Organisers hope for a last-minute rush after issuing 150,000 invitations Advance bookings for the 94th China Export Commodities Fair have been sluggish because of continuing concerns about another Sars outbreak, according to the event's organisers. They have sent out 150,000 invitations to buyers. One hotelier said room bookings for the first half of the fair, from October 15 to 20, were not as strong as last year; while bookings for the second session, October 25 to 30, were stronger than the first half but still down from last year. He said: 'Everybody says Sars is coming back. People are still waiting. They will wait until the last minute. If there are any Sars cases, people will withdraw their bookings and we will have to refund the deposits. 'If there is no Sars, they will come at the last minute.' Zeng Guang, head of the national Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week that there was a 'huge' possibility that Sars would return in November but that the scale of the new outbreak would be 'nothing compared to last spring'. He Jiebing, deputy manager of the inbound tour department of GZL International Travel Service, said business was 'so-so'. 'I've just come back from India and my clients did not dare to place bookings,' she said. 'They used to book early for previous fairs.' Bookings from Malaysia were 50 per cent below last year's levels, she said. Over-optimistic hoteliers had raised prices, making it difficult to sell packages because clients expected rates to be low, Ms He said. But the opening of the new Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition centre in Pazhou was still a draw, she said. 'People keep asking if it will be used for the autumn fair,' she said. There will be 2,000 booths covering 40,000 square metres for knitted and decorative products in the new exhibition centre. The remaining 16,000 booths will be located at the old venue, near the railway station. A manager of China International Travel Service, however, said bookings were 'acceptable'. And Li Shuling, a vice-manager in the overseas marketing department of appliance maker Guangdong Galanz Enterprise (Group), was optimistic that attendance at the autumn fair would be better than in the spring. Ms Li said: '[The reports of Sars cases] shouldn't be a problem. We have experience and will take the right measures.' Only 23,128 foreign buyers visited the fair in April, down from 120,576 the previous year.