By Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's trade show association is stepping up calls for Tokyo to abandon plans to transform the country's largest exhibition hall into the media center for the 2020 Olympics, warning the industry could lose as much as $12 billion.
The Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA) said it had submitted a petition with more than 80,000 signatures to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike last week demanding a revision to the plan, and was ready to call on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa next.
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The closure of the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in April-October 2020 would cause the cancellation or shrinking of 170 exhibitions regularly held during those months and 1.3 trillion yen ($11.5 billion) in lost revenue, according to JEXA estimates, and the damage could last even longer.
"We're worried a lot of exhibitors will move to places like China, Korea, Singapore and the U.S., and they might not return," JEXA Chairman Tadao Ishizumi told a news conference on Thursday.
"The economic benefits from these exhibitions will disappear and it's the people of Tokyo and Japan who will end up losing out," he said.
Some 90,000 companies participated as exhibitors in around 300 trade shows at Tokyo Big Sight each year, according to JEXA.
JEXA said the exhibitors, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, depended on these fairs for a large portion of their revenue, as did the local service industry involved in booths, staffing and food and beverage.
Mitsuaki Fushimi, an official with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's commerce and industry department, told Reuters that Tokyo was doing all it could to help limit the burden.
He noted that Tokyo had agreed to build a temporary venue nearby where trade fairs could be hosted and that it was speeding up the construction of an extension to Tokyo Big Sight.
Still, JEXA said that even with those measures it would be left with just 23,000 square meters of exhibition space -- about a quarter of regular capacity.
In the petition, JEXA has proposed that a media center be built elsewhere or that Tokyo construct a temporary convention center of the same capacity as Big Sight.
One idea for a new media center location is Toyosu, to which the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market has been delayed because of contamination problems.
Ishizumi told Reuters that he did not expect environmental factors to be a concern for a media center, but that safety checks would be need to be conducted if Toyosu were to become a realistic option.
($1 = 113.5 yen)
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher)