Organizers scrambled on Sunday to shore up the Singapore Airshow, which is going ahead under a cloud of health and economic concerns after dozens of exhibitors pulled out of Asia’s largest aerospace gathering due to coronavirus fears.
After years in which the airline industry has become used to weathering external shocks from epidemics to security threats, one of the industry’s leading showcases has itself been thrust into the spotlight as the number of deaths in mainland China, where the virus first erupted, rose above 800.
More than 70 exhibitors have pulled out of the Feb. 11-16 show, usually a magnet for planemakers, suppliers and arms buyers due to strong demand for civil jetliners coupled with weapons demand fed by regional power rivalries.
“Based on our assessment of the situation today…we have decided to proceed with the trade and public days,” said Tan Kong Hwee, assistant managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board.
Organizers advised trade visitors to avoid shaking hands and to choose alternative forms of greeting such as bowing or waving hands. The number of public tickets available will be halved.
Singapore on Friday raised its coronavirus alert level and reported more cases not linked to previous infections or travel to China. It advised non-essential large-scale events should be deferred or canceled but said the air show would go ahead.
In 2018, there were 54,000 trade attendees and 1,062 firms as the event contributed S$343 million ($247 million) to the local economy through hotels and another spending, according to organizers. The show also attracts high-level foreign delegations.
“It has grown to such stature and importance it is a very important part of the entire ecosystem of the global aviation industry,” said Leck Chet Lam, managing director of Experia Events, partly owned by ST Engineering and government agencies and which manages the show and exhibition site.