Asian Aerospace Preview

 - September 25, 2006, 11:41 AM

This month’s Asian Aerospace 2006 show, which runs from February 21 to 26, promises to be the largest staging of the biennial event since it started in 1982. Exhibition space at Singapore Changi International Airport has been increased by 20 percent to meet rising demand for the show, which is expected to draw more than the 27,000 trade visitors and 48,000 public visitors who went to the 2004 show.

However, Asian Aerospace 2006 will also be the last Singapore airshow in the current format, following the sudden split last October between the Singapore government and show organizer Reed Exhibitions. Singapore authorities have opted to go it alone with their biennial Changi International Air Show beginning in 2008 (with the first to be held from February 26 to March 2 that year).

UK-based Reed is now considering alternative venues outside Singapore to stage future Asian Aerospace events, and it is expected to announce its intentions before the end of this month’s event.

Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) announced in October that the city-state’s new show will be held at a purpose-built site on the north side of the airport. A new company called Changi International Airshow & Events, a joint venture between Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Defence Science & Technology Agency, will run the event.

EDB said it was not able to reach agreement with Reed Exhibitions over the terms for developing the new site for the airshow. At the February 2004 show, the organizers said that the current site on the southeast side of Changi Airport will not be available beyond this year because it is earmarked to be part of an expansion program at the major gateway.

According to several sources close to show organizers, the split was provoked mainly by the Singapore government’s sudden demand that Reed agree to promote several other trade shows at the new airport venue–rather than at Singapore’s downtown exhibition and convention center.

Reed has remained tight-lipped about the venue, timing and format for future Asian Aerospace shows. However, the same sources–speaking on condition of anonymity–confirmed to AIN that Hong Kong; Bangkok, Thailand; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are on the short list to host the event.

Jimmy Lau, managing director of Changi International Airshow & Events, did not dispute the contention that the Asia-Pacific region would likely not be able to support two competing major international airshows. However, he insisted that the Changi show has the upper hand on any Asian Aerospace event that Reed might transplant to another venue.

“The mere fact that we’re keeping to the time slot in February and staying put in Singapore will ensure that we do not lose our position on the international circuit,” he told AIN. “What we’re hearing is that the industry will continue to support the show based in Singapore, whoever organizes it. Singapore is a proven destination with a strong reputation of getting things organized to international standards. We have received strong support through reservations already made with us [for the 2008 show] by some of the biggest names in the industry.”

Reed will not make any further comment on the situation until it is ready to announce firm plans for the Asian Aerospace show beyond 2006. Last October, Paul Lee, Reed Exhibitions’ director of business planning and development, acknowledged that the airshow calendar is “already crowded.” There are already four other established airshows in the Asia-Pacific region–Langkawi in Malaysia, Beijing and Zhuhai in China and at Avalon in Australia. However, none of these events has come close to achieving the industry standing and support that Asian Aerospace commands.

However, he pointed out that the Singapore government’s decision to launch yet another airshow has made it even more crowded. According to Reed, it has conducted research among airshow customers (exhibitors and trade visitors) that has lead it to conclude “that the design, location, cost and delegate management at the current location in Singapore did not meet its customers’ changing needs.”

Both Reed and the Singapore government have insisted that they will cooperate in running the 2006 Asian Aerospace show. Reed currently runs the show through a joint venture with major local aerospace and defense group Singapore Technologies Engineering.

But the atmosphere between the two sides will surely be tense during this month’s show. One senior manager with a leading airshow in Europe told AIN on condition of anonymity, “It’s going to be like a married couple who invite all their friends around for dinner and then tell them that they are getting divorced.”