TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN) — Taiwan-based exhibitors at the Taipei Cycle show — scheduled to open a month from Tuesday — are circulating a petition asking organizers to cancel it because of the new coronavirus outbreak in China.
As of Tuesday morning, Taiwan has confirmed 10 novel coronavirus infections in the country, one fewer than the number of cases confirmed in the U.S.
It’s not known how many exhibitors, if any, have signed the petition or forwarded it to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), the show’s organizer. BRAIN has reviewed a copy of the petition, which is written in Chinese. Three exhibitors told BRAIN they’ve received it.
Daniel Godwin, with the Taiwan Trade Center in Los Angeles, told BRAIN the show will continue as planned. He shared a new statement from TAITRA (pdf attached) that said “there is no danger posed to exhibitions and meeting venues in Taiwan … From the airport to the hotel to the venue and back, visitors can rest assured that they will be safe to visit Taiwan.”
Earlier Tuesday, a show representative referred a question about the virus to a statement TAITRA released on Friday. That statement said the bike show would be held as scheduled but that visitors or exhibitors from China would not be allowed.
TAITRA also released a statement on Tuesday saying the virus was having “limited impact” in Taiwan.
The U.S. State Department has no alerts regarding travel in Taiwan.
“At the time of writing, no new countries have reported cases of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease in the last 24 hours, and there are only limited cases of infection in Taiwan with zero deaths, and those with the illness are recovering well and in a stable and non-life-threatening condition,” the new statement read.
“All events and activities held by TAITRA for international visitors are conducted in full and stringent compliance with health and safety regulations, and there is no danger posed to exhibitions and meeting venues in Taiwan.
“Visitors can also be reassured that Taiwan’s healthcare system and medical sector is one of the best in the world, with the highest standards for medical assistance and most advanced medical equipment and facilities.”
While the petition asks TAITRA to “stop” the show, some industry members have suggested the event be rescheduled until after the virus outbreak is under control. It’s not clear whether there are calendar openings later in the spring at Taipei’s Nangang Convention Center, where the show is held. If the show is shifted into April it would conflict with the Sea Otter Classic, April 16-19 in California, which would limit attendance by U.S. industry members.
The next major international event is the China International Bicycle Fair, scheduled for May 6-9 in Shanghai. ISPO Beijing, a sports trade show scheduled for mid-February in mainland China, has already been canceled.
The petition notes that industry members from the U.S., Europe, and other regions are opting not to attend the Taipei show.
The inability of Chinese visitors to attend or exhibit at the show makes the event less attractive to visitors and exhibitors who typically meet with Chinese customers and vendors at the show.
The U.S. State Department advises against visiting mainland China and several U.S. suppliers tell BRAIN they are honoring that advisory. The State Department has no alerts regarding travel in Taiwan. However, many industry members typically visit Chinese factories and other facilities before or after the Taipei show, so the restriction makes a Taipei trip less valuable.
Several U.S. brands have told BRAIN that they are telling employees they can skip the Taiwan show if they are uncomfortable about the outbreak. “It’s just bikes,” QBP president Rich Tauer told BRAIN at FrostBike in Denver last week, explaining the company’s policy about allowing employees to make their own decision about Taiwan travel.
And as more industry members consider staying home — whether for perceived health risk or because of reduced benefits — it could become increasingly unattractive to others.
“At some point it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said one U.S. industry member with facilities in Taiwan, who still plans to attend the show and does not plan to sign the petition.
In addition to restrictions on entering China, Taiwan announced Tuesday that, starting Feb. 7, foreign nationals who have been in China in the previous 14 days will be prevented from entering Taiwan.
Meanwhile, a UN agency continues to exclude Taiwan from international air travel information, including information related to the viral outbreak. The agency also has blocked Twitter accounts critical of the policy.
As of Tuesday there were 20,471 confirmed cases of the virus infection in China, and 425 deaths. Outside China, there have been 159 confirmed infections and one death.