Hong Kong’s exhibitions sector faces being marginalised due to a lack of venue space and growing competition from larger facilities in mainland China, industry leaders warn.
Speakers at the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry annual conference said even though the city’s experienced suppliers, its convenient location, infrastructure and professional service standards were high, it was at risk of losing out as a new Greater Bay economic region took shape across the Pearl River Delta.
Craig Pepples, CEO of Global Sources, said Hong Kong was previously seen as a “super-connector” to mainland China to help companies and enterprises become more global. But with Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong forming a Greater Bay region serviced by the Pearl Delta bridge and express rail services, events in the city aimed at attracting global buyers would see acute competition.
Industry stakeholders in Hong Kong felt there was a risk of global buyers bypassing the city and going direct to events at huge facilities being built across the boundary with mainland China, the conference at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre on June 6, 2017 heard.
“What Hong Kong needs is more [venue] space," Pepples said. “It’s very high on professionalism and experience so can compete on credibility and service… but can Hong Kong keep up?”
Pepples pointed to the latest phase of what developers China Merchants Shekou Holdings and OCT are positioning as the world’s largest exhibition centre when it is due to be completed in December 2018 in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district. He said the mega-venue has the potential to marginalise exhibition facilities in Hong Kong.
Designs for the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Centre show 400,000 sqm of exhibition space in addition to 45,000 sqm of convention & meeting space, according to SMG, which has been appointed the venue’s management.
“Shenzhen World will be roughly twice the size of McCormick Place in Chicago, the largest exhibition and meeting facility in North America. SMG has managed McCormick Place since 2011,” US-based SMG said in a statement on June 6.
Stanley Chu, chairman of Adsale Exhibition Services, who later received the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, said: “In Hong Kong it’s a case of exhibitors asking for 200 square metres of space and they only get 36 [sqm]. We are still miles ahead in terms of industry-sourcing [events] but the gap is closing.”
Chu said using vacant land in West Kowloon or at the former airport site in Kai Tak to make up for a shortage of exhibition space “won’t solve our problems”.
“It needs to be under one roof – add space to existing convention centres,” said Chu, referring to AsiaWorld-Expo and Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).
More than 50 bids to hold international sourcing events – or industry exhibitions – in the city were turned down in 2013, according to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association figures.
Plans to redevelop a track-and-field sports stadium in the Wan Chai district of the city into additional exhibition space for HKCEC are under discussion.