ANTONY REEVE-CROOK VISITS HONG KONG AND FINDS THAT FAR FROM BEING OVERSHADOWED BY CHINA'S EXHIBITION INDUSTRY, BOOMING BUSINESS ON THE MAINLAND MEANS ITS STOCK IS RISINGhe arrival of Hong Kong on the landscape of international exhibitions can be attributed, perhaps unsurprisingly, to two major events in China. The Canton Fairs, which still exist today, were established in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) in the Guangdong province in 1957. Taking place every spring and autumn, these huge events provide arguably the most comprehensive offering of any truly international exhibitions and are responsible for linking a numerous and diverse group of exhibitors with a global set of buyers. The exhibitions created countless business leads and generated some of the greatest retail business turnover in China.Reaching the Guangdong province from overseas required a port capable of handling vast numbers of CATCHING THE TRADE WINDS visitors on the way in, and a vast amount of products on the way out. It demanded, and still demands, straightforward and amenable import and export practice, accessibility and - equally importantly - an ability to accommodate and cater for a wide variety of international travellers. Enter Hong Kong. One of two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) belonging to China, alongside its Pearl River Delta neighbour Macau. The city has seven million inhabitants and crucially, around eight per cent of these (570,000 people) hold foreign passports. Both Chinese and English are accepted as offi cial languages here, harking back to the city's British rule until the handover in 1997. The Canton Fairs may still have the space and the volume
COUNTRY PROFILEIssue 2 | 2012 www.44exhibition-world.netbut, for now at least, Hong Kong has the service and the quality.And it has certainly found a niche for its premium product trade shows.In 2010, Hong Kong International Airport handled 51 million passengers and 4.1 million tonnes of cargo, carried by 95 airlines from 160 destinations. Every day 489,000 people and 44,000 vehicles cross from the mainland, while a further 60,000 people make the trip by ferry. Lo Wu, a town in the middle of Hong Kong's border with China, handles a quarter of a million migrants every day.Being home to such an infl ux of international visitors, it wasn't long before some of the city's entrepreneurs took the liberty of tapping into the passing trade with exhibitions of their own. As time passed, major international venues such as the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) rose on the islands with 66,000sqm of dedicated exhibition space) and AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) with more than 70,000sqm. Both were built to handle large-scale events, served by a carefully considered public transport system.Of the two it is the HKCEC that sits on the more attractive real estate, located in Hong Kong Island's colourful Wanchai district as part a mixed-use development titled 'Convention Place'. Located on Lantau Island in the west, AWE can make the claim of being the larger venue, located more conveniently beside the airport. Its size is also an attractive factor and a key reason why Messe Berlin chose to move its produce fair Fruit Logistica from HKCEC to the Lantau venue. Loose parallels between the venues in Hong Kong and Singapore are appropriately drawn, with AWE sharing much in common with Singapore Expo both in location and profi le, while HKCEC more closely resembles Suntec or - location-wise - Marina Bay Sands. Expand that comparison beyond the venues however, and the similarities diminish. An independent report by corporate assessment fi rm KPMG claims expenditure effects relating to exhibition and conference activities at AWE rose 25 per cent from 2009 to 2010, to HK$13.4bn (US$1.72bn). In total, AWE's economic impact to Hong Kong's economy is claimed at HK$54.2bn for the period 2006-2010. Tax revenue is HK$1.8bn and away from the profi t and loss account, the centre generated 19-26,000 full-time equivalent employees throughout the fi ve-year period. Much of this can be attributed to the boom across the border. Visitors from mainland China accounted for 34 per cent of total international exhibition visitors at AWE in 2010, up from 26 per cent the previous year. More importantly, these THE ORGANISER'S VIEW: STAGING EVENTS AROUND THE PEARL RIVER DELTAPreecha S Chen, president of Reed Exhibitions Greater China, on the relationship between international exhibitions in Hong Kong and the mainland.Do Reed's Chinese shows compete directly with events in Hong Kong?When we select where to base a new event, we choose the location based purely on market need and how well equipped we are to 'win' there. What is the size of the market? How intense are its needs? Which of our competencies can we leverage to satisfy that demand? Most of the answers to these questions are based on direct feedback from exhibitors and the density of buyers in the region. So, the challenge for Reed is not to outdo a similar, regional event. Rather, it's about how we can maximise our capabilities to make the most of what we deem to be an excellent opportunity. Take Nepcon South China, for example. This is an exhibition we established in Shenzhen as part of our series of electronics manufacturing industry events. This show would not thrive the same way in HK, despite the two cities being separated by just a few miles, as there is no market there. Shenzhen is where the manufacturing base is and proximity to market, even if just in terms of a few miles, is key. For this reason, I wouldn't describe the relationship between what we do and what Hong Kong exhibition organisers do as competitive, in the strictest sense. Although the markets for so many industries are similar, they are not identical. There are the obvious differences between the mainland and Hong Kong in terms of language and scale, as well as more subtle nuances when it comes to business culture, market volume and customer demand. We, as Reed Exhibitions, observe a different way of doing things and use the Hong Kong shows' achievements as references from which we boost our own performance. And I'm sure they'll tell you that they, too, learn from us by watching how we put together our Hong Kong events.Will Reed take advantage of either the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge or the new Guangzhou-Hong Kong railway?We certainly will. The enhanced connectivity brought about by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will improve the fl ow of labour, goods and capital between China and the rest of the world. That means better communication channels, magnifi ed trade opportunities and extended global reach.Our exhibitors and buyers can now travel between Kowloon and Guangzhou in just 48 minutes. That means more Hong Kong buyers can make easy trips to our shows in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, without even having to consider overnight accommodation. Vice versa, our shows in Hong Kong will attract more buyers and exhibitors from mainland China.