CHICAGO – It’s no longer necessary to show a negative test to enter restaurants, venues, and other attractions and people can travel more freely inside the country. Relaxed protocols come after three years of lockdowns, forced quarantines, and strict COVID regulations.
In addition, Hong Kong will no longer limit the movements of overseas arrivals or use of a risk-exposure app to enter public places under the most extensive easing of its COVID protocols since the pandemic began. It is no longer required to use Hong Kong’s Leave Home Safe tracking app and capacity restrictions have been lifted.
It is predicted that before the Lunar New Year on January 22, 2023, travelers to mainland China will no longer be required to undergo five days of quarantine. Instead, they will only have to undergo three days of medical surveillance.
“The decisions were based on data and risks,” Hong Kong leader John Lee said during a press conference. “The infection risk from imported cases is lower than the risk from local infections. We believe that the lifting of the measures will not increase the risk of local outbreaks.”
The trade show industry is cautiously optimistic about this news. “What concerns me is the restrictions being loosened before the Chinese New Year. The question is if we are setting ourselves up for a perfect storm,” Patty Olinger, Executive Director of Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), said. “We are low on the booster rate worldwide, which concerns both the CDC and WHO.”
Olinger recommends that trade show organizers stay vigilant and consider all the health and safety precautions put in place at the height of the pandemic. They include getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing a mask, keeping your distance, addressing indoor air ventilation, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, paying attention to indoor air quality and getting tested.
“People need to be aware that COVID, the flu, RSV and other respiratory illnesses are out there, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to pay attention and stay up to date on vaccinations and boosters,” said Olinger.
But the industry has demonstrated how it can safely gather attendees and exhibitors. “We proved that you could have a successful and safe trade show in the midst of the pandemic,” Olinger said. “We have guidance in place that should be followed.”
Trade Shows Are Returning
Mark Cochrane, UFI Asia/Pacific Regional Director, and BSG Managing Director is optimistic about the outlook for the exhibition markets in both Hong Kong and Mainland China.
“Domestic events are now getting the green light to go ahead, and the expectation is that normal trading will resume by March or April — peak trade show season in China with events like the Canton Fair and so on. The Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition, one of China’s largest car shows, will go ahead later this month, running from Dec. 30 to Jan. 8,” Cochrane said.
There are still plenty of unknowns, such as when international visitors can easily and freely enter China, and when outbound Chinese exhibitors and visitors will return in full force to trade shows worldwide. “At least we can all agree that the recent developments are a big step in the right direction,” Cochrane added.
As for Hong Kong, the trade show industry heavily depends on the participation of international exhibitors and visitors. The Hong Kong government has removed most COVID policies limiting international participation. Hotel quarantines have been scrapped. The tracking app is no longer necessary. International visitors must take a PCR test on arrival and another test on their second day in the city, but the second test will likely be dropped soon.
“In 2023, we expect business will go back to normal gradually. There are nine exhibitions booked from March to May,” Diane Chen, General Manager and Member of the Board at Shenyang New World Expo, said.
During UFI Connects, a webinar about the news coming out of China, Monica Lee Müller, Managing Director of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, shared information about subsidies being offered to bring back trade shows. She said more than 1.4 billion Hong Kong dollars are available to attract international exhibitions to Hong Kong until mid-2026, including free venue rental for any exhibition.
Chen shared similar subsidies are available in Shenyang.
Michael Kruppe, General Manager of Shanghai New International Expo Centre Co., Ltd., said organizers are calling him fighting for time slots in 2023. “This gives me a pretty good feeling of what we can expect,” Kruppe said.
To watch the UFI Connections session, “The Impact of Changing COVID Restrictions in China on Business Events,” go to https://www.ufi.org/news-media/ufi-connects/
Reach Mark Cochrane at +852 2525 6120 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Patty Olinger at (847) 982-0800 or email@example.com; Diane Chen (86 24) 3161 9898 or dianechen@shenyangnwEXPO.com; Monica Lee-Müller at firstname.lastname@example.org; Michael Kruppe at email@example.com