Shenzhen, China — On April 13, more than 40,000 visitors walked into a Chinaplas like no other.
Visitors and exhibitors at the first major plastics trade fair held in the pandemic were required to submit to multiple temperature checks; 1-meter social distancing in registration lines; and contact tracing measures like mandatory health code checks, real name registration and even facial recognition scanning to gain access to every hall.
Nonmainland Chinese visitors, including show organizers with Hong Kong-based Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd., had to go through a two-week hotel quarantine in order to attend the show, which runs April 13-16 in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
And, of course, everyone was supposed to wear a face mask at all times.
It all contributed to a feeling of a whole new world for the world's first big plastics show of the pandemic.
Typically, Chinaplas attracts 20 percent overseas visitors, but travel restrictions this year made it impossible for most regular visitors from abroad to attend.
"We're calling it a 'China-only Chinaplas' this year," laughed Helen Li, project leader of the show team for Singapore-based polyolefin supplier Borouge Pte. Ltd.
That moniker turned out to be an apt one, as Adsale reported that 99 percent of the 44,236 first-day visitors were from mainland China, with only 577 from overseas.
Still, Adsale tried to put a positive twist on the numbers, reporting a 30 percent increase in mainland Chinese visitors compared with the last edition, in 2019 in Guangzhou. The 2020 edition in Shanghai was postponed and then ultimately canceled in the worst of the pandemic.
Adsale executives said they were betting that the chance for suppliers and clients to meet face to face would ensure good attendance.
"There's no show in other parts of the world, only in China," said Adsale General Manager Ada Leung, "and also for the industry people, they do not have the chance to go to see a world-class event since last year."