James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief
this issue goes to press in late April, the question remains whether ShanghaiTex will
open on June 2 as planned, or face rescheduling due to the threat of poor attendance related to the
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis. The impact of SARS on individual health, business
travel, as well as the global economy should not be dismissed.
Shanghai, at this writing, has reported two people in a city of 17 million with the mysterious SARS virus. Francis Markus, a BBC correspondent, noted the skepticism Shanghai’s inhabitants have as to “how China’s business hub could have so few cases while numbers have skyrocketed elsewhere.” The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently investigating further.
In the same BBC report, WHO praised Shanghai for its efforts in controlling SARS. Dr. Wolfgang Preiser, a member of WHO’s Shanghai team, stated, “The situation in Shanghai was nowhere near as bad as in Beijing because the authorities had acted much faster to monitor and prevent the disease.”
Although textile executives are generally of the intrepid sort, both attendees and exhibitors will weigh the personal and business consequences of their actions. In the end, the decision to attend or not may be preempted by the city of Shanghai’s actions potentially halting all exhibitions, which will be a serious blow to the city’s economy.
Bloomberg News has reported that Shanghai is scheduled to host 182 exhibitions from late April through the end of 2003. The Shanghai Convention Exhibition Industry Association reports the city generates an estimated 1.8 billion yuan ($217 million) annually through exhibitions and conferences.
Shanghai aside, the overall consequences of SARS are even more far reaching. Asian economies are starting to deal with mounting fallout from the syndrome. The World Bank has cut its regional economic forecast, and threat of exposure to the virus is having a chilling effect on China’s explosive growth.
As China’s overwhelming textile and apparel exports expansion charges toward 2005, one can only wonder to what extent SARS will impact the supply chain and the intense globalization the industry is experiencing.
Exhibitors and attendees alike may need to reshuffle their schedules for a December show. If so, what does this mean for ITMA 2003 in Birmingham, England?