Japan: Mega-event casting a shadow

The Olympic Games are taking place in Tokyo in 2020. Many existing buildings will be used for it as well as new ones. That could have a dramatic impact on the trade fair scene.

Tokyo Big Sight will be closed off to trade shows for almost two years if it were used as the Olympic media centre. (Foto: Tokyo Big Sight)
Tokyo Big Sight will be closed off to trade shows for almost two years if it were used as the Olympic media centre. (Foto: Tokyo Big Sight)

The plan is that Tokyo Big Sight, the leading Japanese trade fair centre, is to be the Olympics media centre, which would put it out of action for trade fairs for almost two years. Makuhari Messe is also supposed to be used during the Olympics. “That presents the Japanese trade fair industry with a big problem,” says Tadao Ishizumi, president of Reed Exhibitions Japan and chairman of the Japan Exhibitions Association. The consequences would be dramatic: considerable losses – of almost 2 billion euros, according to one study – would be incurred by over 1,000 service providers. And that’s leaving out the impact on trade fair organisers and venue operators. 78,000 companies, most of them small or medium-sized businesses, would be unable to exhibit and thus have to accept a huge loss of potential income. Growth in many industries would stagnate. Japan’s image and competitiveness would suffer, particularly in the Asian trade fair industry. Some exhibitors would switch to other venues permanently.

“We have been talking about this to the members of our association, trade fair service companies and exhibitors since the beginning of the year,” reports Tadao Ishizumi. A survey was initiated with an appeal for support. And with considerable success: by January 2017 there had been 80,000 positive responses, and in the meantime there have been a total of 150,000. On the strength of that, a petition was sent to Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had a reply yet,” laments Ishizumi. “It seems like the decision has already been taken,” he fears. “We are continuing our efforts with other activities.” An “official statement” was produced in the name of the key players and published in the Japanese press in September: a full-page advertisement in the country’s largest financial newspaper, Nihon Keizai, which is read by millions.

International Optical Fair Tokyo: “We need to minimise the expected losses caused by the 2020 Olympic Games.” (Foto: Photo: Reed Exhibitions Japan)
International Optical Fair Tokyo: “We need to minimise the expected losses caused by the 2020 Olympic Games.” (Foto: Photo: Reed Exhibitions Japan)

There are also alternative options available, such as the construction of a temporary exhibition centre in Tokyo the same size as Big Sight (around 100,000 square metres). A venue like that could be built within two years at a cost of 10 to 20 billion yen. Given that the estimated financial losses as a result of the Olympics could be 2 billion yen, that kind of investment seems reasonable. Constructing a media centre for the Olympic Games at a different location in Tokyo is also worth considering. That would also save the substantial costs that would be incurred to make Big Sight fit for use as a trade fair centre again. “We wish the Olympic Games every success,” stresses Ishizumi. “But we have to prevent the trade fair industry, service companies, hotels, restaurants and shops from suffering the expected losses.” 

Author: Heinz Kuhlmann

Heinz Kuhlmann is president of ABC Enterprises in Tokyo and has been working in the Japanese trade fair industry for four decades

This article was published in TFI issue 3/2017

The long road to the B2B trade fair

Heinz Kuhlmann talks to Tadao Ishizumi, president of Reed Exhibitions Japan and chairman of the Japan Exhibitions Association, about the Japanese trade fair industry.

Photo: Tadao Ishizumi
Photo: Tadao Ishizumi

Heinz Kuhlmann: Many foreign companies do more business in other Asian countries than in Japan? How do you see that?

Tadao Ishizumi: I agree, and I ask myself why exhibitors and buyers from abroad seem reluctant to take part in Japanese trade fairs. After all, Japan is a leading economy with much to offer.

Kuhlmann: The main reasons, as far as non-Asian companies are concerned, are not the high costs but the lack of a B2B orientation, the presence of trade fair visitors who seem to just collect brochures and photograph hostesses, the difficulty of following up and the language problem...

Ishizumi: Yes, those are indeed the main obstacles, and a lot needs to be done here. 

Kuhlmann: Thanks to the continual efforts of Reed – often in the face of resistance from associations and companies – change is happening…

Ishizumi: Yes, in the last decade there has been remarkable progress. Many Japanese trade fairs do have a greater B2B focus, although the public does still gain entry to consumer goods fairs.

Kuhlmann:  What do Japanese companies say? 

Ishizumi: Many Japanese companies are now of the opinion that the focus should be on business rather on PR or entertainment.

 
 

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