due to be held in Macau in March, to August 27-28.

Though the Macau government has lifted an order closing the territory’s 41 casinos on February 21, a gaming trade association estimates the Macau casino industry will take three months to recover, Asia Gaming Brief reports.

More: Events travel hit by virus outbreak

Operators of the Canton Fair in Guangzhou have suspended its exhibitions until further notice while in Shanghai the East China Import and Export Commodity Fair (March 1-4) has been postponed indefinitely.

In Singapore, Food & Hotel Asia has postponed the first of two events it had planned this year. Informa, the organisers of the shows, announced that FHA-HoReCa would be rescheduled to July 13-16, while FHA Food & Beverage pushed back a year to March 2-5, 2021; both events are due to be held at Singapore Expo.

In Barcelona, Mobile World Congress – which was to be attended by tech heavyweights including Amazon, Ericsson and Huawei – has been cancelled after other large companies singled their intention not to attend due to the virus outbreak.

In event of a crisis… protecting your events from risk

Hotel occupancy rates in China tumbled by three-quarters from 70 per cent over a two-week period from mid-January, leaving eight out of ten rooms unoccupied, a report by hospitality industry consultants STR showed.

Tourism Economics forecasts that visits to the United States from China could drop by 28 per cent this year – equivalent to 4.6 million hotel room nights and US$5.8 billion in visitor spending.

South Korea has also announced that it would start “strict quarantine screening” on travellers arriving from Hong Kong and Macau in addition to this coming from mainland China. It follows a ban by the Taiwan authorities on foreign nationals travelling from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, from entering the island.

Taiwan residents have been told to avoid all non-essential travel to China. Meanwhile, the Philippines has included Taiwan in a ban on visitors from Greater China.


World Health Organisation

Australia Government Dept of Health

Tourism Australia: health updates

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