Hong Kong people are voting with their feet when it comes to switching to Spanish footwear, realising they do not have to pay the earth for high quality and style. During the past six years, imports of Spanish footwear into Hong Kong have increased by 400 per cent, a rise that Spanish Trade Commissioner Ernesto Tejedor puts down to the fact that high quality does not always have to come with a high price. 'We owe our strong position to an unwavering commitment to providing the best in quality, design, craftsmanship and value,' Mr Tejedor said. Spain is represented by 42 footwear manufacturers and three leather producers at this year's fair. Although the numbers were slightly down on those of last year because of the current economic problems in the region, Mr Tejedor said his country's commitment to Hong Kong and Asia remained. 'It is a long-term commitment. We see future growth in the SAR and [mainland] China markets and the Asia Pacific Leather Fair is our number one vehicle for promoting Spanish footwear,' he said. Much of the potential of these markets had been demonstrated in the growth in exports during the last six years. Although there had been a decline of about 20 per cent this year in the number of imports to Hong Kong, Mr Tejedor saw that as an aberration rather than a trend. 'Spanish shoes are appearing in more shops, buyers are starting to see them. Spanish footwear is starting to be recognised in Hong Kong as similar in quality to Italian footwear, but at lower prices.' Spain is the second largest producer of high-quality shoes in the world. Its footwear industry is worth US$3.1 billion a year and exports this year are expected to amount to $2.4 billion. Last year, the country exported 215 million pairs of shoes. The footwear industry in Spain was based on small manufacturers and artisans - 2,900 companies, Mr Tejedor said. The main buyers are the United States with 20 per cent, Germany (19 per cent) and France (16 per cent). A total of 72 per cent of exports go to European Union partners. Last year, Spain exported $77 million worth of footwear to Hong Kong. Although the SAR is a small market, it is an important one because of Hong Kong people's desire for quality and style. Also important was Hong Kong's position as the gateway to mainland China. 'We recognise a potential China market of 50 million. These are the people who can afford quality footwear and we believe this number will grow,' Mr Tejedor said. Spain plans to consolidate the China market by increasing the number of trade shows in the country. A history of craftsmanship and technological advances had made Spain one of the world's great footwear manufacturers, Mr Tejedor said. 'Technology combined with traditional craftsmanship and attention to detail puts Spain ahead as far design and quality goes. 'The country has a special feel for design. We have very good designers and a history of design and craftsmanship,' he said. Spain will also be represented by three leather producers. Although Spanish leather is rated as among the world's best and it is a big industry in the country, most leather products remain in Spain. The country produces US$1.5 billion worth of leather products annually, but only exports $151 million of that amount. Hong Kong was the world's fourth largest consumer of Spanish leather goods last year.