The following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Annual Dinner of the HK Exhibition & Convention Organisers' & Suppliers' Association today (May 18):
Louis (Cheng), S C (Tam), Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here tonight. Not only to catch up with old friends and acquaintances, but to have the opportunity to say a few words about a relatively young industry. It is an industry that continues to grow in importance and has helped develop Hong Kong into a true services economy.
Of course, the convention and exhibition business hasn't always been like that. I remember well earlier times when Hong Kong was crying out for proper facilities for hosting large-scale conventions and exhibitions. Facilities that would enable Hong Kong to attract a part of the worldwide multi-billion dollar convention business. Well, as you all know, they came in late 1988 in the shape of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
We have certainly moved on since then. The addition of this magnificent building in 1997 has much enhanced the Hong Kong convention and exhibition landscape. Last year, over 300 conventions and exhibitions were held in Hong Kong. Together they brought in over 300,000 visitors from around the globe. We're now the trade fair capital of Asia and, based on forward bookings, have been ranked as the number one convention and exhibition destination in the region by the International Congress and Convention Association.
The convention and exhibition industry has long been regarded as a high-yield business. The per capita spending of convention and exhibition delegates is two and a half times that of the average visitors. Last year alone, these delegates spent over $3 billion in Hong Kong. This is clearly a high-value-added segment of the tourism industry.
Since it was founded in 1990, the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Organisers' and Suppliers' Association has been playing a significant role in helping to propel the industry to where it is today. If the aims of the Association are any guide then you have been most successful, as I see that establishing Hong Kong as the major international exhibition and convention capital in Asia is one of your key objectives.
As you all know, the government has just launched the Brand Hong Kong programme. We have positioned Hong Kong to be "Asia's World City". A world city that has many remarkable attributes like political and legal stability, proximity to markets, excellent infrastructure, a dense network of financial and professional service firms and high quality local management. A world city that offers a variety of attractions to visitors. Like Manhattan, as I often mention, we must be a metropolis with the culture, arts, lifestyle, and entertainment that both Hong Kong people and tourists enjoy.
A thriving convention and exhibition industry is certainly a centre piece of this huge jigsaw. And we must ensure that we continue to maintain our competitive edge on this front. Although the HKCEC extension has been opened for just four years, our convention and exhibition facilities are already under some stress given the ever- growing demand. Other cities in the region are only too pleased to take a bigger share of the business as we turn our clients away.
I have heard your request, loud and clear, for new facilities for taking the convention and exhibition business to the next level. There is a proposal to construct a new centre to provide exhibition space of up to 50,000 square metres at Hong Kong International Airport. And I also note that the Trade Development Council itself has sought to reserve, at the planning stage, an option of building an underground extension should this be justified by demand in the future.
I agree with the industry's view that we must stay ahead of the game if we are to maintain our position as the leading tourism and exhibition destination in the region. You can rest assured that we are treating the proposal for new exhibition facilities at the airport with a sense of urgency. And I hope it won't be too long before we have a clearer direction in relation to this. We certainly support the idea in principle, but as it is a large-scale infrastructure development, the final decision will be based on a comprehensive assessment of the project's economic impact. A government internal working group is currently making that assessment. And I would like to thank your Association for the valuable contribution you have made to our deliberations.
Ladies and gentlemen, the convention and exhibition industry will continue to face opportunities and challenges in the years to come. But I am confident that with Hong Kong's advantages, supported by the efforts of interest groups such as yours, the industry will rise to the occasion to tap the new opportunities in the region, particularly the Mainland.
For our part, we are certainly prepared to work with you, closely monitoring the need for new infrastructure developments to maintain the growth of the industry. The Tourism Board and the TDC will continue to actively market Hong Kong as the ideal location. With your input and hard work I am convinced Hong Kong will remain as the top choice for exhibitions and conventions. The prospects are bright.
End/Friday, May 18, 2001