Visitor numbers at AsiaWorld-Expo's trade fairs have soared by 40 per cent since it opened four years ago, according to the venue's management. The facility alongside Hong Kong International Airport has established itself with several high-profile international trade fairs. The number of buyers coming for the peak seasons of spring and autumn has increased by almost 40 per cent in the last three years, with more than 300,000 regional and global buyers attending during these periods, a spokesman for the venue says. Last autumn, AsiaWorld-Expo declared a record-breaking number of trade-show visitors and is set to welcome about two million visitors per year. 'These statistics are a confirmation that our efforts have paid off since our first year, and that AsiaWorld-Expo offers the right combination of facilities, accessibility and support for today's fast-growing Mice industry,' says Allen Ha (pictured below), chief executive of AsiaWorld-Expo management. An independent study on the economic impact of the exhibition industry in 2008, conducted by KPMG Transaction Advisory Services, reveals that the Chek Lap Kok venue plays a pivotal role in Hong Kong's exhibition industry. A spokesman says the facility accounted for close to 30 per cent of the entire Hong Kong trade exhibition market, contributing about HK$9 billion to the local economy in 2008. A highlight of each year is the China Sourcing Fairs. This annual event at AsiaWorld-Expo has grown from six shows in 2006 to 17 shows so far this year, with more than 14,000 exhibitors. Top-level summit Leaders of the world's travel industry will be holding their annual summit in Beijing to take stock of challenges ahead and the implications of the mainland-led global tourism growth. The Global Travel and Tourism Summit, from May 25-27, opens at the Great Hall of the People. Most other events, which will feature keynote speakers from the industry, will be held at the Beijing International Hotel Conference Centre. Organised by the World Travel & Tourism Council, whose membership comprises some 100 chief executives and chairmen of the world's leading travel and tourism companies, the annual summit is now in its 10th year. A centre point of the event is a 'round table' moderated by the world's leading news anchors and experts. Topics to be debated this year include developing products and investment for mainland tourism, new technologies, demographic shifts and new consumers. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council figures, the business on the mainland accounts for 9.8 per cent of GDP (US$449.3 billion) and 7.8 per cent of total employment in the country, or 60.8 million jobs. Rhombus awards Rhombus International Hotels Group, which owns three Hong Kong hotels, scooped a hat-trick of awards at an industry event in Guangzhou. The 10th China Hotel Forum honoured businesses, entities and entrepreneurs who have made positive contributions to the mainland's hotel industry. Rhombus group was recognised as one of the 'Best 10 Hotel Management Companies' and the group's founder, Calvin Mak, received the 'Hotel Industry Master in China' award. Rhombus' Hotel Panorama in Hong Kong was named the 'Best Business Hotel in China'. 'Without our team's collective efforts, contribution and commitment in executing Rhombus' goals and philosophies, we would not be able to receive these prestigious industry awards,' Mak says. Rhombus plans to open Hotel Soul by Rhombus in Chengdu in October. Grand brand Another luxury five-star hotel has undergone the rebranding challenge. Harbour Plaza Hong Kong has become Harbour Grand Kowloon. The change follows the announcement of the opening of Harbour Grand Hong Kong earlier this year. The 'Grand' in the name signifies the brand's five-star image and luxury offerings, says a hotel spokesman. There will now be two Harbour Grand hotels in the city, with one on Kowloon side and the other on Hong Kong Island. With views of Hong Kong's famous skyline, the Kowloon hotel's decision to rebrand is seen as a natural progression. 'As the group's flagship hotel, we believe the rebranding will enhance the hotel's overall image. It's also a great opportunity to create more recognition and continue to raise the profile of this magnificent hotel,' says general manager Jonathan Wilson. Hotel gets iPads InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, the world's first hotel brand to offer global destination-specific concierge websites and videos, is now equipping its concierge teams with Apple iPads. As part of a global pilot at InterContinental New York Barclay, InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, InterContinental London Park Lane and InterContinental Hong Kong, travellers can look forward to receiving enhanced local destination advice from the concierge teams, guided by mobile, multitouch, content-rich Apple iPads. Rather than jot directions on a paper map, concierge teams are now able to provide exact directions through interactive maps with high-resolution satellite imagery, close-up street views and detailed walking routes. The Apple iPad allows concierge teams to present short videos to guests, so they can get a clearer idea of selected recommended activities even before departing. Publicity drive Shanghai Expo organisers went on a publicity drive recently - and took the bus to do so. Buses travelled to Shandong province for a series of activities in Jinan's Quancheng Square on March 27 to publicise the expo. At the opening ceremony for the expo publicity, organisers held an expo knowledge quiz, and presented expo souvenirs and tickets to locals. 'Visitors can not only look around various architectures of different countries and experience the advanced environmental protection concepts in Expo Park, but also explore fast-developing Shanghai,' says the director of the publicity campaign. 'The Shanghai World Expo publicity buses brought us good expo tourism products, rich experiences in tourism and a prime opportunity of communication and co-operation,' says an official of the Shandong Provincial Tourism Administration. Cultural training One of China's largest in-house training institutes for hotel professionals is up and running in Shanghai. The Zendai Hotel Institute underscores Zendai Hotels' commitment to service excellence and the development of the mainland's hospitality industry ahead of the opening of its two Shanghai hotels this year, says a group spokesman. The new centre offers a special hospitality curriculum with a strong focus on art and culture. In addition to training in hotel management and operations - from housekeeping and front office, to food and beverage and spa therapy - students gain an understanding of Chinese culture through courses in tea knowledge, martial arts, nutrition and wellness, traditional Chinese medicine, calligraphy, painting, Chinese opera, floral arrangement and Chinese music appreciation. State-of-the-art facilities include a professional demonstration kitchen and bar, language laboratory, computer lab, six classrooms and an exercise studio. There is also a 260-bed residence offering students free accommodation and meals. Trainees are recruited from vocational schools and universities across the mainland based on strict selection criteria. After between three and 12 months of training, the best graduates will be offered full-time employment at the Zendai Hotel Yin or Zendai Art Hotel. 'We want to lead by example in showing that Chinese owners should invest money in human resources and training to make their operation efficient and develop the industry here, so China will become renowned for its culture of great Chinese hospitality,' says Jean Pierre Dosse, dean of the institute.