I can’t say I’m surprised to read that just a few days after the Shanghai Expo opened, its visitor numbers are well below the apparently overly optimistic expectations. From the Global Times:
Attendance at the World Expo in Shanghai, in its first four days since opening, has fallen short of expectations, adding new concerns for organizers who have been already troubled by complaints about long queues and a lack of affordable food options.
Tuesday was the first unofficial day of the Shanghai World Expo when visitors who hold standard tickets or appointed, unused day tickets could visit the Expo Park.
A total of 146,100 visitors showed up at the park Tuesday, slightly more than Sunday.
Organizers forecast an influx of 70 million visitors, mostly Chinese, over the next six months. To achieve this target, an average of 380,000 people need to visit the site daily.
So far, the highest attendance was on Sunday, with 215,000. On Monday, the last day of the long public holiday, only 131,700 people, the lowest level so far, showed up at the site.
Although officials said about 1,050,000 tickets for the three opening days had been sold, only half of that number showed up.
Is anyone really surprised by this? The idea of a “World’s Fair” was understandably appealing in the 1800s, when it served as an important exchange point for technology, and its appeal continued in the twentieth century because of the peerless opportunity it provided to get a glimpse of lots of other cultures all in one place. Unfortunately, in the twentieth century, we have the internet for that. Many countries seem to be treating the Expo as a soft-power branding opportunity, and some countries are just phoning it in. But what seems to be missing from all this is why any regular person would really want to go. I’ve read far more coverage of the Expo than any average foreigner would be willing to, and it still seems like a collection of overly-stylized buildings containing vaguely interactive tourism advertisements. Why would I want to stand in line for hours for that?
How do you feel about the Expo? Is it pointless, or is there something valuable to it (from a visitor’s perspective)? What are the participating countries really getting out of it?