19 Nov 2019
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September HK Show might just not be the same
Billed as the world’s largest gem and jewellery trade fair, the September Hong Kong show this year may not be as successful in view of the ongoing public unrest. Though the organizers look confident that the fair would be held as usual, the participants are not much convinced. Poor footfall and the prospect that U.S. companies may not participate are the two overwhelming concerns
By: Diamond World News Service
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Aug 16 2019 7:42PM
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Reference: 22429  

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Barely a month to go, Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair (September 16-22) is grappling with extreme uncertainties due to the ongoing pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The September show is supposed to be the biggest B2B trade show of the global gem and jewellery industry, bringing together over 3,500 exhibitors from around the world. Dispelling the concerns of exhibitors and visitors about the success of the September fair, the organisers have issued a statement reassuring that the preparations for the trade show are going on and they are confident that the event would be held. 

The biggest element of doubt that the September Hong Kong Fair may not take place at all or it may be a much subdued affair comes from the uncertainty about the participation of the U.S. companies. As Chinese authorities have gone public with accusations that the U.S. has been playing a role in encouraging and fostering the unrest in Hong Kong, the environment just does not look suitable for U.S. companies to take the risk of venturing into a turmoil-hit Hong Kong where US is seen as part of the problem.

 

Sanjay Bhai Kothari of KGK Diamonds says, "The organisers of the fair appear confident that the fair  would be organised and there is still a month to go — the situation may improve. We are keeping our fingers crossed,  but the biggest concern is whether the U.S. will participate or not. If the U.S. companies decide to give it a miss, many European countries may as well follow suit, and that would seriously jeopardise the prospect of holding the fair on a meaningful note.

The round of protests in Hong Kong began in early June when the city’s leaders pushed an extradition bill that allowed the residents of Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China. The protest which began on a small note soon turned into a huge pro-democracy movement, with fears now being expressed that the Chinese military might intervene to bring the situation under control. The sudden breakdown of law and order and the rise of a violent public unrest have already had its adverse effects on the June (25-28) Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair.

Those who participated in the June fair talked about empty halls and elusive footfalls, after the first day of the fair when things looked perfectly normal. Looking at the sluggish business environment, traders were willing to offer discounts on their goods but there were simply no customers, they said. Around that time, Hong Kong protestors were targeting railway stations that linked Hong Kong to mainland China. More recently, over 5,000 protestors entered the Hong Kong airport last week and stayed put for four days, forcing the airport authorities to completely shut down the one of the world's busiest airports.

As participating in the trade show requires a lot of logistical planning for both men and goods, protestors laying siege to the airport brings up a very scary scenario. "The roads are empty and there are no Chinese tourists obviously. The show will definitely take place as UBM will not take a loss by reimbursing. It is still a good month away so things should become better by then," said Harsh Jakotia from Kunming Trading Co. Those who think that the situation would turn normal around the time when the fair is to be organised believe that a majority of the protestors are youth and school students. Once the schools reopen sometimes next week, the crowd at the raging protests would fizzle out. But those who foresee more trouble are apprehensive of a military crackdown on the protestors that may further undermine the chances of holding the September Hong Kong show.

Though business activities have been badly hit in the past three months since the agitation has turned more serious, exports to Kong Hong does not seem to have taken any serious beating. Harsh Arora of BVC logistics says, "There has not been any noticeable impact on the exports so far. But if the unrest continues for a long while, like other business activities, even foreign trade will suffer. With regards to the September Hong Kong show, the actual footfall is the real concern. The organisers have emphasised that the fair will be held as per schedule, but in view of the unrest one cannot expect normal footfall."

There are a growing number of businessmen and expatriates who are voicing concerns over declining business, which has hit an all-time low in recent weeks. They fear the situation might further deteriorate, compelling the Chinese authorities to deploy military and use force against the protestors. All this would certainly not do any good to the business-friendly image of Hong Kong, much less to the gem and jewellery sector and the upcoming September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, where 70 per cent of the buyers are foreigners. Traders based out of China are increasingly expressing doubts whether foreign buyers and visitors would take a chance to visit Hong Kong in the middle of the ongoing unrest. Most dealers and traders seem to be of the opinion that if the September Hong Kong fair is not put off altogether, there would be much fewer exhibitors and visitors at the show this year.

The fair would be organised from September 16-20 at AsiaWorld Expo Hong Kong and from September 18-22 at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. More than 3,700 exhibitors will participate while over 40,000 visitors are expected to attend this highly influential event.

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