Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thoughts from Beijing

At the airport in Beijing en route to Bangkok after a busy week at the UFI Congress. Somewhere over 400 gathered from around the world for the event. Programme highlights for me included tremendous presentations on economic and business development in China from Prof. Fan Gang , Director of the National Institute of Economic Research at the China Reform Foundation and from Dong Tao, Chief Economist for Asia of Credit Suisse. They talked of the tremendous demographic pressures at play in both India and China. Prof. Fan suggested that, having created 200 - 250 million industrial jobs in the last 20 years, China needs to create another 200 million in the coming 10 - 20 years to create full employment.

Dong Tao pointed out that China's population peaks in 2017 after which the effect of the one-child policy will cause a massive drop-off in new entrants to the workforce. At that point, he suggested, we may need to be looking for other people to knit our socks.

Prof. Werner Delfmann from Cologne deftly picked up the ball passed to him by Dong Tao and dug deeper into the issues of demographics and their likely impact on the development of the global trade fair centres. He asked what kind of impact the "World Cities" and "Gateway Cities" concepts much loved by large consulting firms, will really have on the trade fair industry.

All seemed convinced that strong future growth in Asia was still the order of the day.

The final session, as has become a tradition at this conference, included two lively sessions with two contrasting speakers from outside the industry: if you're young, hip and trendy (I fulfil none of these requirements), you probably know Jones Soda. Peter van Stolk, its idiosyncratic founder told us all to fight our own ground on our own terms (in his case, don't try to take on Coke and Pepsi, because you can't win). He also turned a few stomachs with his Turkey & Gravy soda story. It's true!

Finally, and for me telling a quite remarkable story, was Robert Swan. The man who, 20 years ago, walked both to the South Pole and then to the North Pole. That alone would be extraordinary. But he has then parlayed this experience into a global environmental and youth education programme which is worthy of our support. Although the slogan belongs to somebody else, he basic message was "Just Do It"!

No comments: