By  on May 23, 2007

HONG KONG — There will soon be a new convention center on the block, well, across the ocean, actually.

Macau has become the new must-see gambling destination, bringing in more cash than Las Vegas — and construction isn't even finished yet. Like Las Vegas, Macau will make plenty of room for exhibitions as well. The Venetian Macao, set to be completed in October, will offer 1 million square feet of convention and exhibition facilities — big enough to hold 90 Boeing 747 jumbo jets, according to the resort's Web site.

But if you build it, will trade show organizers come with their events?

Some are willing to test the new venue, which is an hour from Hong Kong by ferry, but only with a certain type of show. In November, Messe Frankfurt is organizing a luxury car show that will be open to the public, timed to coincide with the Macau Grand Prix.

It's the ideal place for this kind of show, said Katy Lam, director of trade shows for Messe Frankfurt.

It isn't such an easy sell for textile shows, though. It may be difficult to attract buyers to Macau just because of the lifestyle element, Lam said. People are so busy that they would be happier to visit more shows grouped close together, she added.

"For the textile industry, it's not quite feasible for us," she said, adding that Macau itself doesn't have a textile industry, aside from outward processing arrangement facilities that work on already partially made garments.

Messe Frankfurt's textile shows include Source It, an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event that will be held in China for the first time, from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1, at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. It will run as part of Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics, which has expanded from one and a half to two halls for its international exhibitors.

"ASEAN countries see China as a competitor, but also at the same time as a big opportunity," Lam said. Showing in China is "one step further to see how competitive they are together as an ASEAN block and to explore business opportunities."The move to Shanghai is just "a try," Lam said. "The development of China is so overwhelming…you can understand why they want to be in Shanghai" to get a feel for the environment.

Yarn Expo, which also runs in Shanghai at the same time, will bow as a stand-alone show after graduating from pavilion status. "We want to establish an identity for the show," Lam said. "We hope that it can grow on its own, nicely and professionally."

The Intertextile Pavilion Shenzhen will run for the third time from July 12 to 14 at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center and Interstoff Asia Essential–Autumn will run from Oct. 3 to 5 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Interstoff will continue to focus on eco-conscious and functional fabrics, Lam said. "Results from spring told us we are going in the right direction."

A spin-off event dubbed "Vietnam Business Meeting" will also be part of Interstoff Asia, running Aug. 9 and 10. For the event, Messe Frankfurt will take approximately 50 companies that have exhibited at Interstoff in the past year to Vietnam to meet potential buyers.

The "growth of the Vietnam industry is so tremendous" but Vietnam has very little of its own resources, Lam said, adding that she "sees it as a good business opportunity for exhibitors to explore."

On Macau, Michael Duck, director of Asia Pacific Leather Fair Ltd., and senior vice president of show manager CMP Asia, is also approaching the new venue with a specific kind of show — CMP Asia Jewelry and Watch Show, to be held in January 2008.

For jewelry, the setting works because exhibitors "can meet trade buyers in a luxury environment," he said. "We're going to try it."

For the second half of this year, CMP Asia will organize the All China Leather Exhibition from Sept. 5 to 7 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. It will run concurrently with China International Footwear Fair and Moda Shanghai, which showcase footwear, handbags, leather garments, fashion accessories and travelwear. Back in Hong Kong, Asia's Fashion Jewellery & Accessories Fair will run from Sept. 24 to 27 at AsiaWorld Expo, near the airport. Fashion Access will take place from Oct. 3 to 5 at HKCEC with more than 500 exhibitors from 27 countries.CMP Asia also has Cosmoprof Asia, the largest beauty showcase in Asia, from Nov. 14 to 16 at HKCEC. The China International Gold, Jewellery & Gem Fair will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.

Although Duck is testing Macau with a jewelry show, he's taking a wait-and-see approach for the most part. Topping his concerns are the kind of visitors the gambling oasis will attract and a small airport that doesn't have enough inflow from other destinations.

That said, the exhibition center being built at the Venetian will eventually boast seven hotels surrounding it on the Cotai Strip. "There will be a large amount of rooms available…[and] convention facilities will be very good," he said.

One organizer that is jumping in is Kenfair, which will hold Mega Macao at The Venetian Macao Convention & Exhibition Center from Oct. 18 to 20. The show will feature garments ranging from fur and leather to lingerie and children's clothes. There will also be home textiles, fabrics and hardware accessories like zippers and buttons on exhibit.

Kenfair has pulled out all the stops to promote this event, with advertisements appearing everywhere, from buses and trains to billboards. Flyers boast that the event will have approximately 3,000 stands. With so much marketing, the show will be watched by the industry as a test of the new location and venue.

It will be interesting to see how many visitors attend Mega Macao, Duck said.

No one from Kenfair was available for comment.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council is obviously concerned about its home turf, but believes the competition coming from Macau can't hurt.

"The increased competition only serves as a catalyst for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to keep improving," said Anne Chick, the TDC's senior exhibitions manager.

The TDC organizes Hong Kong Fashion Week, which will run July 10 to 13 at HKCEC. In January 2007, more than 1,500 exhibitors from 24 countries and regions attended the show to present their latest designs. Chick said she expected those numbers to continue rising.

The TDC also puts together the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair from Sept. 5 to 9 and Hong Kong Optical Fair from Nov. 6 to 8, both at HKCEC. At Asia-World Expo, the TDC will organize Sports Source Asia from Oct. 27 to 30.Despite Macau's emergence as a new trade show destination with a splashy new venue, Chick said Hong Kong is still the best gateway for businesses that want to tap China's increasingly large market, whether from a manufacturing perspective or as a brand entering the country.

"Hong Kong manufacturers have established a good business network on the mainland through their experience gathered in the past two decades," said Chick. "International companies keen to tap into the mainland's huge market still find it best to work hand in hand with Hong Kong companies. Many of them are working in partnership with Hong Kong companies to set up factories on the mainland and to explore business opportunities together."

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