Coronavirus: China to postpone tropical Davos as outbreak derails slew of high-profile events

Frank Tang

The Boao Forum for Asia, a Davos-style gathering of regional business and political elites on the tropical island of Hainan, is the latest international event in China to be suspended due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The annual conference, which was expected to take place from March 24-27, will be postponed after the virus forced China to delay the National People’s Congress, the annual parliamentary gathering that was set to begin March 5, two sources briefed on the matter told the South China Morning Post.

It is the latest in a long list of events planned for March and April that have been derailed by the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 people around the world.

The China Development Forum, a gathering of global business executives organised by the Development Research Center of the State Council, said earlier this month it would postpone its Beijing event, without announcing a new date.

Beijing, which is usually busy with exhibitions and conferences, has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people upon arrival.

At least 177 exhibitions set for February have been cancelled or rescheduled, including the Shanghai International Industrial Automation and Robot Exhibition, the Prolight and Sound Fair in Guangzhou and the International Equipment Machinery Exhibition in Jinan city, China Trade News reported. Another 262 exhibitions scheduled in March are likely to be postponed or changed, the newspaper added.

“Nearly all the offline activities of our [China] clients have been suspended,” a sales manager from EventBank China, which provides event management software for companies, said over the phone without giving his name. Many customers had now shifted to holding events online through the platform, he added.

Domestic and international travel restrictions, quarantine measures and coronavirus-related delays in production are taking a toll on China, which is struggling to restart its economy after an extended Lunar New Year holiday.

Postponements of events in April, including the huge 2020 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, indicate the impact of the virus could last longer than expected.

“The postponement is for the purpose of epidemic control, and for the health and safety of exhibitors and visitors as well,” the state-owned auto show organiser said on its website.

In addition, the odds are growing that the mid-April session of Canton trade fair, China’s largest and oldest trade expo, will also be postponed or scaled back if the coronavirus cannot be brought under control soon enough.

Business conferences and seminars have also taken a hit from the virus.

Euromoney Conferences said it has decided to postpone its China Debt Capital Markets Summit, which was set to gather hundreds of finance professionals, from March 26 to September. The rescheduling is “due to the ongoing concerns surrounding the coronavirus” and was done “with the safety of delegates, industry colleagues and partners in mind”, it said in an email statement.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan government said it will to cancel or postpone major indoor events planned for the next three weeks as Japan tries to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Jiji newswire reported.

The measure by Tokyo comes as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games starting in July. The virus has claimed the lives of three people in Japan and infected more than 720.

Additional reporting Reuters

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