Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which had been developing for more than a decade, needed concerted promotional support. Long considered by the business community and the government, the HKTDC was established on 1 October, 1966. The HKTDC was first headquartered at the newly completed Ocean Terminal, which was also Hong Kong’s sea freight hub.
Getting the Show on the Road
In 1967, East Africa was an important export market for Hong Kong products. As there was no fixed fair venue, the HKTDC converted a container truck into a mobile exhibition unit to promote Hong Kong products to local consumers at various locations across the region.
These promotions attest to the versatility of Hong Kong businesspeople. The same container truck was later used as a showroom for Hong Kong toys in the car park of the Nuremburg Toy Fair. Though small in size, it had helped Hong Kong manufacturers break into the world market.
Breaking Guinness World Records
Business publications were the main vehicle for trade promotions in the 1960s. The HKTDC launched a trade magazine Hong Kong Enterprise during the Hong Kong Week. It successfully drew buyers’ attention with its innovative and eye-catching design.
Primarily distributed overseas, the HKTDC’s product magazines have long provided Hong Kong SMEs with a year-round advertising channel to promote their products. The 1,356-page, October 1991 issue of Hong Kong Toys was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s thickest periodical.
Hong Kong Fashion on the World Stage
Paris is the world’s fashion capital. The debut of Hong Kong's Ready-to-Wear Gala Show in Paris and London in 1975 boosted the image of Hong Kong fashion on the international stage. Dubbed the “international fashion exhibition from the Orient,” the Gala Shows were well received and widely covered by local and overseas newspapers and trade journals.
Exploring China's Untapped Opportunities
Following the announcement of China's open-door policy in 1978, HKTDC Chairman YK Kan led Hong Kong traders to Guangzhou in 1980. This was the first Hong Kong delegation to visit the mainland since its opening up.
In 1986, the HKTDC set up its first mainland office in Beijing to promote closer economic and business relations between the two places, and strengthen promotional work on the mainland.
Due to the lack of exhibition venues in the 1970s and 1980s, Hong Kong SMEs could only participate in major trade fairs overseas. Local exhibitions were mostly organised in hotels or at the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay.
The HKTDC saw the pressing need to build a dedicated exhibition venue in Hong Kong to provide SMEs with a home base for promotions targeting visiting overseas buyers. HKTDC chairperson Lydia Dunn was a staunch advocate for helping SMEs, and the plan was finally approved in 1983. Phase I construction of the HKCEC began in 1984. In 1988, the facility was officially opened, providing more than 25,000 square meters of exhibition space. With the new facility, HKTDC-organised exhibitions accommodated 70 per cent more exhibitors than before. As the convention and exhibition industry expanded rapidly, use of the new facility grew exponentially. Within a few years, there was already unmet demand, demonstrating the importance of an exhibition venue to the development of the convention and exhibition industry.
Realising the urgent need for further expansion, the HKTDC began a feasibility study on building an HKCEC extension in 1990. By 1993, the Hong Kong Government approved the plan. And in 1994, the HKCEC Extension project commenced under the chairmanship of Dr Victor Fung. With the opening of the HKCEC’s new wing in 1997, exhibition space was doubled to more than 46,000 square meters. The HKCEC was the venue for the ceremony marking Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Not only is the expanded HKCEC a symbol of trade and business promotions in Hong Kong, it also witnessed a new era for Hong Kong.
Promoting Original Designs
Promoting Hong Kong's Services Exports
In 1996, the Hong Kong Government announced that the HKTDC would expand its work in promoting Hong Kong’s trade in services. The Council set up several advisory committees, covering finance, entertainment, design, marketing and licensing, infrastructure, logistics and professional services. Industry experts are invited to give advice on promotional strategies. A decade later, the HKTDC organised large-scale conferences in Hong Kong, including the Asian Financial Forum, Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference, Business of Intellectual Property Asia Forum as well as the Asian Licensing Conference. Gathering top government and business leaders from around the globe to explore new opportunities, these events also promote Hong Kong’s competitive edge as a business hub.
