Expo marshals editors to drum up enthusiasm

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 May, 2010, 12:00am

Dozens of chief editors of mainland newspapers have gathered in Shanghai for a four-day summit on promoting the city's World Expo, local media reported.

The conference appears to be a crisis meeting to find ways to boost the event's visitor numbers, which are languishing at less than half the predicted figure.

The 67-member delegation - which includes top editors from the People's Daily, China Youth Daily and 'city papers, evening papers and internet portals from across the nation' - toured the 5.28 square kilometre expo site yesterday in the guise of expo volunteers, the Shanghai Evening Post reported.

The summit is intended to establish an 'expo reporting association' to provide 'more exceptional materials to be broadcast across the nation and worldwide' and help promote 'a successful expo', the paper reported.

However, mainland journalists privately admit that interest is flagging in the multibillion-dollar fair, in line with the lower-than-expected visitor numbers.

A reporter at a state-owned paper in a nearby city on the Yangtze River, who asked not to be identified, said his editors were not enthusiastic about promoting the show.

'We had a few people stationed in Shanghai ahead of the expo's opening, but they came back on May 4,' he said. 'We don't really think anything newsworthy is going to happen at the expo. Anything we would be interested in covering can be done using Xinhua. We may send some people back in July or August, while students are on their summer holidays, but not before that.'

His comments are reflected in the mood in the expo media centre. A hive of international activity during the opening days, it is now deathly silent and virtually empty. Yesterday afternoon it was home only to a handful of journalists, almost all of whom were from domestic media.

Just under 2.4 million people have visited during the expo's first 14 days, less than 45 per cent of the number originally expected. The expo will need to maintain a daily average of almost 400,000 for the remaining 170 days if it is to hit its target of 70 million visitors. It has drawn more than 200,000 on just five days so far.

Yesterday was the expo's busiest day yet, with almost 240,000 people entering by 7pm, 14,000 up on the peak set on the opening Sunday.

Large numbers of school groups began visiting the park during the latter half of the week, something which did not appear to be happening during the first week.

The European and Asian zones - the park's busiest sections - bustled with people throughout the afternoon, with reasonably long queues outside the most popular pavilions.

However, there was not the same degree of chaos seen during the opening holiday weekend - and waiting times were noticeably shorter than the three or more hours seen on previous busy days.

'It's certainly busier than it has been, but I wouldn't say it's the busiest day yet,' said one staff member in the Porterhouse Irish pub in the European section.