The annual Asia-Pacific Leather Fair was, until 1994, held as a standalone show. Turning it into a three-part affair has been a way of coping with the demand for space, according to Michael Duck, general manager, exhibition division, at managing company Miller Freeman Asia. 'The Asia-Pacific Leather Fair has been running since 1983 and, it had grown so much, there wasn't enough room at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre,' Mr Duck said. Even in its present form as three separate exhibitions - the Fashion and Finished Products Autumn Show, the Fashion and Finished Products Spring Show, the Raw Materials and Manufacturing Show - demand is catching up with capacity. Each section is booked out well ahead of its opening date. Booking for the following season's shows starts on the floor of the current events to ensure exhibitors' needs can be met. The Autumn fair is managed by Miller Freeman in a joint venture with Semaine Internationale du Cuir, an association of French leather producers. The Autumn Asia-Pacific Leather Fair; Fashion and Finished Products Show takes up 12,200 square metres of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, including both exhibition halls and one level of meeting rooms - double the size of the 1995 Autumn fair. 'Together, the Asia-Pacific Leather Fair events are Asia's biggest trade fair,' he said. The fairs occupy 60,000 sq m of floor space. Exhibitors at the Autumn show are mainly shoe manufacturers from the world's leading production centres of Italy, Spain and France. There are also manufacturers of handbags, belts, purses and wallets, garments and a range of non-leather accessories for leather wear, including buckles. 'Apart from Hong Kong, there are buyers from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines,' Mr Duck said. There were 23,532 trade buyers at the Spring Fashion and Finished Products Show last year. Mainland customers were the dominant force with 1,633 buyers, a 36 per cent increase over the previous year, followed by Taiwan with 1,574 (up 18.97 per cent), Japan with 1,346 (up 5.49 per cent), Korea with 1,208 and Malaysia with 572. 'Asia is definitely the region for sales growth,' Mr Duck said. 'In April, Spain quoted year-on-year growth of 100 per cent in exports to Asia. With that kind of growth, governments are backing their industries..' With rent at the convention centre, travel costs and association expenses, the big national pavilions represent multi-million-dollar investments. Mr Duck said Hong Kong was the ideal place for the fair. 'Hong Kong is fortunate that it is bang in the middle of all these Asian markets. It is easily accessible and it has the hotels. Also, the lack of customs controls is important for exhibitors.'