Twice a year, in Spring and in Fall, China’s biggest export trade show, the Canton Fair, takes place at the Guangzhou International Convention & Exhibition Center. It is divided into three phases, with different product groups and exhibitors on display. For me, since my area of interest was specifically in bags made of paper, I attended this years’ phase three end at of October.
The registration process is fairly simple and straightforward. The Canton Fair website recommends that one pre-registers for a so-called buyers badge (a badge that clearly identifies you as an overseas buyer to the exhibitors). This saves you time and money at the venue. In order to receive your pre-approved buyers badge confirmation letter (you will get the actual badge then at the registration office at select hotels in Guangzhou or the registration office of the convention centre itself), you have to first register your company, fill out all the required information including passport information and upload a recent passport picture of yourself. Once that is approved you can register for the invitation letter which, once approved, will allow you to pre-apply for the buyers’ badge. You will also need the invitation letter for the visa application, as it serves as the official invitation to attend. I did get my visa issued without any problems.
In the morning of my first day at the Canton Fair, I took the metro to one of the two metro stations serving the exhibition (Pazhou and Xingang Dong, metro line 8). Upon exiting the metro, the way to the registration office was clearly sign-posted. And there I had to marvel at the organization and efficiency of the Chinese. They were prepared and equipped for the masses, with 50 or so stations helping you get your buyers badge. I had to fill out a registration card, and together with that, my invitation letter, the pre-approved buyers’ badge letter, a business card, and another passport photo I in return received my buyers’ badge, which is now valid for multi-year Canton Fair entries.
After passing security, where my bag and my badge were scanned, I walked through the scanner and was in – and immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. But there again, everything was clearly sign-posted and well-organized, so I quickly found my way to the halls I wanted to visit. It still took me four full days to go through the four halls of bags and suitcases – one hall a day with approximately 100 – 200 exhibitors. After day four I was all bagged out, but I did find some interesting products for my webshop shop.guninchen.com. I will share more about my experience at the exhibition in one of my next articles.
Overall the visit to the Canton Fair was a very good experience and definitely worth my time. I am already planning my next visit, but I may just use that as an excuse to go back to China.