No plan to expand exhibition centres despite space constraints

Government encourages Wan Chai and Lantau venues to co-operate in face of space constraint

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 4:34am

The Convention and Exhibition Centre has turned away 44 exhibitions and 89 conferences in the past three years because of a shortage of space.

But Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung yesterday said the government had no plan to expand the venue, saying it would first encourage more co-operation between the Wan Chai centre and the AsiaWorld-Expo at the airport in Lantau.

Replying in the Legislative Council to lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong's question on exhibition facilities, So said the centre was saturated on 41 days last year while the Lantau venue was almost full on eight days.

Wong said the Trade Development Council had been studying three sites for possible expansion, including the Wan Chai Sports Ground, government buildings in north Wan Chai, and the bus terminal near the pier, but had yet to conclude whether an expansion was needed.

"Our first priority will be encouraging co-operation between the two venues so we can better use our resources," he said. "We will also encourage exhibitors to hold their shows during non-peak seasons."

Industrial sector lawmaker Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said he was worried small and medium businesses would struggle if exhibition facilities were not expanded. Those businesses depended a lot on exhibitions to obtain clients, he said.

So acknowledged that competition in the Pearl River Delta area was now fiercer, "but there is also a lot of space for co-operation", he said. The government would monitor development in nearby areas closely, he said.

The Lantau venue would have an edge over other venues nearby when a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau opened in 2016, So said.

Allen Ha, chief executive of AsiaWorld-Expo, said he agreed there should be more co-operation between the two major venues. The annual Jewellery and Gem Fair was the only exhibition that had adopted the "one show, two venues" model so far.

A spokeswoman for the Wan Chai venue said Hong Kong needed more exhibition space in the city centre.

"Otherwise, the development of the convention and exhibition industries in Hong Kong may be affected, or Hong Kong may even lose international exhibitions to neighbouring countries or regions because of space constraints," she said.

The centre's second expansion was completed in 2009, but would relieve the pressure only in the short to medium term, the spokeswoman said.