Exhibitors protest at loss of earnings
Amy Nip and Johnny Tam
The Hong Kong Book Fair ended in acrimony yesterday with exhibitors staging a protest over loss of earnings due to the organisers' typhoon arrangements.
The Trade Development Council's week-long fair, reputed to be among the city's most popular and profitable trade exhibitions, should have ended at 5pm.
But a dozen exhibitors kept their stalls open and refused to leave the venue until three hours later, saying they were owed an apology for the breaching of adverse-weather agreements.
Carmen Kwong Wing-suen, editor-in-chief of Up Publications, said arrangements over the past two days had been chaotic because of Typhoon Vicente.
'According to our agreement, the fair should be closed two hours after typhoon signal No8 is hoisted,' she said. 'However, the council cut ticket sales as early as around 3.45pm on Monday [when the Observatory hoisted No8 at 5.45pm] and asked people to leave the venue around five.'
That cost the publishers, as they lost hours of operating time.
Visitors also complained of the inconvenience as tens of thousands tried to leave at the same time.
While the exhibitors accused the TDC of overreacting to the typhoon on Monday, they complained yesterday that the venue was left without any lighting for the entire morning.
The fair only reopened at noon, two hours after the observatory lowered the typhoon signal from No8 to No3 at 10am.
Publishers said sales declined 50 per cent on Monday, and they expected to earn 10 to 20 per cent less than last year as a result.
The exhibitors sought a meeting with TDC representatives to demand that the fair be extended to 8pm, but their demands were not met.
Announcements were made urging visitors to leave at 5pm, but staff were not seen ushering visitors out.
More than half the exhibitors continued their business, while 12 staged a protest and continued until 8pm.
There were still thousands of visitors at around 6pm, but they began to thin as more announcements were made. By 7pm, few than 100 people remained.
Visitor Issac Chan Chun-ying, 14, said he spent more than an hour queueing and only managed to get in at 4.30pm.
He was unhappy at the lack of news about whether the fair's opening hours would be extended.
Dennis Wong, 14, was surprised that the opening hours were not extended. 'The fair opened late, so I thought it would stay open at night ... a flexible option is to extend opening hours for an hour.'
A family of four, who spent more than HK$1,000 on dozens of cooking and children's books, said the fair was value for money.
The mother decided to stay after the fair officially closed to hunt for more children's books.
Publishers urged the TDC to offer more discounts for next year's fair to compensate for the chaotic arrangements.
The amount of lost sales, in Hong Kong dollars, book retailer Page One estimated it suffered on Monday due to the typhoon