The Chinese central government announced a roadmap for its Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative on Monday, laying out long term development plans for several key areas.
As expected, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and Guangzhou were named as the four key cities of the area, with each city serving as a hub for different sectors.
The plan, published by Xinhua, pledges that Hong Kong will consolidate its position as the international finance and trade hub of the region. Casino city Macau, meanwhile, plays the role of a tourism hub and trade platform for Portuguese-speaking nations. Across the border, Guangzhou serves as the provincial capital. Shenzhen’s special economic zone and robust technology scene puts it at the innovation forefront of the plan.
Hong Kong’s free-port status has always been a draw for exhibitors of luxury items, and the status quo is reassuring, says Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA). “Art, wine and jewellery [exhibitions] are never going to move north of the border to mainland China," he told CEI. "It’s always going to happen here in Hong Kong.”
Manufacturing trade shows, on the other hand, began shifting from the space-scarce city to the mainland over two decades ago, Bailey said. The Canton Fair in Guangzhou has become one of the world's largest trade fairs, while the Shenzhen International Convention and Exhibition Center opening later this year is expected to offer unprecedented space at 500,000 sqm.
Bailey believes that the same cannot be said for Macau which is likely to remain a popular incentive destination for big Chinese groups rather than an exhibitions hub. The city is home to numerous luxury properties including Morpheus launched in June 2018 that offer myriad options for events spaces.
“I think each individual city has got its unique thing which can be built upon, [from the] meetings and exhibitions standpoint,” said Bailey. "There would be growth in some areas, Hong Kong is such an attractive destination for so many other industries," he added.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam had earlier cautioned that the cities should collaborate instead of competing for the financial benefits from the GBA initiative. Bailey believes that the issue is less of a concern in the industry with the individual cities dominating their respective niches.
Collaborations have been ongoing, from pre-Greater Bay—the Pearl River Delta era—with HKECIA having regular dialogues with its Macau and Shenzhen counterparts. The associations do not share their resources.
Bailey asserted that the GBA is a nice term to capture “a whole lot of different initiatives”, but developments such as the Hong Kong high-speed rail to the mainland and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge are likely to bring more direct benefits.
“That means people are able to move faster and freely. As an event organiser, you are always thinking about your audience, attendees, how to get more of them, whether they have more money to spend…and both of those are going to come from China. [So] having better infrastructure is enormously helpful for shows to take place here,” Bailey said.
Meanwhile, the road map has promised a more efficient clearance procedure for the HSR and the bridge. For example, passengers travelling on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau are currently required to disembark twice, at the immigration checkpoints at Zhuhai and Macau.
Bailey said those are merely teething issues for a infrastructure project of that scale as currently the grievances mainly lies with the influx of Chinese visitors crossing the bridge to Hong Kong during the weekend.