Traveling to HK to attend an exhibition? don’t bother.

Posted: October 12, 2014 in POV
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Hong Kong’s hotel industry is built on the backs of all the business travelers.  Companies all over the world if they pride themselves on Asia business will have a HK office making hotel rooms a hot commodity.  The hotels in and around the Wan Chai convention centre run at a very high occupancy rate (95%).  Most of the conventions hosted in Wan Chai are put on by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).  I have had the honour of attending many exhibitions over the past year and have come to one conclusion, no business for actual trade but great business for the retail crowd.

The “trade-only” events are meant for B2B clientele but rarely have I ever met another business willing to buy.  It may be the state of the economy or to do with the fact HK is losing ground to China.  I can imagine in years’ past the HK conventions were the first stop for those wanting to do business in China.  The China Visas were a restriction so HK was the ability to connect with the mainland business.  China now makes it easy for travelers to go in and out so the exhibitions and conventions that take place in China are abundant, there’s no need for HK.

If the end goal is to cater to the China clientele, you only need to look for places which the China government allows its residents to visit.  HK and Macau were entry points to the China residents to get their feet wet.  Now the China residents are able to hop flights and visit exotic locations just the same as other cultures.  The exhibition spaces in HK no longer carry the same prestige.  It would be better to attend local exhibitions and hope the China buyers walk through the door.  It’s only a matter of time.  The other avenue would be to exhibit within China.

The problem with exhibiting in China is all too often businesses see only the positives – massive population with a large appetite to consume any and all things.  The laws in China don’t govern foreign companies and scams are abundant.  The trade off being if the deal actually closes, it will make all the headache worthwhile.  If it smells fishy, back away.  The same modus operandi applies in all cultures but nowhere is it more apparent than in China where corruption is rampant.  The police can’t protect you.  China government and organized crime is one in the same.  If you operate in Russia already, similar rules apply.

This makes the Hong Kong exhibitions a worthwhile endeavour as you can meet HK businesses with China subsidiaries to which contracts follow HK/common law.  HK trade businesses operating out of the exhibitions would love to be your handler for China operations.  It’s also a great test market to see the Asian palette in all its glory.  You’re not going to meet any whales at the HKTDC event so it’s best to go with an open mind and a smile, don’t bother pre-qualifying as business cards are cheap and easy to make.  My card at the event will show managing director for a big investment bank.  You are better off attending the exhibitions in China, go direct and enjoy the culture shock.  Hong Kong is a place where you can get by solely on English so the expense account crowd will love the ability to blow large budgets.

Exhibitions in HK end up falling into the same past time as HK’ers love, shopping.  Do attend to see all the bright lights and sounds of exhibitors.  You will more than likely do brisk business selling to the retail crowd but beware, they will low-ball  you on everything.  Trade clients are fun, retail clients are a nightmare.  If you happen to be in HK during convention season, do partake in a stroll through Wan Chai.

Taiwan exhibition

Taiwan exhibition

SZ wine exhibition

SZ exhibition

GZ wine exhibition

GZ wine exhibition

  1. logatfer says:

    Perfectly described… Good to read some realism about doing business with China-HK. Great post!

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