HK returns with style
THE HONG KONG contingent returned to BaselWorld with a flourish this year, celebrating the triumph of having a new venue dedicated to overseas exhibitors as the jewellery and watch fair's organisers made amends for last year, when it caused the Hong Kong contingent to pull out by imposing impromptu Sars control measures.
Country pavilions which were moved to Zurich in the 2003 BaselWorld due to space constraints were this year located in the new Hall 6 - Hall of Universe.
Costing 40 million Swiss francs (HK$244 million) to build, the 28,000 square metre venue has become a permanent fixture reserved only for BaselWorld's country pavilions after the organisers secured a six-year commitment from the exhibitors.
This year the new hall accommodated 800 exhibitors from 27 countries, including Hong Kong.
'Every cloud has a silver lining,' said Rene Kamm, former show director for BaselWorld.
'[Last year's incident] gave us the motivation to emerge stronger than ever. The opening of Hall 6 for country pavilion exhibitors is directly linked to what happened last year and shows that we have finally mastered the crisis.'
BaselWorld organisers and Hong Kong can ill afford not to play ball with each other.
Hong Kong is the third-largest player in the show with 362 exhibitors, after Switzerland (410) and Italy (371).
Identified as the third-largest exporter of precious jewellery in the world, with exports growing at 17 per cent, Hong Kong also needs to maintain its presence in the world's biggest jewellery and watch show to maintain and even accelerate the growth rate.
While Hong Kong exhibitors initially expressed concern at the distance from the main area of activities when they arrived at the new venue, representatives were not complaining in the end.
'The design and location of the new Hall of Universe was very popular with visitors. Also, the quality of the visitors was high, and we made many valuable contacts,' said Lore Buscher, regional director Central and Eastern Europe of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which organises the Hong Kong contingent.
BaselWorld in its 32nd year chalked up a dramatic increase in visitor numbers to 89,350, nearly 39 per cent more than last year and 8 per cent more than in 2002.
There were 2,186 exhibitors from 44 countries.
The show, one of the most important for the jewellery and watch industry, also brought substantial earnings for the laid-back Swiss town of Basel.
'The economic effects on the subcontracting industries [the hotel and catering industries, the travel sector and logistics] of BaselWorld are estimated at about one billion francs.
'In addition to the 89,350 visitors, more than 29,000 people were present in Basel in the role of stand personnel - with about 800,000 overnight stays booked as a direct result of the show,' a spokesman said, adding that next year's fair would be held from March 31 to April 7.
2,186 exhibitors from 44 countries
Hong Kong had 362 exhibitors, Italy 371 and Switzerland 410
Visitor numbers reached 89,350, up almost 39 per cent from last year
A further 29,000 people were present as stand personnel
As a result of BaselWorld, about HK$6.08 billion poured into subcontracting industries (hotel and catering, travel and logistics)
About 800,000 overnight stays were booked as a direct result of the show
Next year's fair will be from March 31 to April 7