HKCEC phase-3 de­vel­op­ment is ur­gent to boost busi­ness tourism

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT - EDDY LI The author is vice-pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong.

Ear­lier this year, a re­port on world tourism com­pet­i­tive power showed that Hong Kong has fallen three places to rank 15th, while Sin­ga­pore, of­ten used to make com­par­isons with our city, ranked in the top 10 for three years in a row, be­com­ing the only one in Asia to rank that high. Hong Kong must find dif­fer­ent ways to nar­row the gap.

The Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion ap­pointed by the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive held its sec­ond meet­ing days ago. At the meet­ing, the Work­ing Group on Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion In­dus­tries and Tourism un­der the com­mis­sion pointed out that Hong Kong shouldn’t turn away any tourists, and should en­deavor to at­tract groups of high-value con­sump­tion. The group also said that the con­ven­tion and ex­hi­bi­tion at­ten­dees or vis­i­tors have con­trib­uted greatly to the lo­cal econ­omy, so the Hong Kong Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre (HKCEC) is in des­per­ate need of phase-3 de­vel­op­ment.

I fully con­cur with this sug­ges­tion, and be­lieve that one of the rea­sons for Hong Kong’s lower tourism com­pet­i­tive power is that busi­ness tourism is more or less ne­glected. In re­cent years, as the In­di­vid­ual Visit Scheme has been car­ried out, leisure tourism is grad­u­ally tak­ing over. The new­lyestab­lished scenic spots in Hong Kong are mainly for leisure tourism, in­clud­ing Dis­ney­land, Ngong Ping 360, and oth­ers. Rel­a­tively speak­ing, the ap­prox­i­mate fa­cil­i­ties for busi­ness have seen no sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment.

To at­tract high-con­sump­tion busi­ness vis­i­tors, the num­ber of large-scale in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions or exhibitions must be in­creased to form an in­cen­tive. In 1994, Hong Kong’s con­ven­tion and ex­hi­bi­tion rank­ing was sec­ond in Asia, but it’s now not even in the top 20. Con­fronting the com­pe­ti­tion of other cities like Guangzhou, Shen­zhen and Ma­cao, Hong Kong re­ally needs to re­dress the de­vel­op­ment of this in­dus­try.

The most se­vere chal­lenge is land short­age. Al­though the HKCEC fin­ished its phase-2 de­vel­op­ment in 2009, us­age has been sat­u­rated since last year. In the past three years, HKCEC has de­clined 44 ex­hi­bi­tion ap­pli­ca­tions and 89 con­ven­tion ap­pli­ca­tions, 13 of which are trad­ing exhibitions. We can just imag­ine how much trade in­come we have sac­ri­ficed be­cause of a lack of space.

Ac­tu­ally, the Hong Kong Trade De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil handed in a phase-3 de­vel­op­ment pro­posal in 2003, which sug­gested us­ing the cur­rent Wan Chai Sports Ground as the new site for ex­pan­sion, and then re­build­ing the sports ground at the top of the phase-3 build­ing, to en­sure the whole plan would not jeop­ar­dize leisure fa­cil­i­ties. How­ever, the plan was ob­jected to by lo­cal res­i­dents; more­over, it’s not a very fea­si­ble pro­ject. So far, there­fore, there is no fi­nal de­ci­sion on how to ex­pand the ex­hi­bi­tion and con­ven­tion area.

As far as I’m con­cerned, the cur­rent lo­ca­tion of the three govern­ment build­ings in Wan Chai is the per­fect choice, namely, the Rev­enue Tower, Im­mi­gra­tion Tower and Wan Chai Tower. The SAR govern­ment is plan­ning to move all th­ese de­part­ments to other places, so that such a con­ve­nient place could be used for com­mer­cial pur­poses. So why don’t the au­thor­i­ties con­sider re­con­struct­ing th­ese three build­ings and con­vert­ing them into phase-3 ar­eas?

The govern­ment tow­ers are closely lo­cated to the cur­rent HKCEC site, and are well equipped with ma­ture trans­porta­tion fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing MTR and bus sta­tions. In this case, it’s con­ve­nient that we can only build pedes­trian bridges and MTR ex­its to scat­ter the crowds when big events are be­ing held. If we only trans­form the build­ings in­stead of knock­ing them down and re­build, we can even save HK$1 bil­lion. At the mo­ment, the rentable area of HKCEC is about 90,000 square me­ters. If the above-stated plan is adopted, an­other 30,000 square me­ters will be added to the whole cen­ter.

More­over, the govern­ment build­ings are ad­ja­cent to Hong Kong Art School, so that some large exhibitions can adopt lo­cal cre­ativ­ity and cul­ture; the other way around, the­atri­cal per­for­mances can use HKCEC sites, el­e­vat­ing the taste of Hong Kong arts and de­vel­op­ing lo­cal creative in­dus­tries.

Eddy Li

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