Shanghai's the place to be for Expo 2010

08/16/2009 12:04 AM

08/16/2009 12:04 AM

Judging from the almost complete lack of U.S. advertising for it, you'd never know there was an important World's Fair (called the World Expo) scheduled to take place in Shanghai, China, from May through October of 2010. Yet all throughout the world, it appears, excitement is rising over an event in which nearly 200 countries and 48 world organizations will maintain breathtaking pavilions containing important, instructive exhibits about the future. These have been heavily featured in European and Asian publications, and some of the more unusual designs make architectural history.

The theme of Expo 2010 is "Better City, Better Life," exploring ways in which city life around the world can be both improved and made "greener," which is, to say, environmentally sustainable. Thoughtful people will want to attend it.

More than 70 million people are expected to visit Expo 2010, whose Web site — en.expo2010.cn — will give you some notion of its travel importance. But that same Web site is, as yet, rather unhelpful in suggesting ways to visit Shanghai at the time of the Fair.

Air to Shanghai

How and when should you reserve air space for getting to Shanghai?

The airfare Web site called FlyChina (flychina.com) will be the answer for many Americans. Founded in 1997, it's a specialist whose sole purpose is to find heavily discounted airfares between 16 U.S. cities and every major destination in China.

Now, it may be a trifle too early to test FlyChina's prowess for a flight that actually takes place in May through October of next year. Place a test booking for a long-in-the-future outbound flight on June 9, 2010, and a return on June 16, and China Eastern Airlines — the usual price leader to China — will currently respond with a hefty round-trip fare of $1,059, far higher than the round-trip fares to Shanghai of $600 and $700 they're currently quoting for flights in autumn of 2009.

I'd wait another two months, then make a stab at it. And if the lowest airfare showing two months from now (again on China Eastern) is still $1,059, I'd grab it. For it is entirely possible that a heavy movement of Americans to Shanghai's World Expo will cause big upward pressure on airfares, causing $1,059 to be an excellent price.

Hotel space in Shanghai

I'm almost more concerned that Shanghai's hotel accommodations — always in great demand even when no world event is taking place — may either be sold out for desirable periods of the fair or overly expensive, making early reservations advisable. And for that purpose, I'm impressed by the Shanghai hotel offerings of Venere.com, the large Italian hotel search engine. It has been thoroughly reliable on past occasions, and a source of rates much lower than you would normally find on many U.S. hotel search engines.

Going to the Shanghai section of Venere.com, you'll currently find plentiful vacancies during the World Expo period at (as one example) those strictly utilitarian, but clean and comfortable, Holiday Inn hotels, of which Venere.com displays several, and at Shanghai's several Crowne Plaza Hotels (an upscale affiliate of Holiday Inn).

One such Crowne Plaza in Shanghai currently is offering rooms for $128 a night all throughout the World Expo period — and that's per room, not per person. A standard Holiday Inn in Shanghai is charging $99 per room. Several stripped-down, but well-located, Holiday Inn Express hotels charge from $44 to $71 a night per room.

An inexpensive treat

So why not make your reservations soon, and thus secure a properly priced basis for visiting the World Expo? Unlike last year's Beijing Olympics, it is not necessary to purchase admission tickets to the World Expo in advance. These will be available for approximately $20 a day at the entrance gate to the entire World Expo area, entitling you to visit as many pavilions as you choose.

Back in 1904, our grandparents sang "Meet me in St. Louis, Louie." There they experienced such novelties as the electric light bulb, ice cream and numerous other advances. It appears that Shanghai may be the place next year for inventions and developments of the future.

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