THOUSANDS of visitors experience the magnificent views of Hong Kong harbour through the world's largest glass windows at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. ''It is more than a place for expositions, it has become a civic centre for the people of Hong Kong,'' the managing director of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Dan Saunders, said. ''Every city with a population of six million needs to have a place they can go and enjoy themselves. It is an important part of city life. The centre fulfils that role.'' The centre is the territory's only purpose-built venue for large meetings and exhibitions. It has 18,000 square metres of exhibition space and a conference hall and theatres to accommodate 3,000 people. Since opening in 1989, it has become a leading venue for internationally famous expos - putting Hong Kong firmly on the map for major exhibitions and conventions. Its public appeal lies in its dramatic design and spectacular waterfront location. Favourite restaurants include the Gallery Cafe, which is becoming famous for its high teas. The cafe's ongoing ''Tea and Art'' promotion allows local and international artists to showcase their work free of charge, while giving the public a cultural experience. The centre has also run a programme of popular entertainment and cabaret-style events, such as its recent dinner theatre with Paul Keller, the British hypnotist. There are meeting rooms and a large ballroom for private banquets. ''In many ways, the atmosphere is like that of a fine hotel,'' Mr Saunders said. Last year, 137,071 visitors and exhibitors came to Hong Kong - an increase of 23.4 per cent compared with 1992. This year, the centre will host more than 1,000 exhibitions, conferences and corporate events. Mr Saunders said: ''The trade shows and meetings held here serve as a tremendous window on the world. Every day, new disciplines are being created and new discoveries made. ''The most efficient way to demonstrate products and services is through exhibitions, and Hong Kong is the number one destination,'' he said. The operations staff of 700 includes 300 food and beverages personnel, an event services department, full housekeeping services and top-level security. The centre has been of enormous economic benefit to Hong Kong - bringing business to all levels of commerce, such as hotels, retailers, banks, shippers and suppliers of conference and exhibition services. ''Many convention centres around the world are like boxes, with no natural light and lacking atmosphere,'' Mr Saunders said. ''Rather than distracting delegates, the spectacular view of the harbour has a tremendously positive psychological effect and enhances every international event. When people are happy they do more business.'' In March, $2.4 billion was granted by the Government for an extension to the centre, on land to be reclaimed from Victoria Harbour, directly in front of the existing complex. ''The shows are growing in size and importance, and many are on the way to out-growing the centre. They use our entire available floor space, including the grand foyer,'' Mr Saunders said. ''The new extension will enable shows to run simultaneously, as well as create single events on a larger scale. The more shows we can handle, the more the economy will benefit from hotel room nights and spending.'' The plans, which will not be officially released until next month, will increase floor space by about 30,000 square metres. This will result in a total of 50,000 sq m. Bigger banquets, meetings and entertainment events are the order of the day. ''The new ballroom will be almost twice the size of the present one and will be able to accommodate more than 4,000 seated guests,'' he said. A walkway will link the exhibition halls on levels five and seven between the buildings. ''Once the extension is complete, the Convention and Exhibition Centre will be a signature piece for Hong Kong and a landmark on a par with the Sydney Opera House,'' said Mr Saunders.