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Telecoms fair cuts Geneva connection

Keystone

The city of Geneva has suffered a harsh blow with the news that the International Telecommunications Union is planning to move its next Telecom World event in 2006 to Hong Kong.

This content was published on March 31, 2004 - 12:45

The ITU cited a number of reasons for the move, among them costs, organisational problems and the importance of Asian markets.

Since the first Telecom World fair in 1971, Geneva has always played host to the event, which is held every four years. The authorities reckon it has brought in a total of about SFr600 million ($470 million) in extra revenues.

Geneva cantonal official Carlo Lamprecht told Swiss television that if the event goes to Hong Kong, Geneva could stand to lose some SFr100 million.

“I do not think that we should give in. We should take advantage of this harsh blow, this defeat, to make a fresh start,” Lamprecht said.

“Our region has some extraordinary advantages and we have to know how to sell them,” he added.

However, he pointed the finger at public authorities for ignoring appeals for funding for strategic investments.

The last Telecom World event in Geneva - held in 2003 rather than 2002 - attracted some 100,000 visitors.

Market opportunity

The ITU said in a statement on Tuesday that its board had recommended that final negotiations be conducted with Hong Kong. Geneva had been the other leading candidate of the five cities that had put in a bid, it said.

The union said ITU secretary-general, Yoshio Utsumi, would head the talks on achieving the most favourable terms and conditions - particularly financial terms - adding that these were not yet “sufficiently attractive”.

But it added that if the negotiations were not fruitful, a decision could be made to stay in Geneva. The final decision rests with the secretary-general.

The ITU said preference was given to Hong Kong because of the “enormous market opportunity” represented by Asia and by China in particular.

It cited the overall costs to exhibitors, including stand rental rates and hotel costs, which were considered to be lower in Hong Kong.

Other factors for change included the need to send a signal to the industry of the willingness of the ITU to listen to its customers and to change, and the wish to rotate events.

Not surprised

A spokesman for the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, Roberto Rivola, told swissinfo that he was not surprised that Hong Kong was the number one choice.

“Asia had the most amount of floor space at Telecom 2003. The Asian market is extremely attractive,” he said.

Rivola said the telecommunications market there was opening and developing rapidly, particularly in China.

“The European and American markets, however, are saturated. There’s not much room for manoeuvre,” he said.

Rivola said the move away from Geneva could cause an image problem for the city as a centre for international events.

“It could be bad for Geneva. But it is true, Geneva is too expensive,” he said.

Other cities that had bid to host the tenth World Telecom fair included Milan, Istanbul and Algiers.

swissinfo

Key facts

In 2003 Telecom World attracted 115,000 visitors down from 200,000 in 1999.
About 900 exhibitors from 50 countries were present.
Canton Geneva has pulled in about SFr600 million in revenues from the event.

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