Maybe people are visiting Expo 2010 (World’s Fair), after all [UPDATED]

Below, a photo of the ticket lines, near gate 6, at Expo 2010 just after 4:00 yesterday. This was but one line; there were roughly twenty of equivalent length stretched down the ticket counters. Only one week earlier, at roughly the same time, there were no lines, and only two ticket windows open for business.

It’s only been a week, in fact, since commentators (including yours truly) began to openly doubt whether Expo would come close to meeting its projected 70 million visitor goal (an interesting piece on that subject, here). At this point, it looks as if 70 million isn’t in the cards – the Expo would need to average in excess of 380,000/people day for that (and it’s currently averaging just under 200,000). That noted, the official Expo attendance figures – updated hourly! – show a definite recovery, and upward trend, from last week’s crater:

What accounts for the strong walk-up business after a week of people prognosticating Expo attendance doom? Well, one factor might be that the Expo organizers started selling RMB 90 evening-only tickets at 16:00 – rather than the previously announced 17:00. I haven’t seen anything in the papers – or on the official Expo website – about that change, but clearly the people waiting in line (most of whom were locals) were well aware of it. The gorgeous summer night didn’t hurt, either.

Speaking of which – if the Expo Bureau really wanted to improve attendance, it should start by improving its website. And, if I may be so bold, it could start that project by building a daily calendar of events and speakers at the site. For example, it might be a good idea to mention – somewhere on the Expo 2010 home page, or on the Important Events page – that Herbie Hancock is playing at the Entertainment Hall tonight and tomorrow (for free, no less). Lest the Expo organizers feel bad about this oversight, allow me to point out that the USA Pavilion (sponsor of the show, alongside the State Department) doesn’t mention the show, its location, or start times, anywhere on its home page, either. The calendar of events sidebar  mentions it – but fails to include information on a start time or venue (again, Entertainment Hall – but it’d sure be nice to know when Hancock is hitting the stage). Get with the program, folks!

[UPDATE: Somebody at the pavilion has, in fact, gotten with the program and posted the show time and venue for the second show, here. No surprise, last night’s show – last night’s free show (free with an admission to the Expo ground – as little as RMB 90/US$14) to see a landmark in American jazz – was sparsely attended. That shouldn’t be taken as an expression of lack of interest, though: in advance of the show I received FIVE emails and one phone call from people trying to figure out the show time, venue, and ticket price – and I’m a well-known critic of the pavilion. Below, a photo take a few minutes before the show.

[UPDATE II: Leslie Jones of Urbanatomy has dubbed the non-promotion of the Hancock shows, Herbie-Gate. The Jones investigation, here.]


  1. Hey Mercury – Thanks for that. Unfortunately, it’s only partial. That is, it mentions the big events in the squares and major venues (although there’s no mention of Herbie Hancock!), but says nothing about the smaller performances happening in pavilions all across the Expo, all day long. Surely they can amalgamate those, too? That’s some of the best stuff (ie, chamber music in the Austrian pavilion etc etc).

  2. This seems basic. I would love to go see herbie but unfortunately its too late to make space now (and would happily pay 90RMB just for that, assuming beers are BJ olympics cheap).

    What else have I been missing? Are all these “good” acts going to come in the first month and then in July we get “Minnesota’s regional marching band champion extravaganza!” (nothing against marching bands or Minnesota, only in comparison to Mr. Hancock.

  3. Word on the street is those attendance numbers are going to skyrocket in the summer months when school is out.

  4. My first day on the site is in 10 days and I’ll be there for 12 days. Locals should wait until *after* I’ve left.

    Ozomatli is also performing soon, on the 21st.

  5. xm88 – Well, this blog is written by a native Minnesotan, so count me among those few who wouldn’t complain about the Minnesota marching band extravaganza (out of state pride, of course). But your point is well taken – after Herbie Hancock and next month’s performance by Ozomatli, the calendar becomes kind of spare. And that’s because the pavilion simply doesn’t have any money for programming. I’ve spoken to several performing arts groups who have been approached by the US pavilion about appearances, and in each case they’ve been told that there’s no money to pay them. In one case, at least, a group was told that they could be compensated by having their name flash on the screen affixed to the pavilion – in between sponsorship names.

    Zach – You’re the second person in a day to tell me that. Seems like a pretty good bet, though I wonder if the summer heat will wilt some of that summer break enthusiasm.

    Urso – I hope you’ll get in touch with me as soon as you arrive. A meeting is long overdue!

    Eric – Indeed, it is now there … but if you want to see the actual venue and time of performance, you have to click one more link, here. And that info is new as of today.

  6. On the bus yesterday, the annoying tv screen was advertising shows at Expo. Granted, they all sounded boring as shit, but at least it was an effort.

    As of last Monday, the Chinese-language expo event site only had info up for May. Future months returned an error – not sure if that is a website error or a lack of content. The word I’m hearing is that most things aren’t booked yet, despite official claims otherwise. Which means – there’s still hope for them to wise up and offer more than clog dancing.

  7. There certainly has been a spike in daily admissions, to 350,000 per day (still a third less than forecast). 1100 and 1830 seem to be when people tend to arrive — and then stay until closing! Is there a summer break or vacation period in Shanghai and China generally? If so, maybe the Expo will hit 500,000 a day as originally projected.

    It would be wonderful if some nabob of GIS could map the routes that people take through the Expo. That should be easy using phones’ onboard GPS. Any takers?

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