ES: When did you join UBM and what are your roles and responsibilities as UBM Asia’s Executive Vice President?
Michael: I joined what was then United Newspapers Ltd. and known in Asia, based in Hong Kong as the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group in 1994. It feels like yesterday! As EVP Asia I support the CEO of UBM Asia Margaret Ma Connolly in her work. We have many companies in Asia and a special responsibility towards India, which I have been involved in since its inception in 2006 along with some of the large Hong Kong Fairs and our largest joint venture in China. Along with this I work in the Maritime sector across Asia. I also hold responsibility as a Director and Treasurer of UFI – The Global Exhibition Industry Association and I am the Informa representative. Also I am the Director of HKECIA and a former chairman of Hong Kong Exhibition Industry Association. I serve on the board of the Asia Committee of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce as well.
ES: What are your comments on the Informa-UBM Combination? Both Informa and UBM are big organisations, what do you think will be the implication of this Combination in the Asian Exhibition Industry?
Michael: This combination is a very exciting one; it brings together two organisations that don’t really have any ‘clashing’ portfolios. We compliment each other in many industry verticals and geographies. For Asia, UBM was a very strong part of UBM plc, and Informa in Asia was a smaller part so the combination is that much easier and brings together teams that will take the next stages of industry growth to increased heights.
ES: Informa has announced Management changes at UBM Asia. Your role as Group Chief Representative in China has been extended to all Informa businesses in China. Can you elaborate on your new responsibilities?
Michael: All large organisations now recognise the importance of China as a full market and, also that representation in Beijing is very important in having smooth relations with the Ministries. I was appointed some time ago to do this for UBM and now it’s widened out with the Informa portfolio that encompasses, for instance a huge business in Scientific and Academic publishing.
ES: How much time would it take for this collaboration to take a complete shape in Asia?
Michael: Probably an year in all, maybe even sooner.
ES: There is a Brand Transition Programme underway, led by UBM Asia’s President and CEO Jimé Essink to retire UBM and create a single entity and brand by 2019. Can you please elaborate on that?
Michael: There are obviously two large brands here namely Informa and UBM. The decision is to retire the UBM brand sometime next year and this will be done in an orderly way.
ES: In 2017, there was a growth of Asian exhibitions in terms of net space sold. There was an average increase of 7%, reaching 22million sqm.. We are more than halfway through 2018, what direction do you think the exhibition industry is heading to & what are the opportunities that lay ahead?
Michael: In 2018 the growth in the exhibition industry in Asia continues to surge. In any portfolio some shows are up and a few are down dependant on the industry. India’s grow this tremendous!
ES: India has just taken over China and become the fastest growing country in the world, what is your perspective about India and the Indian Exhibition Industry?
Michael: India for sure is growing; however the infrastructure it needs is needed today! The two new venues in Delhi will bring good growth, and so will the new venue in Mumbai, but all of these are needed today. They will be welcome, however it’s important for venue managers to recognise International practices in growing shows and organisers and stand contractors to modernise the industry.
ES: Can you share some insights with us about the event venues in Asia?
Michael: In Japan there will be a much needed extension in Big Sight in 2021, in Shenzhen a new 500000 sqm. venue will be partly ready in2020, we’re also looking at some extensions in Hong Kong in 2020. Right now, India urgently needs a very large venue in Mumbai!
ES: What are your comments on the upcoming UFI Global Congress in St. Petersburg?
Michael: Politics is always challenging and plans are made a long way in advance. I personally know the head of the Russian Exhibition Industry Association and he will ensure that the St. Petersburg congress will be excellent! If you have not been there then it’s a ‘must’, it is one of the world’s most magnificent cities. Though do take a warm coat..