Booming Chinaplas assesses future options

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While China plans to open the world’s largest exhibition center in Shanghai by mid-2014, the fast-growing Chinaplas plastics and rubber exhibition is likely to remain at its current site in Pudong for its Shanghai leg at least till 2016, if not beyond. And, for logistical reasons, it also looks to remain a four-day show for the time being, even as many push to extend the length of what is now the world’s second-largest plastics show. (The largest plastics expo, the triennial K show in Düsseldorf, Germany, runs for eight days.)

Chinaplas — which rotates annually between Shanghai and Guangzhou in the country’s southeast — has tripled its amount of exhibition space, to 2.26 million square feet from 829,000 square feet, since 2005, said Stanley Chu, chairman of the show’s Hong Kong-based owner and organizer, Adsale Exhibitions Services Ltd.

This year’s show, at the recently expanded Shanghai New International Expo Centre, attracted 109,858 attendees from 140 countries. Of those, more than 28,000, or just over 25 percent, came from outside China. The exhibit space filled this year represented a 17 percent increase over the 1.93 million square feet at last May’s Chinaplas 2011 in Guangzhou.

The 2,700 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions — including more than 500 first-time exhibitors — filled all 17 halls, plus eight temporary, outdoor tents (which accounted for about 107,000 square feet of the space). Adsale issued about 45,000 badges for exhibitor personnel, but the attendee count excludes exhibitor staff as well as media, Chu said in an interview April 21, the show’s last day. Attendees are counted once for each day they attend.

Chu said the show could add perhaps 215,000 more square feet by installing more outdoor tents, but that Adsale expects to need about 538,000 more square feet of space to accommodate exhibitors’ demands. Since Adsale’s goal is to add 15-20 percent new exhibitors each year, to keep it interesting for attendees, Chu now finds himself in the unusual position of having to urge some existing exhibitors to take less space than they want.

Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, in cooperation with the Shanghai municipal government, last December held a groundbreaking ceremony for what is likely to become the largest exhibition complex in the world. Phase one will create 4.3 million square feet of exhibit space, with an option to expand the area by another 25 percent. This would put it on a par with the massive Hanover Messe fairgrounds in Hanover, Germany, Chu said.

Called the China Expo Center, it will be located on a 257-acre site in the western part of the 20 million-person metropolis, in the Shanghai Hongqiao Central Business District — about an hour’s drive west of the Pudong expo grounds. The new facility will be very near to Hongqiao airport and railway station. The project will cost 23 billion yuan ($3.6 billion), local government officials said last fall.

Chu said the new center is due to be ready in a little over two years, just after Chinaplas 2014, scheduled for Shanghai that spring. But even once the complex is fully operational, he said, it is likely to take some time for the surrounding area to mature in terms of hotels, services and the like. So he is not at all certain now that it would make sense for Chinaplas to shift to the new facility for its 2016 show in Shanghai.

As other shows now being held at the SNIEC fairgrounds in Pudong potentially move west to the China Expo Center, it may give Adsale a better opportunity to extend the length of the Chinaplas show.

The show currently can give big exhibitors only up to five days to move in and set up equipment (vs. two to three weeks at some other, major expos), and he said some of the Chinaplas halls need to be empty within 10 hours of the show’s close, to make room for the next incoming event.