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Exhibition Industry Calls on Tokyo Government to Protect Japanese Businesses ahead of Tokyo Olympics

2016-08-30 08:00

TOKYO, August 30, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA), the voice of the exhibition industry in Japan, is calling for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) to abandon its plan to requisition Japan's largest exhibition venue for conversion into a media center for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. JEXA has begun a petition demanding that TMG reassess its current plans so as to ensure that the Olympic Games can be held in Tokyo without impacting large numbers of Japanese enterprises that rely on exhibitions for their business. Already, over 70,000 individuals have signed the petition (which can be found here) and indicated their support for this movement.


In October last year, TMG Olympic organizers announced an initial plan to repurpose Tokyo Big Sight, the country's main exhibition venue, into an international media center for the 2020 Games. The initial plan would have taken the majority of Tokyo Big Sight out of service for exhibitions for a 20-month period from April 2019 to November 2020, effectively forcing the cancellation of nearly all the exhibitions that are regularly held there. Shortly after the initial plan was revealed, in November, JEXA outlined the profoundly negative consequences the plan would have on the exhibition industry and other industries and sectors which rely on exhibitions for a crucial part of their business.

In February 2016, TMG announced a revised plan that included the construction of a small, temporary exhibition venue near Tokyo Teleport Station and an acceleration in the pace of construction of an extension to Tokyo Big Sight. While the revision suggests that TMG acknowledges that the requisition of Tokyo Big Sight is problematic, the plan still involves using Tokyo Big Sight as the Olympic media center, rendering it unusable from April to November 2020 and leading to the cancellation of over 170 exhibitions that are scheduled to be held at the venue.

Japan's SMEs and Exhibition Industry in Jeopardy

Holding the Olympic Games in Tokyo will impose significant costs on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) throughout Japan. Furthermore, requisitioning Tokyo Big Sight for use as an international media center will damage the exhibition industry -- the lifeblood of Japanese SMEs.

If the current plan is allowed to proceed, over 170 exhibitions that are regularly held at Tokyo Big Sight will have to be canceled. An estimated 50,000 SMEs will be deprived of the opportunity to participate in exhibitions that are often critical to doing their business. SMEs in particular depend on exhibitions as an important selling opportunity that supports the very foundations of their business, with many SMEs relying on exhibitions to generate a significant portion of their annual revenue.

While companies that exhibit at and visit trade shows are the most obvious victims of the cancellations, other SMEs that support the exhibition industry, including more than one thousand service companies that design and build exhibition stands, supply temporary staff, undertake electrical works, etc., will face the dire prospect of seven months without work.

Olympic Media Center: Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Each year around 90,000 companies (including 20,000 from overseas) participate as exhibitors in approximately 300 trade shows at Tokyo Big Sight, where they generate an aggregate total of JPY 3 trillion in sales. In this way Tokyo Big Sight serves as a vital economic catalyst not only for the Greater Tokyo area, but for the country as a whole. TMG's attempt to cut costs on its Olympic Media Center will be offset many times over by the heavy loss in economic activity incurred as a result of the unavailability of Tokyo Big Sight for exhibitions.

While JEXA fully supports the successful holding of the 2020 Olympic Games and acknowledges the need for an international media center, it is clear that the real cost of refitting Tokyo Big Sight as outlined in the current plan will vastly exceed the cost of constructing a purpose-built media center. More specifically, the forced cancellation of exhibitions at Tokyo Big Sight during the period that TMG requisitions the site for use as an international media center will cause a loss to the economy of approximately JPY 1.6 trillion.

Beyond this direct and immediate impact, the plan would also incur a lasting legacy cost to Japan's exhibition industry as a whole. In a highly competitive industry that sees 31,000 exhibitions held annually around the globe, it can be expected that some exhibitions will be relocated from Tokyo to other countries and may not return to Japan. If this were to occur, Japanese SMEs would suffer ongoing higher costs and barriers to participating in exhibitions as they would have to participate in overseas exhibitions, while foreign companies would lose the opportunity to meet with their clients in Japan.

Deviation from Established Precedent

The hosts of the past three Summer Olympic Games all constructed purpose-built media centers and there was minimum impact on the holding of exhibitions even when the host city's exhibition center was used as an Olympic venue.

In Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, officials responsible for ensuring the success of the Olympic Games in their respective cities acknowledged the importance of protecting exhibitions and ensured that they would not be disrupted. At the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this year and the London Olympics in 2012, every single exhibition that had been scheduled was able to be held as usual because it was recognized that cancelling exhibitions would interfere with regular business activities and cause serious damage to the economy.

TMG's announcement of its plan to use Tokyo Big Sight as a media center has astonished many overseas observers in the exhibition field. It has widely been condemned as an ill-considered move by the TMG that will undermine the proper functioning of a key industry.

About JEXA

The Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA) was founded in 1967 and is the main association for the exhibition industry in Japan. Membership includes the entire spectrum of companies and bodies that organize and support exhibitions and trade shows, including exhibition organizers, exhibition venue owners, stand contractors and other suppliers of products and services. In addition to representing the interests of Japan's exhibition industry, JEXA actively supports the development of skilled industry practitioners and conducts industry-specific research. JEXA is a member of the Japan Exhibition Certification Council and the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI). For more information, visit

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Source: Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA)

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