Following is the speech by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at opening ceremony of the 10th Asian International Exhibition of Hospitality Equipment, Supplies & Technology, Food & Drink (HOFEX 2004) today (February 10) (English only):
Daniel [Cheung], Mark [Lettenbichler], ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to be here today to attend the opening ceremony of HOFEX 2004.
First of all, let me extend a very warm welcome to all our guests from overseas. Welcome to Hong Kong, Asia's world city!
Since its inception way back in 1987, HOFEX has grown to become one of the leading international trade exhibitions on food and drink in Asia. HOFEX is not simply a sales promotion event. It provides a forum for the industry and experts like you, to trade, to exchange ideas and information on the latest trends and developments in the food and hospitality business and to do networking.
This year, some 950 international suppliers and manufacturers from 46 countries are participating in the exhibition and there are expected to be over 28,000 visitors over the next few days.
The food and hospitality industry plays an important role in our economy. In 2001, the hotels and restaurants contributed some $35 billion to our economy, representing 2.9% of our total GDP. In 2002, Hong Kong's total exports of processed food and beverages alone amounted to $11 billion, including $8 billion worth of re-exports. I am keen to see further development of this important industry.
To ensure that we have the infrastructure to support the industry, Hong Kong is investing heavily in the travel and tourism sectors. While our tourism industry faced unprecedented difficulties in 2003 as a result of the SARS outbreak, I am pleased to tell you that we have seen a quick rebound, from a double-digit decline in arrivals at the middle of the year to year-on-year growth since August. Indeed with 15.5 million visitors last year, Hong Kong is the most popular city destination in Asia.
Hong Kong is renowned as the "Culinary Capital of Asia". We have close to 10,000 restaurants in Hong Kong, providing a wide range of dining options. Visitors are often amazed by the variety of high quality dining on offer in this paradise for diners.
Hong Kong is strategically located as the gateway to China. We have a very dynamic business community, which is innovative and efficient. Sharing similar a culture with our motherland, Hong Kong is the ideal strategic base and testing ground for international suppliers who wish to launch products in the Mainland. I see today many Mainland exhibitors and buyers gathered together with their international business counterparts. Whether you are looking for business opportunities in the Mainland market or thinking of promoting and selling Chinese products in international markets, I am sure Hong Kong will provide the best platform for you all.
Looking ahead, Hong Kong's food and hospitality industry has very good growth prospects. The decision by the Mainland authorities to allow Mainland residents to visit Hong Kong in their personal capacity has greatly enlarged our visitor base. Over a million people have come to Hong Kong from the Mainland under the Individual Visit Scheme. The scheme, together with CEPA (Closer Economic Parternship Arrangements) offer new business opportunities to our tourism trade as well as our food and hospitality industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish all of you a very successful and rewarding exhibition and an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. Thank you.
Ends/Tuesday, February 10, 2004