It's an old and enduring rivalry - Hong Kong versus Singapore in the Mice destination game. David Jones, associate professor and undergraduate programme director at Polytechnic University's school of hotel and tourism management, is upbeat over the prospects for both players at this difficult time. He said: 'The recession may be slowing down numbers, but it is largely business as usual. 'Companies have scaled back a bit, but associations haven't. And both cities will be well-positioned when the business cycle goes back on the upswing.' As for this city specifically, Dr Jones said: 'Hong Kong remains very competitive, with great meeting venues, hotels, transportation, airline connectivity and tourist attractions. The competition continues to grow in the Asian marketplace, so Hong Kong can't afford to be complacent. Nevertheless, it remains a very attractive Mice destination for international and intra-Asia Mice business.' More regional cities are joining the ranks of Mice hubs, which has presented challenges for Hong Kong. However, as Dr Jones said: 'The growing number of competitors results in a 'spread of the wealth', but that doesn't mean Hong Kong is declining in this field. What we do see more of is rotation, with companies and associations going to a different Asia-Pacific city each year - which is good for all of them.' As for the future of the Hong Kong versus Singapore Mice game, Dr Jones said: 'More and more organisations will look to rotate Mice events between the two destinations.' But he said Hong Kong should have the edge. 'There are many things that make Hong Kong a compelling Mice destination. They include being the gateway to the mainland, which Singapore realistically - not to mention geographically - could never upstage. Stunning topography; Singapore doesn't have that either. And a solid reputation of there being exhibition organisers and service companies with a long history of success, Hong Kong, in general, has a long track record of being able to deliver quality service.' There's one more thing the two ex-colonial cities have in common. 'The commitment to the continued education of those in the Mice industry exists in both Hong Kong and Singapore,' said Dr Jones, who has taught Mice-related subjects in Singapore for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The diploma programme is partially funded by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. 'This is one example of how Singapore is funding the growth of education in the industry,' he said. Polytechnic University's school of hotel and tourism management was set to launch the first bachelor of science degree in convention and event management next school year, he added. Whyment Lee Wai-man, director of Asia Exhibits House's Hong Kong office, works on the cutting edge of the industry. And a large part of her work involves taking part in an extensive range of government conferences, corporate events, trade exhibitions and high-level seminars. Her company, established in 1998, works on large-scale events, exhibitions and projects, endeavouring to meet exacting requirements for exhibitors, visitors and inside venues. Ms Lee doesn't fully share Dr Jones' view on Hong Kong's competitiveness, saying: 'Hong Kong is not competitive at all in terms of exhibition space, tariffs, and government support, compared to Singapore.' Part of the problem, she said, was that the 'government does not take Mice seriously enough as a major service sector'. As evidence of this she cited the apparent lack of figures revealing the numbers of workers in the sector. However, she said that Hong Kong deserved high marks for flexibility and speed of service. As for the future between the two perennial rivals, Ms Lee said: 'Singapore may enjoy the advantage of ever-swift support from the government, but Hong Kong has always benefited from its strategic location since China's 'open-door' polices were announced, and this tremendous selling point remains valid.' Despite the Hong Kong Tourism Board recently establishing a division to deal with Mice, Ms Lee wants the government to take more interest in what is a dynamic and important sector of its globalised economy. Such complacency can be dangerous as Singapore has raised its game. To make it easier for companies and associations to stage events in Singapore, the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau, part of the Singapore Tourism Board, offers customised support to business-event organisers, corporations and associations under the 'Be In Singapore' incentive scheme. In addition to encouraging industry partners to nurture new channels, in-market, for business events development, the Singapore government also supports international organisations seeking to establish a presence there as part of their expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. The Lion City is blessed with a plethora of remarkable venues, whose charms can be employed as part of a conference programme, or to contribute to the overall attractiveness of an incentive programme. Historical venues include Chinatown Food Street, which offers alfresco dinner hawker-style for up to 500 people. For a more salubrious dining venue, the Chijmes Chapel, with its attractive colonial-era architecture, is popular for themed dinners. And its lawn and fountain garden make it an ideal place for elegant functions, with capacity for up to 4,000 people. Another historical venue of note is the city's oldest surviving government building. The Arts House at the Old Parliament is 182 years old, and provides an original choice for an off-site venue. It houses a 75-seat screening room, and a 120-seat performance area. Recalling the iconic Hong Kong image of the junk in the harbour, Singapore has its own harbour junk. It doesn't have batwing sails, but with its distinctive old-fashioned design, the Admiral Cheng Ho is a vessel that exudes the atmosphere and grace of an earlier era. It can be chartered and sails from Clifford Pier and up the Singapore River, serving an 'imperial dinner' en route for 160 diners, to the joyfully loud pentatonic wall-of-sound of a full Chinese orchestra playing on deck. You don't get that in Hong Kong.