CHINA – Finally, the trade show industry has reason for celebration. While there has been a gradual, but marked, reopening of the trade show industry in China, and many venues have restarted operations, thus far, most shows have seen significant reductions in size and attendance. However, from August 20-23, Shenzhen World hosted the world’s largest furniture show, the Shenzhen International Furniture Exhibition (SIFE), and by most accounts, the show was a resounding success. Exhibitor numbers increased by 75% (compared to the previous show) with attendee numbers increased by nearly 40% to 216,000. The show was almost three times the size of the previous show with 320,000 square meters gross utilized. And this all bodes very well for an industry that has been almost shattered by COVID-19.
The show organizers were taking no chances, however, and closely followed local health regulations. Shenzhen World, working in conjunction with the Shenzhen International Furniture Exhibition organizers, implemented strict safety protocols. Attendees discovered that face-covering masks and social distancing throughout the entire venue were mandatory measures — but the preventative processes went further. All attendees had to have on hand their green mobile travel passes and a prepared Travel Path Check, part of the Chinese government’s color-based “health code” system intended to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Utilizing mobile technology and big data, a green code shows the user is not under quarantine and can move around the city freely. But those with yellow and red codes must quarantine themselves at home, or undergo supervised quarantine respectively.
Further measures included body temperature test scanners utilizing infrared thermometry; anyone with a body temperature reading higher than 99 degrees was banned from entry. Registration and Real Name Authentication required visitors to complete verification before they were allowed entry to the show, and visitors required appointments prior to entry. Facial recognition was further required; attendees had to remove caps, glasses, masks, and other items that could conceal their faces before verification could be completed.
During the show, sanitation efforts continued apace. All conference and meeting rooms were regularly ventilated for more than 30 minutes and organizers distributed hundreds of hand sanitizers in 97 different locations, and finally, issued a daily checking process. These sanitization stations and regular cleaning meant the show could go on in a safe and healthy environment.
“All those measures could be easily implemented as Shenzhen World is the largest venue globally and can offer ample space for the implementation of the safety measures. I believe it is fair to say that hardly any venue in the world could have hosted such a show under the current conditions,” said Jochen Witt, who is the former Chairman of the European Chapter of UFI (from 1999 to 2005) and President of UFI in 2007, and is currently serving as a member of the Board of UFI.
Show organizer, Oliver Hou, executive chairman of the Shenzhen Furniture Association said he is extremely pleased with the outcome of the show. “In the current circumstances, we did not expect such an overwhelming success, but buyer interest was very high and thus the show succeeded much better than expected. For the next edition of the show in 2021, we expect to use 400.000m2, the entire space of Shenzhen World.”
Dr. Gerd Weber, partner at jwc, admits that when they developed the master plan for Shenzhen World, they did not foresee the extent of a COVID-19 situation. “But of course, seeing today that Shenzhen World was able to host an event of this size in the current circumstances gives us great satisfaction and confirms our venue development philosophy,” he said.
While the success of Shenzhen World is to be applauded, Witt remains cautious. “China is still at the relatively early stages of the trade show business. With the backing of a huge market, trade show business will flourish with many of the so-called mega events,” he said, adding that he believes the United States will take longer than Europe to come out of the crisis, and that a lot of shows will die and the search for partnerships will intensify. “In summary, I believe that the times for mega shows in Europe and the U.S. are over; China will be the place where such shows will continue to exist.”
Since its inception in 1996, Shenzhen International Furniture Exhibition has hosted 32 international furniture exhibitions and taken the lead in directing the development of China’s home furnishings industry, transforming from a sole furniture exhibition into an exhibition integrating furniture, soft decorations, and residences.
Reach Jochen Witt firstname.lastname@example.org.