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Tech Industry

Taiwan dreads Computex ghost town

Fears of empty halls at Computex Taipei due to the SARS outbreak have prompted the city's mayor to send out 200,000 letters of reassurance to overseas buyers.

Fears of empty halls at Computex Taipei due to the SARS outbreak have prompted the city's mayor to send out 200,000 letters of reassurance to overseas buyers.

According to Taiwanese daily Taipei Times, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou embarked on the massive direct mailing campaign last month in a bid to reassure visitors that Taipei is safe for one of Asia's largest IT shows.

Taiwan is a powerhouse of chip and IT product manufacturing, and Taiwan companies such as Via, Acer and Asus use Computex Taipei to showcase new products.

Computex Taipei is scheduled to take place in the city from June 2 to 6 and has been expected to attract more than 20,000 foreign visitors, the article stated.

"The only thing we can do is to tell them the facts," Ma was quoted as saying.

Taipei Times added that a report from Taiwan's Market Intelligence Center has also heightened concerns over the turnout at the IT tradeshow as the flulike virus continues to spread in Asia. The report said a nosedive in attendance will be a big blow for manufacturers looking to use the event as a platform to launch new products.

As a precaution, the show will have stations where those feeling unwell can have their blood pressure and temperature checked.

Almost every tech trade show and conference in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore has been put on hold as fears of the deadly virus continue to mount, with potential losses in the millions of dollars for show organizers.

Spurred by the business gloom, the Singapore government last week announced $130 million (230 million Singapore dollars) worth of rebates, fee cuts and grants to help SARS-hit industries such as transportation and tourism.

Singapore's IT market slumped by 7.8 percent in 2002 and any rebound this year will be curtailed by the SARS scare, says market researcher IDC.

SARS has killed more than 260 people and infected 4,400 worldwide since emerging in China late last year, according to the World Health Organization's Web site.

CNETAsia staff reported from Taiwan.