$70m will be spent to convert car park at Convention and Exhibition Centre A car park will be converted into exhibition space at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, creating 350 more booths to help accommodate strong demand for trade fairs. The conversion will cost $70 million and be ready in time for April's Hong Kong Gifts and Premium Fair, which has already sold the extra booth space, called Expo Drive Hall. This is on top of the scheduled $1.3 billion expansion of the atrium, which is now used for on-site buyer registration but will be home to more than 1,000 booths by 2009. The tendering process for the atrium is expected to end in May, after which the contract will be awarded. The Independent Commission Against Corruption has been invited to monitor the tendering process as an independent observer. Both projects are being jointly funded by the Trade Development Council and property giant New World Development. Executive director Fred Lam Tin-fuk said the council had given up on its idea of the nearby Tamar site as a site for expansion. 'We don't know what will happen after two or three years, so it's not worth it. However, the car park is a permanent space,' he said. Tamar has previously been used as a temporary site to house exhibitors unable to secure space at the convention centre, but the government wants to locate its offices there. Recent buyer surveys by the council also found an overwhelming preference for the more centrally located Wan Chai venue over the new AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport. This sentiment was echoed yesterday at the launch of the new venue's first trade show, the inaugural Hong Kong Spring Fair, which saw relatively few buyers compared to the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, which opened yesterday at the convention centre. Local premium gifts merchandiser Out of the Blue (Hong Kong) set up booths at both fairs. Senior merchandiser Rain Chow, who manned the booth at AsiaWorld-Expo, said the company wanted to take part in the Spring Fair in the hope of landing new business. It also received discounts on the booth rental, which lowered the cost of a standard nine-square-metre space to $8,800 over the four-day event. 'After the first day, we're rather disappointed with the buyer response. We knew it would be somewhat quiet given the location and newness of the fair, but we didn't expect it to be that quiet,' Ms Chow said. AsiaWorld-Expo's chief commercial officer, Helen Chiu, said she was satisfied with the first day of the fair. The Trade Development Council will stage five trade fairs at the new venue this year.