Following is the full text of the speech delivered by Mr Joshua Law, the Director-General of Trade and Industry at the Business Travel Expo today (March 12): (English only)
Mr. Robin, Mr. Cheng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honour to be invited to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Business Travel Expo Hong Kong, Asia's first ever B2B travel show that brings world leaders in business travel together with corporate travel buyers in the region.
I believe very few people would dispute the notion that travelling has become an important feature of modern life. But the value of travelling is not exactly a new discovery. Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of the first century, appreciated such value when he said, "the world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." However, just over a thousand years later, Owen Feltham, one of Oliver Cromwell's propagandists held a somewhat different view. He said "it is not fit that every man should travel; it makes a wise man better, and a fool worse." So not being absolutely certain whether I am a wise man or a fool, I sometimes tried to avoid travelling. Unfortunately, I don't have much choice in this present job.
As a senior trade official, I have been a frequent business traveller, flying from cities to cities to visit major trading partners and take part in regional or multilateral trade talks, such as APEC and WTO meetings. Last year alone, I spent almost one-third of the time away from Hong Kong, taking the cabin seats as my bed, hotel rooms as my office, the countries and cities I visited as my home, and wishing myself, my wife and my children happy birthday when I was miles away from Hong Kong. And, I believe that many of you also have similar experiences as regular business travellers.
Indeed, business travel is becoming not just a significant part of business life, but also a significant part of the daily life of businessmen or women, business executives, as well as Government officials. Above all, business travel has become an important income-generating industry. Hotels, airlines, travel agents, convention and exhibition operators, catering services, transportation, retail, and a host of service providers stand to benefit from the booming businesses of this growing travel industry.
This is surely the case for Hong Kong. Like other major international financial and business centres, I'm pleased to note that Hong Kong is the preferred destination of a large number of business travellers each year. Of the 13 million visitors that came to Hong Kong in 2000, about 30% of them came here for business. And these business travellers spent some HK$22 billion on accommodation, food, shopping and entertainment etc while staying here, contributing to about 36% of our total tourism receipts in 2000.
In the same way as scenic spots, resort, leisure facilities, and tourism services affect tourists' choice of destinations, it is primarily the presence of business opportunities, such as trade fairs and exhibitions, regional or international conferences, seminars, symposiums, and business meetings; availability of world-class infrastructural facilities, such as international airports, efficient transportation network, well-managed convention and exhibition facilities, quality hotels that would attract business travellers.
In this regard, I am proud to say that Hong Kong has long been a popular tourist destination as well as an important exhibition and conference centre in the Asia Pacific region. With a fleet of 90 world-class hotels, providing some 36,000 rooms; a state-of-the-art international airport capable of handling 45 million passengers per annum and 47 flights per hour; very efficient transportation systems; world-class convention and exhibition facilities - such as today's venue - which have proven records of staging international events in the most professional manner; a sound legal system that respects contractual obligations and intellectual property rights; and a safe community for residents and visitors alike, Hong Kong is well positioned to be a regional powerhouse of business meetings, conventions and exhibitions, and a haven for business travellers. Indeed, Hong Kong hosted over 300 international symposiums, fairs and exhibitions last year. And, we are expecting a steady increase in the number of international events to be hosted in Hong Kong in the coming years. That's why the Government has committed to invest HK$2 billion to develop a new exhibition centre at Chek Lap Kok in conjunction with the Airport Authority, in order to maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness as a top exhibition and conference centre in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today's opening ceremony marks the debut of this very reputable Business Travel Expo in this part of the world. It provides opportunities for top executives and experts of the world's renowned airlines, travel agents, hotels, and other supporting service providers to showcase the superb services of their companies and exchange views on future developments of the business travel industry during the two-day seminar that will be held concurrently. I am pleased that the organiser has chosen Hong Kong as the place for staging the Expo's inaugural exhibition in the Asia-Pacific. You have indeed made the right choice.
Finally, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the organiser and all the local and overseas exhibitors for their efforts in putting together this magnificent Expo. Clearly, as can be seen from today's turnout, the Expo is going to be a great success.
Let me end my remarks by picking up where I started. After all these years of travelling, am I getting better? Or getting worse? As suggested by Owen Feltham ....... While it is clearly a matter for others to judge whether I am indeed a wise man, my wife told me I am at least not getting worse. So my conclusion is that I am perhaps not a great fool afterall.
May I wish you all a very fruitful event. Thank you.
End/Tuesday, March 12, 2002