Entering your second decade is always momentous and as far as Asian conference centres go, there aren’t too many that have reached this landmark age.
The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) turned 20 this year and is in the midst of a major restructuring that will upgrade and expand its facilities.
Twenty years ago, few Asian cities had world-class convention centres, but the intervening years have seen a rash of new purpose-built venues from Hyderabad to Hanoi and Hong Kong needs to raise its game once more to keep ahead.
An architectural feat with a sculptured aluminium roof symbolising a seabird soaring into flight, it comes as little surprise that this icon has proved to be an ideal venue in housing events of all shapes and sizes.
One such example was the historic Hong Kong handover ceremony, where the HKCEC witnessed the territory’s return to China. Some 4,000 participants enjoyed an immaculate evening banquet held within its halls, with Britain’s Prince Charles, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa gracing the event.
The centre, located in the heart of Hong Kong’s bustling commercial district of Wanchai, is sited strategically on the shores overlooking Hong Kong Harbour. It has already had one major spruce-up in 1997, when its premises were more than doubled to cater for an influx of events. However, a decade after this facelift, the spatial constraints have resurfaced in the wake of growing demand, calling for yet another renovation to address the situation.
Another project, which began in mid-2006 and is expected to finish in 2009, seeks to add 19,400sqm of space – which is slightly more than two football fields – to HKCEC’s current land area of 221,968sqm, bringing the total rentable function space to some 92,000sqm.
However, in such a space-hungry city as Hong Kong, any construction work can have its downside and the HKCEC was keen to ensure the expansion work took into account much wider ramifications.
HKCEC’s communications manager Elven Ho says: “The HKCEC is a socially responsible corporation that has to take into consideration environmental and city planning issues.”
This is a view echoed by deputy managing director Monica Lee-Müller: “The current innovative expansion construction is the best way to address those issues.” Plans are also in place for the integration of facilities with an Exhibition station on the MTR underground system’s proposed North Island Line, she concludes.
Despite the noisy construction works and dust levels, HKCEC is going full steam ahead with everything in its ambitious line-up. The centre will be business-as-usual all the way until next year, with 14 large-scale conferences that will have estimated attendance rates of well over 1,000 delegates each (see key facts below).
The award-winning banqueting team, which serves an average of 14,500 meals per day, will handle the daunting task of feeding the many delegates attending the gala dinners and other separate luncheons.
It’s not just all about exhibitions and conventions though. HKCEC is no stranger to a myriad of other unique events: from ballet performances, Shaolin acrobatic displays, to being the battleground for world champions at The Cathay Pacific Champions ATS Tennis Tournament.
Lee-Müller says that within walking distance, the centre has 3,500 hotel rooms from a wide selection of five-star hotels to modest guesthouses. There’s no problem if your delegates are staying further afield as there’s always the well-built network of buses, trains and ferries you can depend on to take them to and from the venue.
“Our expansion is based on serving the growing demand of our clients while maintaining a high level of professional service. We are not competing with other convention and exhibition centres for size or grandeur. With more space and better accessibility, we are able to continue our sophisticated service that exceeds the expectation of our clients and users.”
HKCEC FACT SHEET
TOTAL GROSS AREA (AFTER EXPANSION): 255,269sqm, slightly larger than the size of Hong Kong Disneyland
RENTABLE FUNCTION SPACE (AFTER EXPANSION): 990,937sqm, or about one and a half times that of Sha Tin Racecourse
MEETING SPACES: Two convention halls, combined capacity of 1,800 theatre-styled seating with accompanying 1,740-square-metre pre-function foyer; 52 meeting rooms with the smallest holding a maximum of 88 delegates; and a 3,880-square-metre Grand Hall that can hold 3,800 theatre-style. Facilities include provisions for video-conferencing, teleconferencing, satellite links, simultaneous language interpretation and audio-visual equipment
OTHER HALLS: Six exhibition halls and two 1,000-seater theatres
DINING: There are four restaurants with a total seating of 930. Three new ones will open upon the completion of the expansion project in 2009
• The Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (1997): 12,000 delegates
• The Million Dollar Round Table Experience (2004): 6,000 delegates
• The 16th World Congress of Accountants (2002): 5,200 delegates
• WTO Sixth Ministerial Conference (2005): 15,000 delegates
• 88th Lions Clubs International Convention (2005): 20,000 delegates
• Fire Conference (June 3-7): 5,000 delegates
• World Ophthalmology Congress (June 29-July 2): 10,000 delegates
• Asia Yoga Conference (July 3-6): 1,800 delegates
• SICOT / SIROT 2008 XXIV Triennial World Congress (August 23-28):
• The 24th East Asian Insurance
Congress (November 23-27):