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The Shows Go On(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 06,2007)


Asia's leading trade fair centre is on a spectacular roll, with latest figures indicating attendances at Hong Kong exhibitions are up almost 25% year-on-year.

That momentum should continue to build as Hong Kong is now firmly positioned as the trade fair capital of Asia, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) predicts.

The nearly 800,000 exhibitors and buyers who attended trade fairs in Hong Kong last year - up from 631,368 in 2004 - are likely to stay longer, and spend almost twice as much as leisure tourists.

Officials of the city's leading exhibition venues - Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) and AsiaWorld-Expo - agree and are speeding up their expansion plans to meet projected demand.

These surging attendances are largely the result of the first full year's trading of AsiaWorld-Expo, which enabled the city to meet pent-up demand, according to HKTB senior manager, business development Mabel Hung. "We recorded 28 new shows in 2006, and 20 of those were held at AsiaWorld-Expo," Hung observed.

And it's not just the new shows that affirm Hong Kong's status as a preferred trade fair destination, she added. "Many of our recurrent shows held at the HKCEC are well-established and continue to attract buyers and sellers from around the world," Hung acknowledged.

"Hong Kong is a proven two-way platform, both to get to know one's counterparts and find partners in the Chinese mainland, and to bring Chinese businesses to the world stage."

Statistics show that 31% of visitors to Hong Kong trade fairs in 2006 came from the Chinese mainland, around 21% came from European countries, 14% from Southeast Asia, 10% from north Asia, 12% from the Americas, 8% from Taiwan and 4% from Australia.

Looking ahead, a number of new exhibitions have so far been booked for 2007, basking in the strong economy of the Asian region and Hong Kong in particular.

Hung cited prestigious shows such as Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress, the flagship international aerospace industry event, as an example of the city's ability to attract major international shows. "The event will this year debut at Hong Kong's AsiaWorld-Expo after running for 30 years in Singapore," she notes.

Indeed, AsiaWorld-Expo deputy CEO Allen Ha says a business performance that is "exceeding expectations" is speeding up the expansion of its year-old venue, which is conveniently located next to the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

"Apart from attracting new shows to town, our venue has also opened up enormous opportunities for the growth of existing market segments," Ha said.

"More events with similar topics can be found at the peak seasons now and they can leverage on each other, in turn creating a more powerful critical mass and create higher appeal for buyers to come to Hong Kong.

"This helps affirm Hong Kong as the ideal gateway to the Chinese mainland market, as well as a springboard for mainland enterprises to venture into the global marketplace."

AsiaWorld-Expo hosted over 40 major local and international trade shows, conferences, and entertainment events, five of which fully occupied all of the available space, during its first year of operation.

A highlight included the successful hosting of ITU Telecom 2006, attracting 62,000 participants from 141 countries, including 1,542 media representatives and 695 exhibitors from 37 countries, with the economic benefit to Hong Kong estimated at HK$900m (US$116m).

Apart from trade exhibitions, public shows and large-scale corporate conferences, concerts and entertainment galas have also been staged at the venue - among them performances by Oasis, Coldplay, Jamie Cullum, The Black Eyed Peas, Eric Clapton, Il Divo and Rain.

As a result, AsiaWorld-Expo is ramping up its plans to add an existing 30,000 square metres of rentable space to its current 70,000-square-metre capacity.

Closer to town, the HKCEC on the Wanchai waterfront is also forging ahead with its HK$1.4bn (US$180m) expansion, which will add 40% more exhibition space.

Last year, HKCEC was deservedly voted "Asia's Leading Conference Centre" for the third consecutive year at the prestigious World Travel Awards.

In addition to securing its recurrent shows, HKCEC is this year adding four new trade shows to its international portfolio, managing director Cliff Wallace noted, including Hong Kong Mode Lingerie, Rail Solutions Asia, GTI Asia Expo and Senior Lifestyle Asia.

"It is even more gratifying as these are all new exhibition themes for Hong Kong," Wallace added. "With the organisers coming from France, the UK, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the HKCEC has once again proved its position as Hong Kong's strategic choice of venue for launching and hosting global events in Asia."