Jack So, Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has called for more downtown exhibition facilities to help Hong Kong maintain its competitiveness.
Speaking at the joint opening of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) Atrium Expansion and the 20th Hong Kong Book Fair, Mr So noted that the recently completed HK$1.4 billion expansion project had increased the HKCEC’s available space by 42 per cent to 66,000 square meters.
“Even this does not get to the size of the exhibition space of one casino in Macau,” said Mr So. “As you can see, this extension is already fully occupied as soon as it is completed, and for many other shows, there is still a waiting list of companies who cannot get in.”
Chief Executive Donald Tsang, in his 2008 policy address, announced that the Hong Kong SAR Government would start examining possibilities for a Phase III addition to the HKCEC.
“I would like to assure you that continued investment in high-quality convention and exhibition infrastructure, soft as well as hard, form a key part of our strategy,” said Mr Tsang in a speech marking the opening of the Atrium Expansion and the Hong Kong Book Fair. “The Government and the HKTDC are actively examining the case for a Phase III expansion of the HKCEC. It appears that we will have to move existing government buildings and public facilities to make room for the extension. We shall consult the public on the way ahead.
“To stay competitive in today’s tough marketplace we must avoid complacency, and to boost trade and commerce we must assist the industry in hosting more international conventions and exhibitions in Hong Kong. Working together, we can make this sector even bigger and stronger in the years ahead,” said Mr Tsang.
Mr So added that more than 100 industry exhibitions were staged in Hong Kong annually, many of which are the biggest in Asia. “It brings not only billions of orders every year to feed our manufacturers, but also sizeable tourist dollars from thousands of buyers visiting those shows,” he said.
“For Hong Kong to successfully compete with neighbouring cities with much bigger facilities, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre must further expand.”
Mr So noted that there are still many hurdles to overcome before Phase III becomes a reality. But he said he is confident that Hong Kong stands a good chance of maintaining its leadership position as Asia’s premier exhibition hub.
The 20th Book Fair is the first public fair to be staged in the new halls after the expansion, and this year has one-third more exhibition space, with wider aisles and more leisure space.
Mr So said the Book Fair is one of the most successful exhibitions organised by the HKTDC. Starting from 150 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors in 1990, it is now the biggest book fair in the Chinese speaking world, in terms of number of visitors. He said the rationale for organising Book Fair was based on Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and publication; Hong Kong’s flourishing printing and publishing industry, and the growing interest in reading by the general public.
“With the new facilities made available, the Book Fair is sure to continue its progress from the biggest such fair in the Chinese-speaking world, to becoming the biggest such fair in the world,” said Mr So.
Also joining Mr So today at the opening ceremony was the PRC’s Director of the General Administration of Press and Publication Liu Bin Jie and HKTDC Executive Director Fred Lam.
This year, the Hong Kong Book Fair features some 500 exhibitors from 20 countries and regions. More than 200 cultural events will be held during the fair period.