The Shenyang New World Expo faced not one, but three Covid-related closures in January, April and December 2020, before finally opening and holding five major shows in March.
A total of 187,952 delegates attended the in-person events in Shenyang, Liaoning’s provincial capital city in the northeast region of China, pointing to the resilience of the exhibition industry and how demand for in-person events is still going strong.
These shows were the 2021 Shenyang International Advertising Festival; the 2021 and 23rd North International Exhibition of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Comfortable Home Systems; the 2021 and 22nd China Northeast International Dental Equipment & Affiliated Facilities Exhibition Symposium on Oral Health; the 2021 and 26th China Northeast International Building & Decoration Exhibition; and the Fang Guan Jia Real Estate Agency Annual Conference.
Diane Chen, the Expo's general manager said: “Organisers have fully respected the Covid-19 procedures which have been approved by Shenyang’s health related bureaus.
"Plans put into action included implementation of measures to minimise the causation of virus transmission, strict social distancing protocols, utilisation of data and technology to support contact tracing and testing, and protocols and communications to reinforce behavioural change to address the new procedures."
According to Chen, attendees have been "very cooperative" in wearing face masks, conducting temperature checks, keeping a distance when queuing, sanitising their hands and providing proof of personal health codes before entering the venue.
Adding to the venue's successful reopening was the assistance of Shenyang’s health commission, commerce bureau and public security bureau, which sent continuous epidemic updates and acted as the point of contact for event stakeholders.
The venue also ensured that it received regular updates on operational advice from UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, and the International Association of Venue Managers — both of which count the Shenyang New World Expo as member.
Senior executive advisor to the venue, Cliff Wallace, highlighted that government bureaus continue to be very proactive in supporting the exhibition and conference industry, noting the visits by high-ranking industry officials the likes of Wang Ping, the deputy director of Shenyang Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Lian Zhiyong, the head of emergency office of the Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I was delighted to see the Commerce and Public Security Bureaus actively supporting the reopening by granting the event licenses expeditiously and on time considering the last minute decisions required of the organisers. A high level of cooperation by government is critical in such emergency and crisis situations," said Wallace.
No suspected Covid cases were reported for the month of March, with all event attendees "traceable via the organiser's registration systems and health codes".
Event activity continued in April, with a national Chinese Medicine Annual Conference, Northeast China Public Security Exposition, Job Fair for College Graduates and a provincial Science and Technology Service Expo.
Since 15 March, China has relaxed its entry policies for foreign visitors, including those from the Philippines, Japan, Israel, Thailand, Pakistan, Italy, Sri Lanka, the United States, and Federated States of Micronesia – so long as they have been inoculated with China-produced vaccines. Apart from eased visa applications, these travellers can also skip Covid tests and travel declaration forms.
Following the success of the March events, both Chen and Wallace are optimistic that the continued rollout of vaccines and the 'no jab, no fly' policy is the most effective, short-term solution to support the industry's restart.