Thu, May 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Computex is SARS victim

STAY-AT-HOMES When 94 percent of exhibitors said the huge info-tech show should be cancelled, CETRA, the organizer, had little option but to do just that

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Computex Taipei was cancelled yesterday after 94 percent of exhibitors said the show should not go on due to fears over severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The China External Trade Development Council (CETRA), organizer of Computex, has tentatively rescheduled the show for September or October.

"We decided to postpone the June show based on exhibitors' concerns," said Chao Yung-chuan (趙永全), CETRA's secretary general.

Chao was upbeat that the show would fair well in fall.

"September is another buying season. Therefore, we hope to push the show back to that time," he said.

With CeBIT Asia in Shanghai also scheduled for September, foreign buyers could easily take in both shows, Chao said.

However, there is one very large glitch. The only possible venue for Computex -- the Taipei World Trade Center -- is fully booked in September and October with five different trade shows.

Chao said he hoped to negotiate with officials of those shows and would request that they seek alternative locations.

Another option would be to delay Computex until Nov. 29 and then merge it with Info Month, an annual consumer computer show.

"But we would prefer not to hold [Computex] in November, because it's too late to place orders for the Christmas holiday season," Chou said.

CETRA plans to select a new date within the next 10 days before notifying potential buyers of the change.

The 23rd Computex was scheduled to run from June 2 to 6 and a total of 1,148 exhibitors had signed up for 2,600 booths featuring computer systems, chipsets, add-on cards and and other IT gadgets.

Concerned that show attendance would plummet due to SARS fears, last Friday CETRA polled local and foreign exhibitors about keeping the show on schedule.

The poll found 59 percent of respondents preferred that the show be postponed to the second half of the year while 35 percent said it should be cancelled altogether.

"We hope the show is delayed rather than cancelled," said Frank Jeng (鄭永健), a director at computer chipset maker VIA Technologies.

Computex Taipei is Asia's largest computer trade show and ranks as one of the top three computer shows in the world after CeBIT in Germany and Comdex in Las Vegas.

Domestic firms may lose orders totaling tens of billions of NT dollars if it were cancelled, Chao said.

"We can't afford for the show to be cancelled," he stressed.

The show's postponement is expected to hurt other businesses including hotels, restaurants and the entertainment industry.

"We may lose several billion NT dollars in sales simply from these sectors alone,"Chao said.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Computer Association yesterday announced the cancellation of the annual Taipei Softex Show, which was scheduled to start tomorrow.

Trade shows have seen a massive drop in attendance, starting with the Taipei International Sporting Goods Show in the middle of last month. Attendance at that show was 50 percent below last year's, while the Taipei International Gift & Stationary Spring Show -- which ended Monday -- said visitor volume averaged less than 30 percent of normal.

If the SARS outbreak lasts until August, CETRA, Taiwan's largest trade show organizer, is expected to see NT$400 million in lost sales, Chao said.

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