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Hong Kong to maintain MICE regional hub
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Heads and delegates from Hong Kong's tourism, hotel and airline industries pledged support together for Hong Kong's high-yield MICE business, as a recent effort to lessen the impact of global economic downturn on this "Asia's World City" and prepare to be "one of the first to take the advantage of the recovery".

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) on Thursday launched its "Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong" (MEHK) office to provide one-stop support to MICE organizers (Meeting, Incentive Travel, Convention and Exhibition), as the first step in a series of measures to ensure that Hong Kong stays ahead of the competition in the global MICE sector.

The major initiative of the office this year is to launch targeted promotions to high-potential markets such as the Chinese mainland and India.

Why choose this time? HKTB Chairman James Tien stressed that although Hong Kong has always been a MICE hub in the Asia-Pacific region, the city has to do more to keep its lead over its regional competitors "as we face an economic challenge of a lifetime".

"Hong Kong's competitors are already setting up MICE bureaus and rolling out various incentive schemes to attract more visitors," he added.

In its 2008-09 budget, the Hong Kong government has earmarked an additional 150 million HK dollars for the HKTB to strengthen its MICE business promotions over the next five years.

According to HKTB's Executive Director Anthony Lau, more than 1,300 MICE events are held in the city every year, bringing in 1.7 million people from overseas and 11 billion HK dollars in tourism revenue.

Lower attendance numbers of buyers and exhibitors could be seen next year or in even a longer term, local business delegates said, but Hong Kong's MICE business has been so far not much affected.

Veronica To, Director of Marketing and Business Planning of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center (HKCEC), said the MICE is a high-yield industry in Hong Kong with over 100 exhibition events and numbers of conventions held in the HKCEC annually, and over 11 new exhibition events already in stock in 2008 and 2009.

Allen Ha, Chief Executive Officer of the Asia World-Expo, said the attendance numbers and quality of attendees of exhibitions held in the past few weeks have remained high. The Asia World-Expo has successfully attracted over 12 major new trade events in 2009, with organizers from Europe, the United States and Asia, and topics ranging from logistics, technology and aviation.

Yvonne Choi, Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said Hong Kong is well-positioned to be a popular destination for MICE events, with its prime location, world-class infrastructure, sophisticated services sector and proximity to the Chinese mainland.

Stanley Chu, Chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association, stressed that Hong Kong's most positive factor is its proximity to the Chinese mainland, which is believed to be one of the least-affected amid the global financial tsunami.

He noted that Hong Kong's MICE business should put more efforts in the Chinese mainland's market, following the announcement by the central government of a stimulus package of 4 trillion yuan to boost economy and domestic consumption.

(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2008)

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