22 July 2009
Welcoming Remarks by
Mr Jack So, Chairman, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, at
Opening ceremony of HKCEC Atrium Expansion & the 20th Hong Kong Book Fair
HKCEC Hall 5
Chief Executive, the Honourable Donald Tsang, Director Liu Bing Jie, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we gather here to celebrate two important milestones, the opening of ALE and the 20th anniversary of the Book Fair. We are deeply honoured by the presence of the C.E. and Mr. Liu Bing Jie, Director of the General Administration of Press and Publication.
19 years ago, I stood in front of a similar gathering announcing the opening of the first Book Fair, I was much younger then, doing young Fred Lam's job as Ex. Director of the T.D.C. A year earlier in 1988, we just opened the new C.E.C. now named phase I. It is hard to believe that before then H.K. did not have a proper exhibition facility and not much of an exhibition industry to speak of. Smaller trade shows or products displays took place in hotel lobbies and later at a small exhibition hall at China Resources Building.
Hong Kong was already a successful manufacturing centre by the mid-80s and T.D.C. was doing its job in promoting exports of clothing, toys watches, electronics, gifts and housewares etc., initially through trade shows in overseas markets, but gradually attracting an increasing number of buyers coming to H.K. The Council felt the need to have a sizeable exhibition facility to showcase HK's products and therefore set about planning and building the first phase of C.E.C. We considered ourselves ambitious in those days in completing a centre with 20,000 sq. m. of space and when it was ready, had to fill it up with activities.
What followed was the introduction of a large number of trade exhibitions and the vast expansion of some existing trade shows, giving rise to the emergence of a brand new exhibition industry. The rest is history, HK now boasts of more than 100 industry exhibitions a year, many of which are the biggest in Asia, not only bringing billions of orders every year to feed our manufacturers, but also sizeable tourist dollars from thousands of buyers visiting those shows.
As the size of those exhibitions grow, demand for space has constantly outstripped its size, C.E.C. has since added phase II and now the A.L.E. With the A.L.E adding another 19,400 sq.m, we now have a total of 66,000 sq.m of exhibition space, mind you even this does not get to the size of the Exhibition space of one casino in Macau.
One of the shows invented during that period was the Book Fair and certainly one of the most successful. It was not an export fair but rather one of a series of consumer fairs created at the time. The rationale was based on (A) HK's freedom of speech and publication (B) HK's already flourishing printing and publishing industry and (C) the perceived increasing interest to read by the general public. Although the fair was considered an immediate success at the time, attracting 150 exhibitiors and 200,000 visitors in the first year, it was a very modest when compared with last year's record of 483 exhibitiors and 830,000 visitors. I am confident that this year will produce even bigger numbers.
The success of the Book Fair is really beyond my wildest dreams. In terms of number of visitors, it has become the biggest book fair in Chinese-speaking world. Of course, much of credit for growing the Book Fair and indeed the continued expansion of all of the other trade fairs, and by the same token, much of credit for planning and building the various stages of the C.E.C including this brand new extension we stand on, must go to my predecessors, Victor Fung and Peter Woo, Council members, past and present and also the dedicated staff of the T.D.C. under the able leadership of successive Executive Directors, Michael Sze and Fred Lam. Many of them are with us today, let's give them a round of applause.
But we cannot be complacent, T.D.C. cannot rest on its laurels. As HK's trade promoter and pathfinder, the Council not only has to cope with change, but also bringing about change beneficial to the H.K. economy. It was this challenge that keeps T.D.C. constantly hungry, always seeking new markets and inventing new formats of promotion. Over the years, the Council has vastly expanded its scope of activities, now robustly promoting the service sector including finance, design, film, the professional services etc. Even our clientele has evolved from just H.K. companies to H.K. companies with manufacturing base in mainland, to mainland companies trading through H.K. New services are also constantly introduced to serve our major target client, i.e. the Small and Medium Enterprise. For instance, some of you may not be aware, our on-line trade portal could register 9.5 million hits daily, and was awarded the Best Trade Promotion Portal in Asia, the Best small Business Website and more. It is not something we boast about but very much appreciated by the trade. Another little known fact is in spite of the vast scope of its activities to promote H.K., today T.D.C is almost 85% self-funded, a far cry from the early years when it was largely dependent on Government subvention.
Last but not least, T.D.C. could not have got this far without the unflinching support of the government and in particular, our guest of honour today, our C.E., Mr. Donald Tsang, he has been a true ally of the Council from his early years in the Trade Department, to his ascent to first Financial Secretary and then Chief Secretary, and now the Chief Executive. One of his far-sighted and bold decisions recently must the announcement on his 2008 policy speech to allow the T.D.C. to start examining possibilities for phase III extension of the C.E.C. As you can see, this extension is already fully occupied as soon as it is completed, and for many other shows, there is a waiting list of companies who cannot get in. For Hong Kong to successfully compete with neighbouring cities with much bigger facilities, the C.E.C must further expand.
Although still many hurdles to overcome before phase III becomes a reality, in the T.D.C., we are greatly encouraged by the vision that H.K. now stands a good chance of maintaining its leadership position as Asia's premier exhibition hub. Moreover, with the new facilities made available, the Book Fair is sure to continue its expansion from the biggest Fair in the Chinese-speaking world, to becoming the biggest fair in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you again for coming and enjoy your visit to the Book Fair.