China Trade Shows Part 1: Visit China Suppliers in Hong Kong

By Peter Zapf
VP Community Development, Global sources

Buying Product Direct from China

Sooner or later businesses looking to grow their sales, whether online or offline, start thinking about sourcing products from China suppliers. The access to a wider range of products with a wider range of price points is often valuable in extending a business’ product range. But how do you find these China suppliers? You have several choices:

  • You can deal with China suppliers via email, which avoids having to travel to China, but makes it more difficult to learn about different suppliers’ capabilities and which ones will best meet your needs.
  • You can find suppliers and visit them one at a time at their offices or factories, but this can get expensive and time consuming. The cost of flights to China will add up, and moving around from city to city while dealing with the language barrier is not an easy task.
  • Or, you can meet suppliers at a China trade show dedicated to bring together global buyers with suppliers from China and Asia.

Visiting a trade show has a lot of advantages; even more so because many of them are held in Hong Kong, which still combines the best of both China and the western world. The China Sourcing Fairs are hosted by Global Sources; Global Sources also has an online directory of China suppliers (with verified suppliers who have been physically visited 3 or more times) and the Global Sources Direct online wholesale shopping site good for folks with less import experience.

Visiting Hong Kong for a trade show – how difficult is it?

The world’s buyers have been flocking to Hong Kong for decades to find suppliers of products that they need for their business. Why? Because Hong Kong really is a modern, world class city.

Having been a British colony for the better part of a century (until 1997), English continues to be commonly used. The vast majority of people speak English, and most directional signage is also in English. The language barrier is non-existent at best, minimal at worst. Also, Hong Kong maintains the western legal system it had prior to the handover to China, giving it a strong rule of law.

An airline ticket from the U.S. will likely cost close to US$1,500 for round trip economy airfare. When you arrive, the airport itself is modern, efficient and world-class. It’s got 60+ gates, most of which are filled with big Boeing 747s. It also has free Wi-Fi, good restaurants and lots of shopping in case you need to spend some time there. The airport is one of the busiest in Asia and acts as a hub for much of Southeast Asia.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better variety of food anywhere. If you need western food, you can find everything from Ruth’s Chris steakhouse to McDonalds. Of course, you’ll really want to try the Chinese food (which is far better than what passes for Chinese food in most U.S. Chinese restaurants) or any of the other international cuisine available, including Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Middle Eastern and Italian, to name a few.

Hotels in Hong Kong are first-rate, although getting more and more expensive – you’ll probably pay between US$100 and $200 per night, although you can find both more expensive and cheaper. Think of getting a hotel room in a city like New York, and the prices will be somewhat comparable. Shop around and book early in order to get a room – trade show season (October and April) is very busy, hotels fill up quickly and charge premium rates.

You don’t need a rental car – public transportation is very good, among the best in the world. Taxis, the subway and public buses can get you everywhere you want to go. For example, from the airport you can take a taxi, bus or subway (Airport Express) to get to your hotel, all very clean and modern.

Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong Dollar, which has an exchange rate of about US$1 = HK$7.75. The currency is freely convertible, so you can exchange at the airport or in any of the small foreign exchange shops. You don’t need to bring much cash with you. Credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted and the widely prevalent ATM machines interface with virtually all overseas ATM networks. Do check how much your bank will charge you for an international withdrawal though.

There is quite a lot to see while off work. Some favorites include a visit to the old Chinese temples, a ride on the peak tram and the Star Ferry both of which provide great city views, or walking through the interesting museums including the Museum of Art and History and the Museum of Science and Space. For nature lovers, a hike on the outlying islands or in the New Territories provides an opportunity to get away from the big city.

U.S. citizens don’t need a Visa to enter Hong Kong, just your passport. If you do plan on visiting factories or other tradeshows in mainland China, you will need to get a Visa to enter mainland China.

Because of all of this, Hong Kong has become a gateway between the east and west. Because it’s so easy for everyone to travel and meet in Hong Kong, the city has become a primary host of trade shows with China Suppliers.

So, getting to Hong Kong is easy and a great experience…Part 2 will cover what you can expect to find when you attend one of the China Sourcing Fairs, held every April and October including the types of questions you can be asking suppliers. If you can’t wait and need to find suppliers before attending the show you can use the Global Sources web site to find verified China suppliers. If you are new to importing, check with the U.S. Customs website. Information for importing into other countries is available under “customs web sites” on the World Customs Organization site.