Innovation and technology in general, and smart cities in particular, were high on the agenda in April as exhibitors and buyers from all over the world flocked to Hong Kong to take part in seven fairs organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in the peak season for expos.More than 12,300 exhibitors gathered in Hong Kong for the seven HKTDC trade fairs in April, with over 9,500 coming from Mainland China and overseas. The fairs attracted more than 236,000 buyers from 181 countries and regions, up 2% year-on-year. The number of buyers from the mainland and overseas was 140,000-plus, an increase of 4.5% compared to the previous year and representing about 60% of the overall turnout.In addition to participating in the fairs, overseas buyers and exhibitors also generated business opportunities for the hotel, catering and tourism industries of Hong Kong. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the per capita spending of overnight meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) visitors was HK$8,218. Based on this figure, it is estimated that overseas participants generated income of more than HK$1.3 billion for Hong Kong’s tourism and related industries.
The seven fairs were: the HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC International ICT Expo, HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, and the Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair. The latter was jointly organised by the HKTDC and CIEC Exhibition Company (HK) Ltd. Benjamin Chau, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director, said: “The development of innovative technologies and smart products has become a major global trend. The seven April fairs offered an international trading platform for industry players to showcase their latest designs and innovations to global buyers and to test market response at first-hand. In addition, the HKTDC incorporated more innovation and technology (I&T) elements into the fairs to create additional opportunities for industry players and to bolster Hong Kong’s standing as the business hub of Asia and an international trade fair capital.”
Smart city surge
During the Spring Lighting Fair, Spring Electronics Fair, Houseware Fair and Gifts & Premium Fair, the HKTDC commissioned an independent research agency to conduct on-site surveys, interviewing 2,729 exhibitors and buyers to gauge their views on market prospects and product trends. With I&T being a key factor in the development of smart cities, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government striving to transform Hong Kong into a world-class smart city, more than 90% of surveyed respondents were either optimistic or neutral about smart-city development in Hong Kong.More I&T elements were included in this year’s April fairs. The ICT Expo adopted the theme of Smart City • Smart Living and showcased an array of visionary smart-city projects and applications. These included the I&T initiatives featured at the Smart Government Pavilion presented by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer of the HKSAR Government; the City Brain platform presented by the Hangzhou Government; and the innovative and forward-looking applications and solutions displayed at the “So French So Innovative” pavilion.Smart homes are an integral part of smart-city development. At the Spring Lighting Fair, 89% of respondents said they consider the outlook for smart lighting in the coming two years to be promising (80%) or very promising (9%). To facilitate the sourcing of smart home products, the Spring Lighting Fair launched the Innobuild zone, which showcased innovative building technologies and practical building tools, in addition to the Smart Lighting & Solutions zone.The Spring Electronics Fair adopted similar initiatives. The Tech Hall displayed the latest innovative electronics products organised into five themes, including AR, VR & MR (covering augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality); Connected Home; e-Health & Wearables; Robotics & Unmanned Tech; and the new AI & Voice Recognition solutions. Similarly, the Houseware Fair showcased a range of smart homewares and hosted a seminar to examine smart home and eco home product trends. At the Gifts & Premium Fair, a Tech Gifts zone was set up to spotlight innovative gift ideas.
Industry optimistic on Bay Area opportunities
The surveys also sought the views of respondents on business prospects in 2019. More than 90% of respondents said they expect overall sales to rise (46%) or remain steady (45%), highlighting the general optimism among businesses in different fields.The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, released in February, has grabbed the attention of players across different industries. The April fairs incorporated more Greater Bay Area elements to update participants on the latest opportunities, including hosting a Greater Bay Area-related seminar and inviting mainland cities from the Greater Bay Area – including Foshan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen and Dongguan – to set up group pavilions. More than 80% of survey respondents hold positive or neutral views on the impact of the Greater Bay Area on their export performance in the coming six months.
Rising costs greatest challenge
Costs are always a significant factor in business decisions made. Survey respondents generally expect that increases in operating costs (46%) and price fluctuations in raw materials (37%) will continue to be the greatest business challenges this year; 40% expressed concerns about global economic fluctuations. While 52% of respondents anticipate higher production costs or sourcing costs, just 38% expect to raise free-on-board selling prices or retail prices, suggesting industry professionals will not transfer additional costs to clients or consumers.Respondents are generally positive about the outlook in traditional markets, with 73% seeing Korea as promising or very promising, followed by Taiwan (71%) and Hong Kong (69%). For emerging markets, 77% of respondents view Mainland China as promising or very promising this year, followed by ASEAN (72%) and South Africa (71%).Regarding product trends, the lighting industry is most optimistic about commercial lighting, smart lighting and solutions, and residential lighting. The electronics industry finds electrical and electronic accessories to be the most promising product category, followed by digital imaging, audio-visual products and home appliances. As for the houseware industry, eco-friendly products, kitchenware and gadgets, and furniture are considered to have the strongest growth potential this year; while the gifts industry sees advertising gifts and premiums, tech gifts, figurines and decorations, and toys and sporting goods to have the best outlook.Related link