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The world’s most influential computing organisation recently came to Hong Kong to put on its largest Asian event of the year – SIGGRAPH Asia 2011. The Association for Computing Machinery attracted diverse exhibitors and attendees to inspire dialogue, share resources and address challenges in the computer graphics field. Animators, designers, manufacturers, filmmakers, software developers and others converged in Hong Kong for the annual event, which combines a trade show exhibition with a conference.

This year’s instalment of SIGGRAPH Asia drew more than 7,700 visitors from over 50 countries over a four-day period at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Among other programmes, the wide-ranging conference content  featured an art gallery, a computer animation festival, live displays of emerging technologies and the presentation of technical papers examining trends in the digital arena.

SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 attracted more than 120 exhibitors and sponsors to Hong Kong, the most in the event’s four-year history. Increased participation from China underscored the country’s rapidly evolving computer graphics industry.

Once again, Hong Kong demonstrated that it is a pillar of international business growth, with a robust, home-grown computer graphics industry and sophisticated infrastructure support to host large-scale events. Along with Hong Kong’s unbeatable proximity to Mainland China as well as its central location in the flourishing Asia-Pacific region, the city is clearly unsurpassed when it comes to staging conferences and exhibitions.

Fast Facts – SIGGRAPH Asia 2011

1. Organised by the Association for Computing Machinery, one of the foremost educational and scientific societies

2. Attracted 7,734 visitors, a 230 per cent growth since 2008

3. Drew visitors from 53 different countries, a 13 per cent increase from 2010

4. Featured more than 120 exhibitors and sponsors from 16 countries – including Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US

5. Occupied close to 5,000 square metres of exhibition hall space plus conference rooms spanning three floors of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

6. Presented the first-ever Symposium on Apps to promote entrepreneurship and advanced graphic capabilities in mobile devices

7. Organiser website: www.siggraph.org; www.koelnmesse.com.sg

8. Event website: www.siggraph.org/asia 2011

Home-grown Hong Kong industry entices international attendees

The computer graphics field has captured imaginations everywhere, especially in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most technologically advanced cities. People in this thriving metropolis keep current with the latest trends in dynamic industries like computer graphics.

Liu Zhi-qiang, Conference Chair of SIGGRAPH Asia 2011, observed that “Hong Kong has perhaps the most vibrant mobile lifestyle in the world. Many people in Hong Kong are constantly on the move and rely heavily on mobile devices and apps in their daily activities.” Mindful of this reality, SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 showcased computer graphics technology and interactive techniques as its two main themes.

The event was led by Daniel Schmidt, Regional Manager with Koelnmesse Pte Ltd, a large-scale German trade fair and conference organiser whom the Association for Computing Machinery appointed to organize SIGGRAPH Asia. Schmidt cited the city’s vibrant local research community as a major reason for bringing the event to Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong has a strong research community – this is a plus,” noted Schmidt, an event management specialist. “The industry is vibrant with many small studios being set up. Firstly, this is important because a strong local industry and academic landscape is the primary contributor of exhibitors and visitors. Secondly, there is an indirect effect as well: if the local industry and academia are strong, this will attract international participation.”

Schmidt added that eager support from different government agencies is critical and created win-win situations. “The government support we got in Hong Kong was fantastic,” he explained. “The Meetings & Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK) of the Hong Kong Tourism Board helped tremendously to reach out to international visitors and provide a framework for our speakers, attendees and exhibitors to enjoy themselves in Hong Kong.”

He continued, “Take Create HK of the HKSAR Government as another example. They recognise the importance of an event like SIGGRAPH Asia to the industry and research community in Hong Kong and support attendance for those who would otherwise have problems affording it. This helps us as a conference organiser and the local community even more”.

Exhibitors at SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 echoed the favourable impression Hong Kong made. Wendy Wen, vice president of Shanghai Graphic Design Information Company, one of China’s top virtual reality companies, said Hong Kong’s reputation as a media and entertainment hub holds superb business appeal.

“Hong Kong has all the resources for the computer graphics industry,” remarked Wen, whose company chose Hong Kong for its debut appearance at SIGGRAPH Asia. “We want to collaborate with universities in Hong Kong and then we can increase our presence in this industry”. In this sense, the city links local talent to Mainland China and international visitors.

Gateway to the mainland, accessible in various ways

Asked to cite the primary reason for participating in SIGGRAPH Asia 2011, organisers, exhibitors and visitors alike unanimously described Hong Kong as a gateway to Mainland China, bestowing a ripe opportunity to engage with Chinese delegates. Schmidt articulated a sentiment that was on the minds of many of his fellow entrepreneurs and event planners.

“Hong Kong’s proximity to China is important for almost all industries,” Schmidt stated. “Many event organizers still want a well-established stepping stone to explore business in China. If you need a testing ground for how receptive the market in Mainland China is, Hong Kong is a perfect location to start”.

As a ringing endorsement of this perception of Hong Kong, SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 selected the city to launch a program titled Symposium on Apps aimed at promoting both entrepreneurship and the use of advanced graphic capabilities in mobile devices.

