THE JEWELLERY industry is expected to register slower growth this year after a spurt of double-digit growth last year. According to the Trade Development Council, Hong Kong's jewellery exports rose 19 per cent to $20 billion in 2004 from $16.8 billion in the previous year. Significant double-digit growth to almost all major markets were recorded - 10 per cent to the United States, 52 per cent to Britain, 24 per cent to Japan, 10 per cent to Germany, 36 per cent to France, 30 per cent to Singapore, 75 per cent to Italy and 49 per cent to China. Exports of watches and timepieces last year totalled $45.67 billion, a 9 per cent increase on the year before. Exports to the US, the top destination of Hong Kong's watches and clocks, rose by 10 per cent, while exports to China and Japan increased by 1 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively. Charles Chan Sing-chak, chairman of the council's Jewellery Advisory Committee and president of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Jade Manufacturers Association, said he was surprised by the good performance. He attributed the growth to improved quality and services in the local industry. 'Local designers are listening to the requests of buyers and fulfilling them,' Mr Chan said. He projected this year's growth to be 'possibly within 10 per cent', depending on the performance of the US economy. 'As long as the US jewellery industry performs well, our local industry will too because over 50 per cent of our exports go to the US,' Mr Chan said. Aaron Shum Wan-lung, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellery Manufacturers' Association, agreed growth might slow considerably this year. 'We have had a two-year spurt and things are bound to slow down sooner or later. Also, recent new designs have not been able to stimulate the industry,' Mr Shum said. 'If there is going to be a large growth this year, then we would need exciting new designs to shock the industry to react.' Leung Sik-wah, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellers' and Goldsmiths' Association, believed the tourist influx would continue to contribute to growth in the industry this year. 'Whether it will be a double-digit growth, I cannot say for sure,' he said. 'Mainland visitors are pouring into Hong Kong because of the visa-free travel from certain provinces in China. And 40 per cent of the money they bring is spent on jewellery.' The Boxing Day tsunami in South Asia has also brought more tourists to Hong Kong, he said. 'We are seeing more Japanese tourists in the city. Japanese buyers are attracted to the good quality but cheap jewellery here,' Mr Leung said. He believed that a $1 million turnover at the jewellery show would be quite satisfactory for most exhibitors. Hong Kong's fairs are so popular among the international jewellery trade that more shows might be organised in future years. 'Currently, Hong Kong is home to four jewellery fairs. The most popular ones are in March and September. The other two, in June and December, are much smaller, as they clash with some overseas shows,' Mr Leung said. 'Right now, four jewellery fairs in a year is already quite a lot. However, when the exhibition centre at the Hong Kong International Airport is completed in early 2006, we might consider organising more shows.'