Future murky for Asian Aerospace show

 - October 18, 2006, 6:08 AM

The Asian Aerospace show at Singapore’s Changi Airport in February will be the last event in the current format, following a sudden split between the Singapore government and show organizer Reed Exhibitions. Singapore authorities have said that they will run their own biennial airshow beginning in February 2008. UK-based Reed is now considering alternative venues outside Singapore to stage future Asian Aerospace events.

Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) announced on October 14 that it will organize the renamed Changi International Airshow at an unspecified, newly constructed venue. This will be done through a new company called Changi International Airshow & Events, a joint venture between Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Defence Science & Technology Agency.

According to the EDB, it was not able to reach agreement with Reed Exhibitions about the terms for developing a new site for the airshow. At last year’s show, the organizers said that the current site on the southeast side of Changi Airport will not be available beyond next year because it is to form part of an expansion program at the major gateway. At the time, the government proposed an alternative show site on the north side of the airport, but this has not been confirmed in its latest statement.

Reed Exhibitions says that it is “in active negotiations with several alternative locations that will serve the changing economic landscape of the Asia region and provide a platform for further growth for our customers for the long term.” According to a published report, Hong Kong is under consideration, as is another location. This would bring the show closer to mainland China, Asia’s most important aerospace market. Organizers might consider Hong Kong a more user-friendly venue than a city in mainland China. Reed would not confirm the schedule for the relocated Asian Aerospace show until it has secured the new venue.

The Singapore government insists that the new Changi International Airshow will be held in the traditional slot of February in even-numbered years, and it is hard to see how two Asian shows could be held during the same period. Paul Lee, Reed Exhibitions’ director of business planning and development, acknowledged that the airshow calendar is “already crowded.” However, he asserted that the Singapore government’s decision to launch yet another airshow has made it even more crowded.

Reed Exhibitions has insisted that it had wanted to maintain its partnership with the EDB to keep Asian Aerospace in Singapore but with a revised show format and location. The company said that at an October 7 meeting with Singapore officials it presented “a winning, long-term commitment proposal that would also meet our various customers’ needs as well as respond to the intensifying regional competition in the aerospace and defense sector.”

According to Reed, it has conducted research among airshow customers (exhibitors and trade visitors) that has led it to conclude “that the design, location, cost and delegate management at the current location in Singapore did not meet its customers’ changing needs.”

The EDB’s account of the October 7 meeting was that it had failed to reach agreement with Reed over its core demand that the proposed new airshow site development would need to be “economically viable” for both the government and the company. This appears to imply that the main sticking point was the degree of investment each side would make in the development. However, both parties declined to respond to this point directly.

Reed and the Singapore government have insisted that they will cooperate in the running of the 2006 event. This is important because Singapore government agencies, such as the civil aviation authority and the ministry of defense, are crucial to ensuring the success of the event. Reed runs the show through a joint venture with major local aerospace and defense group Singapore Technologies Engineering.

Nonetheless, there can be little doubt that the two sides have had a serious falling out over the future of an airshow that some industry observers regard as having reached a market plateau. “We cannot say we are elated with the outcome of the Asian Aerospace 2008 discussions,” said a Reed statement. “While we cannot honestly say that we comprehend the full considerations from the EDB’s perspective, we accept their decision and we will move on.”

Several Asian Aerospace exhibiting companies speaking to AIN on condition of anonymity expressed concern that the government-owned Changi International Airshow & Events lacks experience to run an airshow that claims to be “the second most important global aerospace event” and that it will not be sufficiently responsive to the needs of exhibitors and visitors.

Reed Exhibitions chairman Mike Rusbridge commented, “As a global organizer with a portfolio of seven aerospace and defense events worldwide, we are best placed to offer an independent approach to the complex management of these events.”