Two weeks ago only a select few international visitors attended Taichung Bike Week. But from mid-October business trips to the heart of Asia’s bicycle industry are likely to become a whole lot easier.
Taiwan’s economy is tightly linked to the People’s Republic of China. And due to the common language and messenger apps such as WeChat being used on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the relevant authorities in Taiwan found out that a storm was brewing in China in early 2020. As a consequence, inbound passengers from China were tested for fever as early as in January 2020, and from the end of January 2020 an immigration stop for travelers from China was put in place. From March 18th 2020, Taiwan closed its borders entirely, allowing very few foreigners in. The various visa exemptions for different countries were put on hold as well. These measures seemed to work as Taiwan was spared from a serious Covid outbreak until May 2022. But closing the borders proved to be a real problem for Taiwan as its economy depends so heavily on exports.
The bicycle industry was no exception in this situation: Asia’s most important bicycle trade show, Taipei Cycle, had to be cancelled for 2020 and 2021 and only returned in March 2022 in a distinctively smaller format and mostly without international visitors. And the return to visa exemptions for the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Schengen states as per Monday, September 12th came at too short notice – all the more so as international travellers were still required to quarantine in a hotel for three days and follow health self-management rules for another four days. The latter was not really compatible with visiting a trade show. As a consequence, the Taichung Bike Week did not regain its pre-pandemic size, only counting about 150 exhibitors and with many booths remaining unbooked.
According to the Show Daily team in Taichung, only a few international visitors actually attended Taichung Bike Week. In order to offer international business partners meetings as usual, suppliers such as KMC Chains resorted to digital channels such as Skype. As per October 13th, the government of Taiwan plans the next big step in easing its pandemic-related restrictions: The mandatory hotel quarantine will be replaced by self-testing to be taken every two days during a seven-day period of health self-management. And visa exemptions will be reinstated for many additional states, thus lowering the barriers for travelling. The last restriction to stay in place are the strict rules for wearing masks in public. Until the next edition of the Taipei Cycle Show in late March 2023, these rules may be dropped as well. While there’s life there’s hope.