There were more than 230 conventions and 108 trade and public exhibitions held in Hong Kong last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. The Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association said the total number of visitors to exhibitions continued to rise, topping 5.7 million last year, an 18 per cent increase over 2006. The overall number of visitors from outside Hong Kong rose to more than 700,000 last year. Nearly 220,000 came from Asia-Pacific, which is a more than 4 per cent increase from the previous year. Also, more than 240,000 came from the mainland, about a 47 per cent increase, and more than 250,000 from the rest of the world, representing an increase of about 9 per cent. Hong Kong is a trade-fair hub and premier meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions destination and so the shortage of space is an issue. It is particularly serious during autumn's peak fair-season. Corporate meetings and incentives escalate demand for meeting space, leaving organisers queueing to book space for trade fairs at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The centre and AsiaWorld-Expo are the main venues for exhibitions. The centre celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. It was expanded in June 1997 but this expansion has not kept up with the rapid growth. A centre spokesman said: 'We realised by 2005 that for fairs to be successful ... we needed more space. Demand for space for exhibitions surged. At least two shows annually were using every square metre of available space in the building. 'A waiting list of exhibitors for various shows increased each year. Even after the present expansion [which will be completed next spring], our management is projecting a need for additional space as early as the next decade.' The expansion at Atrium Link began in May of 2006. An extra 19,400 square metres of exhibition space will create a total of 83,045 square metres of exhibition space and 92,061 square metres of total rentable space. Two new restaurants, an expanded Harbour Road Cafe and an executive meeting room of almost 900 square metres would improve the availability of food services and banqueting at the centre, the spokesman said. This year is a good one for the venue as it hosted the World Ophthalmology Congress 2008 (from June 28 to July 2) and Evolution: Asia Yoga Conference (from July 3 to 6). The congress was the biggest of its kind in Asia. More than 1,000 faculty members and 10,000 delegates from more than 110 countries participated in the congress. The event used almost all meeting space at the centre and featured 1,140 prominent international speakers in 314 scientific sessions covering 28 sub-speciality areas in ophthalmology. The congress welcomed more than 3,000 participants from the mainland, a record figure for the event. The 700,000-square-metre AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) opened in 2006 and has played host to a range of international exhibitions. China Sourcing Fairs are held every April and October. Other fairs include ITU Telecom World, Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress and Asia's Fashion Jewellery and Accessories Fair, which is held every March, June and September. To cope with future development, the venue is gearing up to expand. A source said the AWE planned to add six halls to add about 100,000 squaremetres to the venue. The calendar of events at AWE for the rest of this year and next reflects a good mix of recurring and new events. Among the new events is Courier and Parcel Logistics Expo 2009 to be held next May. This will be a premier international trade show and conference dedicated to the fast-growing global express and parcel delivery services sector. Another new development around the AWE site is the opening of the five-star 658-room SkyCity Marriott Hotel which will be in December. The Regal Airport Hotel, with 1,171 rooms and suites, 31 function rooms and six restaurants, also benefits from fairs and conventions held at the AWE. Guests can enjoy a full range of facilities including indoor and outdoor swimming pools and spa centre. The hotel is also close to SkyPlaza, an integrated shopping and entertainment centre. A spokeswoman at Regal Hotels International said: 'There is keen competition from nearby cities Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai and Beijing. The exhibition and meeting space in Macau, Guangzhou and elsewhere in the Pearl River Delta are comparatively large in size and scale. Hong Kong needs to further upgrade meeting, conference and exhibition facilities and the government should take the lead [in driving this expansion]. 'When AWE's Phase2 expansion and HKCEC Phase3 expansion are completed the total exhibition space in Hong Kong will be able to cope with future market growth.'