Newcomers flock to display their wares
The 24th International Travel Expo (ITE) Hong Kong starts today at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. It is set to attract tens of thousands of travel industry professionals and the general public to its 600 international exhibitors.
The Expo will once again run in conjunction with the Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) Business and Incentive Travel Expo, making the ITE and Mice expo one of the most comprehensive in the region, representing 45 countries and regions.
The event will run until Sunday, with today and tomorrow open exclusively to those in the trade, and the weekend being open to the public who can purchase tickets on the day. Rita Lau, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, will be the guest of honour at the opening ceremony.
'We expect over 12,000 trade and corporate visitors over the first two days, with more than 65,000 members of the public on the weekend,' says K.S. Tong, managing director of event organiser TKS Exhibitions.
Tong says the Expo covers an area of more than 150,000 sqft and comprises individual exhibitors and country pavilions. 'Many of these pavilions represent individual countries and are organised by their respective tourism authorities,' Tong says. 'Quite a number of them will be showcasing cultural performances and the best that their countries have to offer to tourists.'
He cites the Philippines pavilion, which this year has the theme 'food', and members of the public will be treated to free samples of the country's cuisine. There are many new participants and pavilions from Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Britain Israel, Ho Chi Minh City and other Asian countries. 'We're happy to see new countries and cities coming from longer haul destinations this year,' Tong says.
Many of last year's exhibitors have returned with much bigger pavilions, including those from the mainland, Macau and South Korea. Taiwan has doubled its space. One third of the exhibiting countries and regions come from Asia, a quarter from Europe and the rest from the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.
Hong Kong will showcase a new Geopark pavilion featuring world-class geoformations of Hong Kong and local cultures of the districts where they are located.
Wellness and medical tourism will also be featured at some pavilions.
Visitors this weekend can learn about new holiday destinations and types of holidays, everything from action and adventure holidays, diving trips and theme parks, to cruises and finding the next place to send staff on meetings and incentives packages.
'They can check out all the destinations, find travel maps and, of course, book their flights and holidays right here at the expo,' Tong says. 'There are also some great offers and bargains from many of the exhibiting airlines, travel agents, hotels, resorts and tour operators, and some fun events like a travel auction where the public can pick up some exciting deals.'
Alongside the expo are seminars and talks given by travel industry executives and insiders, and training seminars and networking events organised by trade associations and organisations. Travel writers, and radio and television travel show hosts will entertain on the public days, sharing their knowledge and stories.
The Asia Cruise Association will hold a training seminar at the event for the first time, aimed at advising travel agents on how to market cruise products. The cruise industry is set to boom in the region, with Hong Kong and other cities developing modern cruise terminals.
'Not all local travel agents have staff who are proficient in marketing or selling cruise products,' Tong says. 'Our 'Cruise Education Corner' is designed to help them, the industry and the public learn a bit more about the basics of cruise holidays. Many people in the region have thought about taking cruises, but don't know what to expect or what a cruise really is, so we aim to give them a good understanding of what it's all about.' The Mice section at the expo has attracted more than 100 exhibitors, with some focusing heavily on Mice and some combining it with their regular tourism services. A corporate travel day is scheduled for tomorrow and will feature a number of seminars.
'The Mice industry has been affected by the global financial crisis and we are still in the process of recovery,' Tong explains. 'But it is still, and will be, a major part of many destinations. Our surveys say that as many as 60 per cent of corporate attendees are interested in destination information.'
Tong says Hong Kong is the ideal place for such an event. 'The convention and exhibition centre is a world-class venue, the city has extensive air links and the infrastructure needed to get all our exhibitors in and out of the city at the same time. It is also a leader in tourism, with huge numbers visiting the city and more than 80 million departures made from here each year.'
The expo is supported by the China National Tourism Administration, Hong Kong Tourism Board, Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and the Macau Government Tourism Office. Those in the travel trade and anyone responsible for corporate and Mice travel should register at www.itehk.com for free admission for today and tomorrow. Others can buy tickets, priced at HK$20 for Saturday and HK$10 for Sunday.