Embracing a New Era of E-Commerce
Just prior to China's accession to the WTO, the HKTDC launched a series of programmes in 2001 to help Hong Kong companies grasp opportunities from this development. Then, with the launch of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) in 2004, the HKTDC set up four CEPA Centres in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. A nationwide CEPA hotline was also launched to help local manufacturers enjoy zero tariffs and services providers gain preferential treatment in entering the mainland market under CEPA.
Turning Crisis into Opportunity
The outbreak of SARS in 2003 dealt a severe blow to Hong Kong's external trade. When SARS broke out, the Swiss government effectively stopped Hong Kong exhibitors from exhibiting at BASELWORLD: The Watch and Jewellery Show. The HKTDC assisted Hong Kong exhibitors in negotiating with the Swiss authorities. After many rounds of negotiations, the HKTDC struck a new partnership arrangement with the Swiss side, turning this crisis into an opportunity. The following year saw a new agreement that guaranteed the return of Hong Kong exhibitors to a prime location at the BASELWORLD venue. The Basel incident illustrates the sense of solidarity among Hong Kong people during difficult times, as well as their resolve and perseverance.
World's Fair Capital
As the waiting lists for several major HKTDC exhibitions continued to lengthen, chairman Peter Woo proposed a further extension of the HKCEC in 2005, by expanding the Atrium Link between the first two phases. By complying with the four “no” principals (no reclamation, no impact on traffic, no change to the harbourfront and no funding from taxpayers), the project won support from the business community, the government and the general public.
The HKCEC Atrium Link Extension was completed in May 2009, and the total exhibition space increased 42% to 66,000 square meters. After the expansion the HKCEC has improved its reception capacity and hosted more diversified events. It also positions several of Hong Kong’s mega trade fairs as the world’s largest of their kind.
Entering Mainland Market at Full Speed
After its WTO Entry, China's economy developed rapidly becoming the world’s largest trading nation and second-largest economy. The growing middle class and the expansion of CEPA has presented Hong Kong traders with golden opportunities in the mainland market. In 2007, the Council organised its first B2C Style Hong Kong Show. Since then, a total of 27 editions of the show have been staged, drawing a total of more than seven million consumers.
In addition, China's manufacturing industry saw strong growth. To ease bottlenecks and enhance overall competitiveness, manufacturers turned to a variety of services providers to help them improve product quality and establish their own brands. Since 2011, the HKTDC has been organising SmartHK promotions in different mainland cities to promote Hong Kong’s professional services to mainland enterprises.
New Markets, New Opportunities
The pace of Chinese outbound investment is increasing, with mainland enterprises seeking to acquire advanced technology and expand in overseas markets. In view of this trend, the HKTDC has partnered with the mainland’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and various provincial authorities to organise joint outbound investment missions. By bringing together mainland investors, Hong Kong services providers and overseas project owners, the HKTDC fosters tripartite cooperation.
Since 2011, the HKTDC has organised “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” promotions in various cities in mature markets, including London, Tokyo, Osaka, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, Chicago and Toronto. These events raise the profile of Hong Kong and promote the city’s competitive edge as a provider of world-class business and professional services.
Belt and Road
The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 is an important milestone in the mainland’s external economic focus, which also presents new opportunities for Hong Kong. With a wealth of business expertise, Hong Kong can be the hub for Belt and Road countries by providing a wide range of financial, infrastructure, legal and logistics services.
In 2015, the HKTDC launched a Belt and Road Portal, offering up-to-date and comprehensive information to help global enterprises capture the opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative, and identify suitable partners in Hong Kong. Another significant event is the Belt and Road Summit organised by the HKTDC in May 2016, gathering government and business leaders from around the world to identify challenges and opportunities related to the Belt and Road Initiative.