Delay to exhibition centre refit hits shows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2008, 12:00am

Trade fair organisers say they cannot plan

Large-scale expansion of the Convention and Exhibition Centre, delayed for months, is frustrating organisers of major shows next year.

They are holding off selling more exhibition space until the impact can be assessed and a completion date is confirmed.

Many of the trade fairs, including the Hofex hospitality show in May, were counting on the expansion so they could increase in size and accommodate long waiting lists of exhibitors.

But organisers have been told of changes to the construction schedule. 'We're still waiting for details,' one source said.

A Trade Development Council spokesman blamed a shortage of steel supplies for delivery delays, but said construction was still making 'good progress towards completion by spring 2009'.

He said the current expansion of the exhibition centre was a challenge because the construction work was being carried out while the centre was operating at full capacity.

'The TDC is working together with the exhibition centre management and the contractor to make the new facilities are available as quickly as possible and to ensure that disruptions to ongoing trade fairs and conferences are kept to a minimum,' the source said.

Infrastructure work on the centre's HK$1.4 billion expansion was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year so tests and any modifications could be carried out early next year. A jewellery show next March was to be the first fair to open at the newly expanded venue.

Daniel Cheung Wai-kung, general manager of Hong Kong Exhibition Services, which owns Hofex, said he hoped more details would emerge after the TDC met the venue's management and contractors in the next two weeks.

'We don't dare sell any more space in case something happens and we don't have the space to accommodate them. It's a real headache,' Mr Cheung said.

Hofex, held every two years, is a major show focusing on food and drink, hotels, restaurant and food service equipment, supplies and services.

It will expand from 35,000 square metres last year to about 47,000 square metres next year. Close to 40,000 square metres have already been taken up by exhibitors.

A temporary passageway, which connects the old and new wings of the venue, will be dismantled once the permanent structure of the enlarged atrium is in place.

Mr Cheung said it had been suggested that dismantling of the passageway be delayed until the summer to avoid disrupting shows held during the peak months of April and May. However, fire-safety regulations would impose certain restrictions if shows were held in a temporary structure, he said.

Once completed, the expanded venue will have about 1,000 more booths.