BEIJING—A major hurdle to the return of China’s trade show industry has been removed, as the government announced it would allow all categories of visas to be issued, starting on Wednesday, March 15.
The country has seen a swift turnaround in its COVID policies, from abruptly ending its zero-COVID policy in early December, to declaring victory over the virus in mid-February, to the now removal of its last border control measure.
This is good news for Chinese events open to foreign visitors, among them Auto Shanghai in April and the massive Asian Games, which will take place in Hangzhou in September. It’s also good news for the trade show industry, said Paul Woodward, Chairman, Paul Woodward Advisory. “Although official business visas have been available for a couple of months, the lifting of the remaining restrictions will undoubtedly help to make it easier for those wishing to travel to China for trade shows. While Chinese fairs are now relaunching strongly, participation from international exhibitors and visitors has been increasing more slowly. That’s a relatively small component of most exhibitions there, but we currently expect to see numbers pick up more quickly around the middle of the year.”
The recovery will be gradual, since many business travelers saw their travel documents expire during the pandemic, and the backlog has created delays. The next step is much-needed flight inventory, said Michael Duck, Executive Vice President, Commercial Development, at Informa Markets and Executive Vice President, Commercial Development, Group, at Informa Group. “There is no doubt that there’s a strong demand for business visitors to see their suppliers and customers in the PRC,” Duck said. “Trade shows across the country will benefit from the strong resumption of access, as we have seen across the world. What is needed now is the resumption of the international flight schedules to and from China.”
Jochen Witt, President and CEO of jwc GmbH, anticipates a return to pre-pandemic activity is still a couple of years off. “There is a great optimism in the Chinese exhibition industry, which is reflected in the large number of new venue developments under construction or in planning,” he said. “Provided that the current political tensions will not result in a major setback, I expect that China will be back at 2019 levels latest in 2025 and will again assume its role as the major growth driver of our industry.”