Battle of exhibition venues feared
Convention centre worries about unfair competition with the new airport facility
The government will introduce 'unfair' competition if it grants more favourable terms to the new International Exhibition Centre at Chek Lap Kok, an official of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre says.
HKCEC's director of business development Monica Lee-Muller has also expressed concern over whether the $3.9 billion airport centre, due to operate fully in 2006, would chase after the same clients instead of bringing in new exhibition business.
'The government's biggest support to us is to provide a level playing field,' she said. 'We still don't know what the deal is. But if the government gives the new centre extra subsidies and enables it to give greater discounts, this is not fair competition.'
The HKCEC is owned by the Trade Development Council (TDC) and the government. In the 2002-03 financial year, HKCEC gave 8.6 per cent of its gross revenue to the council - a total of $53 million.
But the terms of the International Exhibition Centre are different.
According to the government agency InvestHK, the new centre will be managed by a company owned by the government, the Airport Authority and private developers.
The government's investment, at about $2 billion, will be factored into a share of 76.5 per cent.
The Airport Authority said it would provide a 100,000 square metre site in exchange for a 10 per cent stake.
The site will be near a new phase of office blocks, a shopping centre and a nine-hole golf course. The authority said the Airport Express would have a new station to connect passengers directly with the exhibition centre.
'The original idea of the Chek Lap Kok centre is to attract new business such as exhibitions on heavy industries, or take in our overflow business. But it turns out to be questionable as to whether they will stick to their objectives,' Ms Lee-Muller said.
'If they are going after our business, it will be damaging to both of us.'
She said her management team was unworried about the emerging exhibition and convention centres in Guangdong, Shanghai and Beijing.
'We are mostly focused on high-end, service industry exhibitions while the mainland contracts more exhibitions on industrial products. But they are having more venues and foreign capital. We will be watching closely,' she said.
She said organisers still had a preference for Hong Kong, which was a magnet for both international and mainland visitors.
A spokeswoman for InvestHK said the two Hong Kong exhibition centres would complement each other.
'Given their different locations and the different types of exhibitions targeted, Hong Kong will be able to host a wider range of exhibitions,' she said. 'The new centre can accommodate events which have particular floor loading and configuration requirements.'
She refused to comment on whether the new centre was going after HKCEC's business.