by By Tom Isler | February 01, 2009

Hong KongDespite the global economic crisis, which has taken its toll on incentive and long-haul group business in Hong Kong, officials there continue to invest heavily in the meetings industry. In addition to regular budget allowances, the government has pledged US$19 million over the next five years to add sales representatives around the globe and promote Hong Kong's evolving meetings product.

Last November, the Hong Kong Tourism Bureau announced the launch of a dedicated office for meetings and exhibitions, designed to be a one-stop shop for meeting planners and trade show organizers. Now in full operation, Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong ( spearheads the country's meetings marketing efforts and will forge new partnerships among local hospitality providers to offer special incentives for groups.

New hotels

As of last September, Hong Kong had 146 hotels with more than 53,000 guest rooms, according to the HKTB. By the end of 2009, the bureau expects to have 178 hotels and 61,000 guest rooms, a 14 percent increase.

Two new Hyatt Regency hotels are on the way: a 567-room Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, opens this month, near the Chinese Uni­versity of Hong Kong, with more than 10,700 square feet of meeting space; and a 384-room Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui, with 7,000 square feet of meeting space, debuts this summer.

The 393-room W Hong Kong in Kowloon, overlooking Victoria Harbour, debuted last October with 8,200 square feet of meeting space, a Bliss spa and two restaurants.

The 658-room Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott opened in December by the Hong Kong International Airport and AsiaWorld-Expo, a 3-year-old convention center that has more than 750,000 square feet of exhibit space. The Marriott offers 14,000 square feet of meeting space.

L'hotel Nina et Convention Centre, which began hosting guests in 2007, now has 1,220 of its planned 1,589 rooms available; the rest will be open soon. The hotel, which sits between the airport and Kowloon, has more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 16,800-square-foot exhibit hall, which is the largest hotel exhibit hall in Hong Kong.

In the works: A 262-room Crowne Plaza Causeway Bay opens later this year on Hong Kong Island, and the 300-room Ritz-Carlton Kow­loon will open in 2011 in the International Commerce Centre, which will be one of the world's tallest buildings.

Convention center
Within the coming months, the Hong Kong Conven­tion and Exhibition Centre will finish up a three-year, US$180 million expansion, adding more than 200,000 square feet of exhi­bit space to the facility's three-level exhibit halls. In all, the larger center will have about 1 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space. The facility is connected to Convention Plaza, which includes the 860-room Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong and the 549-room Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

Other venues
Among new off-site venues is the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, which opened last fall. The facility features a studio and gallery spaces, plus a 119-seat theater available for rent.

The Pawn
is a new restaurant (and former pawn shop) in a landmark colonial building in Wan Chai. Along with the main dining room, a rooftop garden is available for small groups.

Visa agreement

Visitors from more than 170 countries, including the United States, can enter Hong Kong without obtaining a visa. Last October, government officials pledged to add Russia to the list in the near future. Officials also plan to ease restrictions on visitation from Taiwan.