Hong Kong at Basel / Zurich

April 2003

When the decision was made to regroup the Basle Fair 'country pavilions' and unite them in Zurich, the protests were loud and abundant. It now appears that the concept has finally gained support from the Hong Kong exhibitors.

With 314 exhibitors participating in the Hong Kong pavilion, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has made a tremendous effort to ensure that its participation in Basel's Zurich enclave is a success.

More space in Zurich
The Hong Kong pavilion, covering approximately 6,900 square metres, represents a 15% increase in space - a factor that would not have been possible given the limited space at the Basel location.
To ensure that the Hong Kong pavilion in the new location is accentuated, the HKTDC has planned a series of events and activities with an Asian flair. In addition to regular product parades, there will be live Chinese music, a buyers' night, a lucky draw (usually the prize is a flight to Hong Kong) and several cocktail parties.

The economy, exports & imports
Hong Kong is the second largest exporter of watches, clocks and precious jewellery worldwide, but last year's poor economic environment has had its toll on the watch exporters. Exports declined by 6% for the period January through November. The US and the EEC, who account for almost half of Hong Kong's total watch exports, remain the largest importers, but sales to these two markets declined by 7% and 6% respectively.
Exports to Switzerland however, bucked against the trend and increased by 1%. The most important articles demanded by Swiss companies are watch cases and parts (43% - making Switzerland the largest importer), movements (11% - the sixth largest importer) watch straps, bracelets and metal parts (42% - the largest importer).
Swiss watches continue to be popular products in Hong Kong despite the economic downturn. From January to November 2002, Hong Kong imported Swiss watches and clocks to the value of US$ 921 million - an increase of 12% compared to the same period of the previous year.

The good news is ...
The good news is that Hong Kong's economy is recovering from the global slowdown. As Lore Buscher, the Regional Director for the HKTDC explained recently, “After turning in a modest growth of 0.8% in the second quarter of 2002, the GDP picked up a further 3.3% in the third quarter. The recovery was underpinned by a robust trade performance in both merchandise and services exports. Given the strong rebounds in trade performance, the official forecast of GDP growth was recently revised upward from 1.5% to 2% for the whole of 2002.”
Lore Buscher then took a look into her crystal ball for the macroeconomic development of Hong Kong in 2003. “The world economy is expected to continue to revive in 2003. But the speed of recovery will be slower than anticipated earlier. The underlying factors hampering growth include a weaker revival in the US, aggravated by a possible US-led war against Iraq.”

And Zurich?
At the time of writing, it is very difficult to imagine how buyers will react to the formal 'separation' of exhibitors. Every effort has been made by both the Basel Fair management and the exhibitors to ensure that buyers are aware of this dramatic change. Permanent 'free' transport has been organized to facilitate the trip from one destination to the other and there is also talk of there being a satellite link-up for those interested.
Nevertheless, even though one has to accept that a) exhibition space is at a premium in Basel and b) the Zurich facilities are certainly excellent, the question remains: will buyers, and perhaps more importantly potential buyers, make the trek from one city to another knowing that it will almost certainly cost them an entire day?

One can only hope ...