A venue with a name such as Shanghai New International Expo Center could be a bit of a misnomer since it was established in 2001 and had hosted high-profile shows such as CES and Mobile World Congress Shanghai. Michael Kruppe, general manager, made the decision to rebrand it as SNIEC in 2015 shortly after taking over the helm of the Sino-German owned venue.
In hindsight, it was a no-brainer fix. “To be honest it didn’t sound very sexy and attractive. Whenever we sponsored anything, the name was just too long and didn’t look too well compared to the other sponsors,” Kruppe told CEI when met at the IBTM China event in September. “That was the main reason to make our venue more known, we thought that a venue could also be a brand.”
Kruppe added that size doesn’t always matter compared to the quality and service that the venue offers. Despite having 200,000 sqm of indoor space and 100,000 sqm of outdoor space, SNIEC has since been overtaken by National Exhibition & Convention Center in Hongqiao as the largest venue in Shanghai at 400,000 sqm.
The stakes could be even higher next year when Shenzhen World Exhibition and Conference Center opens its 500,000 sqm of space to exhibitors and visitors. “We always like this question [about space] in China. We are definitely by far the biggest in terms of occupancy rate at 71% compared to the rest of the market, that’s very high,” Kruppe said.
While both Shanghai and Shenzhen do not fall on the Silk Road under President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative, Kruppe believes that the lucky position enjoyed by Shanghai makes it an unparalleled destination. “A lot of provinces have invested in venues, to satisfy the pressure of being part of the 1B1R, [places like] Ningxia and Shandong are building venues. The bad news is I don’t think these areas ever have a chance to make money from 1B1R,” Kruppe said.
As the rebranding exercise of SNIEC appears to be mere cosmetic, the structural and operational changes within the venue are instead more significant to meet the rising bookings of consumer-facing shows.
Besides its bread and butter of trade shows and meetings organised by associations, Kruppe said show organisers are demanding more space and weekend days to focus part of their B2B shows on consumers.
In fact, about 30 to 40% out of the 140 shows that SNIEC host in a year are consumer-facing. He called the shift from the B2B to B2B2C a dramatic change in the industry as more new venues are built for the latter, such as the Guangzhou International Convention Center that will open in 2020.
Catering to a different crowd inevitably means managing different expectations from both the exhibitors and visitors. For instance, B2C shows require more hang points for exhibitors to display their signs and advertisements.
Kruppe said that regular visitors demand “a higher quality” of services than those who attend trade shows. SNIEC has launched an app equipped with navigation apps and platforms for visitors to order food from the 38 restaurants at the venue through WeChat. A lot of times, however, what the visitors want can be something as simple as cleanliness.
“I don’t want to say it’s totally different but let’s say it’s higher in terms of quality compared to normal trade shows, in terms of digitisation, WiFi availability… it sounds simple but it’s true. Handling of garbage is a big issue, it has always been,” said Kruppe.
SNIEC produces 25,000 tonnes of waste every year, according to Kruppe. “It’s a one-way industry, no recyclable material…” said Kruppe. Moreover, China, known to be the world’s largest importer of waste, has begun banning the import of 24 types of scraps this year to cope with its burgeoning waste problem.
Kruppe said that venues have to take the first step, even if it may upset certain clients. “If, as a venue, I tell my customer, sorry you can only use that material… well, I’ve got an issue because they won’t be coming to my place anymore,” Kruppe said.
The key is starting small. SNIEC signed an agreement with show organiser UBM and the local Pudong government where exhibitors occupying 1,000 sqm of a recent exhibition were required to use recyclable materials.
On top of that, Kruppe is keen on promoting the venue for sports events. The last time SNIEC hosted a sports event was in 2002 where its W5 hall was converted into a temporary court. He revealed that he is working behind the scenes to bring football events to the venue, besides hot new categories such as esports.
"China is really crazy for any kind of online shows, ChinaJoy is the greatest [expo on] on online shows. [China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conferences was held at SNIEC last August.] My plan is to bring the World Cup or Asia edition of esports to our venue," said Kruppe.