Feature: Western Japan's biggest exhibition facility hopes to lure more Chinese exhibitors

Date : 2013-11-18  | From : Xinhua

The new management of the International Exhibition Center Osaka (INTEX), the biggest exhibition facility in western Japan, has expressed its willingness to jointly organize more Chinese-related events with local groups.

Since April 1 this year, the Osaka International Business Promotion Center (IBPC Osaka) has taken over the management of the facility from the city's economic section.

IBPC Osaka's first major event was the Zhejiang Export Fair Osaka 2013 in September, in cooperation with the department of commerce of the eastern Chinese province. More than 230 trading firms and manufacturers have participated in the exhibition.

Yoshihide Kuzumoto, president of IBPC Osaka, told Xinhua in a recent interview that although there had been some concerns about shipment delays for the Chinese event due to a powerful storm, he and his staff were relieved after the four-day exhibition turned out to be a success.

Since it was IBPC Osaka's first major project and has attracted some 5,000 local buyers, Kuzumoto said they are confident that they could hold the same event next year.

The operator said that through the holding of joint events with Chinese manufacturers, the complex can further promote China-Japan trade ties and boost the local economy.

The entire facility covers more than 70,000 square meters, and is strategically located near the port area on the western edge of the city. In fact, about 160 international and local events have been held in the facility each year, attracting more than 2 million visitors.

"Organizing a successful international trade fair means we have to cope with lots of unexpected thingsmore quickly. For example, the final days of preparation for September's Zhejiang fair was affected by a typhoon, which delayed many Kansai-bound flights carrying Chinese staff as well as tons of display goods that were diverted to other airports, and we had to reschedule things again and again in order to get the show started," Kuzumoto said.

According to Kuzumoto, the availability of interpreters is a key factor in making an international event successful and overcoming cultural differences in business.

Kuzumoto revealed that he introduced a new evaluation method long after the Chinese exhibition. This new method requests key staff to report their impressions every day during a show and to give feedback and share their impressions with their counterparts.

"This is a change from the organization's former system, which asked for fewer reviews and reacted more slowly," Kuzumuto said.

He said soon after the fair in September, he flew to China with an interim report compiled by staff and buyers, and had discussions with representatives in the province.

"There I heard their various requests and suggestions about organizing the fair next year. Our organization didn't have this prompt feedback process before," Kuzumoto said.

During the interview, Kuzumoto also showed his strong willingness to arrange more China-related events other than the Zhejiang Province expo.

"Although there have been major trade fairs featuring other Chinese provinces, such as Shandong in March and Jiangsu in June every year in central Osaka, INTEX Osaka wants to invite more and more Chinese provinces to participate in exhibitions to promote trade and cultural exchanges with people here. Since Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region has historically been a major region of Japan that has long maintained cultural and economic contact with China over the past 2,000 years, holding such a trade show with China on a regular basis is quite natural," he said.

Kuzumoto cited the other major international exhibition event held at INTEX Osaka last year, the annual SIBOS (SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar) which was attended by representatives from more than 200 countries.

But Kuzumoto admitted that the six-hall exhibition space in INTEX Osaka was designed more than 20 years ago and the current facility may not be able to handle more modern exhibitions that require specialized contents, such as complex seminars and lectures, plus other various entertainment amenities.

"Since the requirements for putting on a show are always changing with the times, our facility needs to be renovated or modified further to be attractive. I will be flexible in changing the whole concept of an exhibition space to also compete with facilities in Shanghai, Hong Kongand Singapore," Kuzumoto said.

Kuzumoto hoped that the Osaka facility can take advantage of its geographical location and the long tradition of the locals' warm-hearted hospitality.

"Osaka serves as the commercial hub for the whole western Japanese region which has preserved its cultural, historical and natural heritage. So visitors to exhibitions can enjoy their free time by taking a half-day excursion to the country's old capitals of Kyoto and Nara or a day trip to Hiroshima between the working sessions," he said.

Kuzumoto, former head of the city's transportation bureau, also said Osaka is distinct from other Japanese cities due to its libertarian streak.

"Of course we have fixed fees to rent out our display halls but those are only provided as a starting point for negotiation. I promise to be flexible in setting up better conditions for exhibitors, including proposing attractive prices to compete with other areas," he added.