I’ve been a bit obsessed with attendance at the 2014 September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. Wars in the Middle East, sluggish European economies, uncertain economic aspects in the US, the slowing of growth in China, and even local politics, which now has an international stage, all led to unexpected outcomes for this year’s show.
Even UBM officials hedged their outlook in attendance, anticipating very modest growth for a trade fair that seems to have had no limit to its potential.
Then came a category 8 typhoon.
Despite all of this, the 32nd edition of the fair concluded with a “remarkable” (the show’s words and mine) 12 percent growth in attendance, with 59,116 buyers from 157 countries who were there to see the products and services of 3,695 exhibitors from 49 countries and regions.
Registration area in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)
The September Fair occupied 135,000 square metres of exhibition space in two venues - the AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) and the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). The AWE housed exhibitors of raw materials including diamonds, loose gemstones, pearls and equipment and packaging, while the HKCEC housed exhibits of finished fine jewellery.
It has earned its place as the world’s largest B2B fine jewellery trade fair. At this point as it defies global realities it is threatening to become its own economic engine.
No one is more surprised by these figures as I am. I attended the second day of the AWE portion of the fair and was shocked by the crowds who came even though the typhoon caused the free shuttle surface from downtown to be canceled for a half-day. The first two days of the AWE portion of the show, as I reported previously, had 11.2 percent growth in attendance. People I spoke with who attended the AWE portion of the fair said crowds remained strong throughout.
Hall 1 Entrance in Asia-WorldExpo (AWE)
Meanwhile, I thought the first two days of the HKCEC portion of the fair was slower compared to prior years. While still brisk, the overflow of crowds didn’t seem to be there on opening day and the second day seemed even slower. By the third day, my final day at the show, buyers returned with a vengeance. Apparently this continued during the final two days of the event as well.
UBM Asia reported 17-percent growth in visitor numbers from Asia compared to last year. Participation from the Middle East increased by about 25 percent. Wolfram Diener, senior VP of UBM Asia Ltd., told me that he expected fewer buyers from the Middle East because of the various conflicts, so this is very surprising.
Meanwhile, participation from India increased by about 24 percent and mainland China was up by about 23 percent. In other markets participation increased: Africa by 19 percent, North America about 12 percent and Europe about 6 percent, according to the data.
The 59, 116 visitor figure refers to unique visitors recorded over the seven-day period of the event, Total visits were more than 131,700 between the two venues. About 30 percent (17,079) of the crowd was Hong Kong based visitors while 42,037 visitors came from the overseas. The top ten visiting countries and regions were Mainland China (18,310), Hong Kong (17,079), India (3,867), the United States (2,211), Taiwan Region (1,776), Thailand (1,768), Japan (1,466), the Philippines (1,093), Korea (1,075) and Indonesia (920).
Through good times and bad this continues to be quite a show.