BETTER QUALITY and more reliable services will help the Hong Kong International Airport fend off challenges from rival airports in the Pearl River Delta. Anthony Lau Siu-wing, chairman and chief executive of Baltrans Holdings, said the air cargo industry had witnessed strong growth with the enhanced facilities at the airport. The Airport Authority's aggressive moves to explore new markets and open new flight routes had reinforced Hong Kong's role as a supply chain management centre, he said. Riding on strong demand for goods from the United States, Europe and China, air cargo throughput in Hong Kong continued to set new records in recent months. Mr Lau said a substantial amount of goods and cargo from the Pearl River Delta, the manufacturing powerhouse in southern China, was going through Hong Kong to foreign countries. The emergence of new airports in the delta area such as Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is posing challenges to Hong Kong, calling for more effort from the Airport Authority to do better. 'The Baiyun airport will compete with Hong Kong for air cargo flow and it is going to be a threat in the long term,' Mr Lau said. But dependability was Hong Kong's advantage, and people were willing to pay a premium for better quality services. To stay ahead of rivals, more effort and co-operation was needed from the government, Airport Authority and industry players to maintain Hong Kong's leading position as an air hub, he said. 'We have to continue to explore new markets and attract more cargo and goods from the Pearl River Delta to go through Hong Kong,' he said. Baltrans, one of the largest Hong Kong-based freight forwarding and logistics groups, has recorded strong business growth in the past year. The group achieved a record revenue of $3.3 billion for the year to July, an increase of 39 per cent year on year. Profit attributable to shareholders increased by 131 per cent to $52.9 million. Air freight revenue increased by 30 per cent to about $1.78 billion during the period, making up 54 per cent of the group's total revenue. Sea freight revenue increased by 55 per cent to about $1.34 billion, accounting for 41 per cent of total revenue. The group will continue to pursue business expansion into new markets, and seek acquisitions outside of Asia to strengthen its global network. Looking ahead, the company is positive on the rise of the mainland market and is rapidly expanding its business operations to cope with the growing demand from PRD. In conjunction with the opening of the Baiyun airport, the group recently obtained a Class A Licence to operate as a full-service e-freight forwarder in Guangzhou.