The Chinaplas trade show now appears to be the No. 2 global plastics trade show, measured by attendance, surpassing North America's NPE show. And that's despite volcano-related travel disruptions, which held down attendance from Europe. Attendance at the Chinaplas 2010 trade show, held April 19-22 in Shanghai, reached 81,435, a 17.5 percent jump from last year's 69,300, according to show organizer Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. That's despite a 2 percent drop in attendance from Europe, which Adsale said might have been the result of the volcano eruption in Iceland that grounded most flights from Europe in the days leading up to the show. The news that Chinaplas has apparently surpassed NPE, in terms of attendance, isn't a big surprise. Attendance at the last NPE, held in 2009 in Chicago, was down sharply (most exhibitors still felt it was a strong show, given the global economic recession). The show's organizer, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., estimated total registrations at 44,000, down about 28 percent compared to 64,451 three years ago. Comparing attendance at trade shows is an inexact science to be sure. SPI counted total registrations last year, rather than actual bodies -- and there's no way of knowing how many of the 44,000 actually came to Chicago. Chinaplas uses a barcode system to count visitors, so the attendance figure is a total of daily unique visitors to the show ... and Adsale said it does not include exhibitors. Still, if you've ever been to a show, and you see things like badge-sharing, you know attendance figures aren't precise. The K trade shows, held every three years in Germany, are still apparently No. 1 in terms of attendance. K 2007 show drew about 242,000 visitors to Messe DÃ¼sseldorf -- although, again, precise comparisons with NPE and Chinaplas are difficult, because the organizers all count visitors differently. It is amazing that Chinaplas saw such attendance growth this year despite obviously losing a chunk of people who simply couldn't get there. But China's plastics industry is in recovery mode since the recession, and this year's show benefited from strong attendance from the again-booming domestic market. Of the total 81,435 attendees, 18 percent, or 14,701, came from outside China. Chinaplas has the good fortune this year of being on the wave of economic recovery. NPE had the misfortune in 2009 of bad timing, with the severe financial meltdown, a major recession and the labeling of the United States an "epidemic zone" for the H1N1 virus, which might have held down attendance from Asia. It will be interesting to see what sort of attendance NPE will get in 2012, when the show moves from Chicago to Orlando, Fla. Is attendance important? Certainly there's some prestige here, for Chinaplas to take the No. 2 spot from NPE. But all three are strong shows, and all three are important for any company with a goal of being an important player in the global plastics market. On top of that, K, NPE and Chinaplas are very different shows, and exhibitors tailor their products and message for the unique sort of visitors that attend. So let's consider the attendance figures for Chinaplas good news for the recovery of the global plastics industry -- a sign that business is continuing to improve. And the numbers also reinforce the message that trade shows around the world, which bring processors and suppliers together for face-to-face meetings, remain relevant -- even when mother nature does its best to throw roadblocks in the way.
Despite volcano, Chinaplas is No. 2
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