The expo passes economic ‘crisis’ challenge with flying colors.
By John Dawes
Singapore–A U.S. exhibitor I spoke with at Aquarama 2009 (Suntec Singapore, 28-31 May) reported that this is the place you would NOT wish not to be at. Brian Miller, international sales manager of Madison, Ga.-based Seachem Laboratories, had a great Aquarama. So did his fellow exhibitors at a show that was staged under the heavy cloud of the ongoing global economic crisis, but which proved to be a huge success.
|No…your eyes aren’t deceiving you…there really are freshwater and marine fish in this tank displayed by GEX. |
There was a “good feel” factor about this year’s event that was almost palpable. Exhibitors and visitors alike were full of praise for the organizers, UBM Asia Trade Fairs Pte. Ltd., which pressed ahead in the face of the worst economic downturn in modern history and pulled off a masterstroke of organization, presentation and content.
Yes, the overall exhibition space was a little down from 2007, but it still came to over 9,000 square meters (nearly 97,000 sq-ft). There were also more than 4,300 trade visitors, 65 percent of these coming from other countries. A particularly pleasing statistic about this total was that these visitors came from 80 countries, outstripping the 68 represented in 2007. In forecasting public attendance, UBM had settled on a figure of 12,000, spread out across the 1 1/2 days that the show was open to the general public. In the end, 14,500 people turned up, far surpassing expectations.
In terms of exhibitors, there were 158 from 22 countries, among them seven from the U.S. who had their own booths: Dolphin International, Ecological Laboratories, JBJ–Transworld Aquatic Enterprises, Mars Fishcare (API), Poly-Clip System Corp, Seachem Laboratories and U.S. Grain/Regal Pet Foods. In addition, many other U.S. companies exhibited their products in their Fat East representatives’ booths, giving the U.S. a very respectable Aquarama presence under the circumstances.
Figures, though, only tell part of the story. The full telling occurs at ground level, going round the show, talking to people, sensing the mood on the exhibition floor, assessing the range and quality of the products and services on offer, and so on. It was here that one sensed the above-mentioned “good-feel’ factor.
|The entries in the Planted Tank Competition were absolutely outstanding. |
I took the opportunity of speaking to as many exhibitors as I could and took notice of the frequency of one particular comment; they kept referring to the “quality” of the visitors they were receiving at their booths. This, of course, is interpretable in several ways but, in business terms, they were referring to the high incidence of serious enquirers and buyers, as well as the number of completed deals. It therefore seems that, at least, part of the dip in trade visitor numbers was down to the absence of more casual visitors, the so-called ‘lookers.
This makes sense. Travelling to Singapore is not cheap. It is therefore logical, during this tough period for us all, that only those who have a serious reason for visiting and doing business at the event would take on the expense of the round trip.
Away from the exhibition area, where everything from the latest packing materials to a water treatment system that allows the keeping of freshwater and marine fish the same tank, the picture was equally positive. For example, the trade seminars enjoyed excellent audience attendance; the international speakers were top rate and the topics of total relevance, ranging from health issues, to transportation legislation, to ornamental shrimp aquaculture, to the groundbreaking Australian marine ornamental sector’s reef stewardship project, to emerging pet markets, to dangerous dogs versus dangerous owners, and much more besides.
|Increased demand for nano aquaria is also leading to rising sales of small creatures for them, such as these freshwater mini-shrimps exhibited on the Indonesian Pavilion. |
As for the competitive side, it was a sell-out, with nearly 1,400 entries vying for the highly prestigious prizes. Every section had a full complement of entries, making for a spectacular display of goldfish, dragon fish, discus, bettas, guppies and other livebearers, gouramis, cichlids, catfish, new species/varieties, marine tanks and planted aquaria. The international panel of 46 experts, under the leadership of chief judge, Dr. Ling Kai Huat of Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, spanned no less than 21 countries, thus representing an unequalled wealth of knowledge and experience, which was fully in keeping with the global reputation attained by the various Aquarama competitions.
In addition, the farm-visits program reached full subscription, with well over 100 people visiting some of Singapore’s top farms: Tung Hu Aquarium Trading (dragon fish), Coralfarm Aquaristic Pte. Ltd. (marines), Broadway Aquarium (specialising in tetras), Qian Hu Corporation (coldwater, tropicals--marine and freshwater, dragonfish and accessories), Trop Aquarium (freshwater tropicals and coldwater) and Tropical Fish International Pte. Ltd. (wide-ranging selection of freshwater tropical and coldwater species).
To quote a well-worn saying, “¨When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The fact is that, despite its relatively modest size when compared, say, to the food fish industry, the ornamental aquatic sector is a tough, resilient one that looks to itself to overcome the challenges it faces during difficult times.
All the speakers at the Aquarama Opening Ceremony repeatedly referred to this characteristic, as exemplified by the guest of honor, Dr. Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Parliamentary Secretary for National Development in Singapore. Referring to the local industry, he said that it was “…a resilient one [that was] doing relatively well despite the global economic downturn [and that] with a strong track record, passionate and determined industry players…[it] will continue to grow from strength to strength.”
No doubt, this inner strength, coupled with that of the organizers and the ongoing support they received from the industry in the lead-up to the event, ensured this year’s Aquarama defied predictions and apprehensions and came through with flying colors.
As Linda Tan, Head of Events (Aquatics & Paper) at UBM commented, “All along, we have been receiving tremendous encouragement from our international and national supporters. However, until the show got under way, we did not really know whether this support would translate into attendances and sales for our exhibitors. It is therefore hugely uplifting for us all to see that our combined efforts, under very difficult operating conditions, have resulted in such an attractive, busy and successful show for all parties. We are now looking forward to the new challenges that Aquarama 2011 will bring with great optimism.” <HOME>
NOTE: Full details of Aquarama 2011–Incorporating Pet Asia, which will be held at Suntec Singapore on May 26-29, 2011, may be obtained from the event’s website.
First a schoolteacher, then a university lecturer, John Dawes is now a consultant and author with more than 4,000 articles and 30 books to his name. He holds Fellowships of the Zoological Society of London and the Linnean Society, Membership of the Institute of Biology and is a Chartered Biologist. He currently resides in Malaga, Spain.
*All photos courtesy of John Dawes
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