Adventurous Hongkongers are heading off to exotic locations, but the mainland remains the number one destination The mysteries of some of the world's poorer nations, and Latin America's unique culture, have attracted countless Hong Kong holidaymakers to spend time and money visiting these new destinations, according to the organiser of ITE and the third MICE, Business & Incentive Travel Expo, which opens at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre tomorrow and runs until Sunday. The mainland is the biggest participant with 90 stands at the exhibition. There are 40 pavilions, and more than half of these are from Africa, the United States, Europe and the Middle East. New exhibitors are from Cyprus, Britain, Indonesia, Romania and South Africa. 'This trend started to develop three years ago,' said Tong Kam-shing, managing director of TKS Exhibition Services, one of the event organisers. 'Hong Kong people love to see and explore new destinations and, after travelling all over China, many enjoy going outside the mainland,' he said. Mr Tong said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's World Tourism Barometer ranked Hong Kong 14th in its survey on international tourism expenditure in 2006, showing that Hongkongers could afford more expensive outbound tours. He said despite the slower growth in the number of Hong Kong visitors to the mainland, with an average of more than 60million crossings every year, it remained the most popular travel spot for locals. To celebrate the hosting of the Olympics, the designs of the mainland pavilions will highlight this important sports event. Apart from displaying Olympic products and souvenirs, pamphlets and travel guides for the various Olympic venues will also be available. Pavilions from Japan will be the second largest at the expo. And, with its rapidly growing tourism industry, Macau has doubled the size of its pavilions since 2004. Hong Kong will also have a more prominent presence with pavilions from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Cathay Pacific and Disney. Featuring 650 exhibitors from 50 countries and regions, the annual exhibition covers leisure and business, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) travel. Travel seminars and cultural performances will also be held. The expo is open to travel traders only tomorrow and Friday. This year, more than 35 per cent of traders will come from the mainland and elsewhere, showing that it is a truly international event. Members of the public can visit the exhibition on Saturday and Sunday. Special highlights at the expo are the travel themes, which include cruising, golfing, hot spring and spa holidays, skiing, theme parks and wedding tours. Golfers on golfing tours can bring along the family as many resorts offer facilities for wives and children. For those who fancy a relaxing hot spring or spa holiday, the show features several choices from nearby Guangdong province, Taiwan and Japan to more far away places in Europe, which offer an entirely different experience. Sporty travellers, wanting to go on skiing or diving tours, can get advice on destinations and facilities at the expo. And instructors can also be arranged on request. Travel agents from different countries will promote group tours to holidaymakers who want to save the trouble of planning their own trips. For those hoping to have more privacy, the agents can also provide small package tours or tours designed for individual needs. Believed to be the first of its kind in Asia, this year's expo will feature a Cruise Education Corner providing comprehensive information on various cruise tours for different types of travellers. The expo is supported by several official organisations including the China National Tourism Administration, Hong Kong Tourism Board, Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, the Macau Government Tourist Office, and exhibition and convention industry associations from Hong Kong, Macau, Dongguan and Shenzhen. For more details, trade and corporate visitors can visit www.itehk.com and www.itehkmice.com . The public can visit www.travelexpo.com.hk or call the hotline 31515777.