Lucrative business deals were certain to follow the Hong Kong-based event. According to the International Data Corporation, a top technology media and research company, the market for mobile applications will exceed US$35 billion in revenues by 2014.

With much of that market propelled by China, Wen of Shanghai GDI had ample proof that Hong Kong enhances business turnover. “When we decided to come to this exhibition, we sent out invitation letters to our customers,” Wen recalled. “At least 300 people told us they would visit. It’s especially easy for our Mainland customers to travel to Hong Kong”.

Apart from being near for Mainland customers, the city’s open-minded culture lures attendees. “Cultural accessibility is important,” admitted Schmidt. “Take food as an example. You can get all different kinds of cuisines in Hong Kong to suit your cultural or dietary needs. This is not the case everywhere. It’s just a small part in the overall mosaic of deciding to attend an event, but it clearly plays a role”.

Such cultural accessibility helped trigger a surge in attendance from Japan, Korea and India – all countries with long ties to Hong Kong that happen also to be growing forces in the industry. Considering the significant networking that transpires in Hong Kong, few would argue with Wen’s conclusion that the city is “a good place to develop high-quality business opportunities”.

Perfect infrastructure to host exhibition and conference

It takes a special city to smoothly accommodate a major trade show simultaneously with a high-powered conference. But that is exactly what Hong Kong excels at time and again, regardless of the event’s theme or scale.

As Schmidt observed when his team prepared three floors of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre for SIGGRAPH Asia 2011: “The infrastructure in Hong Kong is fantastic. The HKCEC is suitable for a combined conference and exhibition. Exhibitors want to attend the conference, and conference attendees want to roam around the exhibition. Everything is just an escalator away.”

Not only does the 91,500 square-metre facility offer endless possibilities for an exhibition and conference, but its location in the heart of Hong Kong Island facing scenic Victoria Harbour is second to none. “It’s very easy to get from the airport to town,” Schmidt remarked. “The convention centre is in an accessible yet beautiful location”.

Another benefit of Hong Kong’s infrastructure for an industry event is the availability of quality event support services from audio-visual companies to  stand construction and decoration to registering  vendors. As Schmidt noted, “In Hong Kong, you don’t have problems finding very high-quality contractors, which is needed to put on a show like this.”

The prevalence of English fluency in the local service industries cannot be overestimated, either, said Schmidt. “Hong Kong is one of the few locations in Asia in which you can easily interact with all your contractors in English.”

This ease and convenience extends to transportation and hotels. With everything from five-star luxury hotels to standard business hotels situated in all corners of the city, excellent lodging options abound.

Richard Hamel, Vice President of sales and marketing at Side Effects Software Inc, an Academy Award-winning animation company, also commended Hong Kong’s superior infrastructure. He brought his team from Canada to mount a booth. “For us to set up in Hong Kong at this trade show was very easy,” recalled a visibly impressed Hamel.

Spirited support guarantees success

Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK), a division of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, provided extensive backing to SIGGRAPH Asia 2011. Through standard marketing channels as well as overseas pre-promotion activities, the MEHK took a consistently active role in ensuring the event’s success.

MEHK and SIGGRAPH Asia staff coordinated closely from the earliest stages of planning, from seeking funding and obtaining quotes to site inspection and day-to-day management of the event. Among the many promotional activities the MEHK used to stoke interest in the SIGGRAPH Asia event, one in particular proved a terrific hit.

The MEHK’s Business Right Here! campaign encompasses a broad range of visitor privileges in Hong Kong such as international flight deals and shopping discounts. The campaign fuelled overseas buyer turnout and was appreciated even more than Schmidt and his fellow organisers anticipated. “We normally don’t get that much feedback,” he revealed, “but this time a lot of people asked about this campaign and how they could participate”.

To top it off, MEHK also made possible a networking cocktail reception  to welcome VIP speakers, exhibitors and buyers of the exhibition. Reflecting on the extraordinary assistance shown to SIGGRAPH Asia, Schmidt stated emphatically, “We really, really appreciate the help we’ve received. The success we had puts Hong Kong in a good position to be considered as a regular hub in SIGGRAPH Asia’s rotation. ”

Fun times seal deal for Hong Kong visitors

Coinciding with the festive December season, event participants found countless fun reasons to extend their stay in Hong Kong beyond the actual exhibition and conference. Always dynamic and long a favourite visitor destination, Hong Kong presents a rich array of opportunities to unwind.

“A lot of people decide to attend not just because of the event but because of the city,” said Schmidt of the enthusiastic response after Hong Kong was named the host. “They’re looking at places to go to for their year-end holiday. Hong Kong has a lot to offer. Many of our attendees are staying for several days after the event”.

Joe Tam, Senior Manager for Greater China in the media and entertainment division of Autodesk Far East Limited, shared an insightful perspective. The 20-year industry veteran and Hong Kong native works at arguably the most prestigious software company in the field. The last 16 Academy Award winners in the Best Visual Effects category used Autodesk’s software.

“Hong Kong is no doubt an international city. Everybody knows about it,” remarked Tam, who mentioned the annual Rugby Sevens tournament as just one leisure outing worth experiencing. He especially recommends eating out in Hong Kong, a cherished pastime of many. “There’s plenty of international cuisine here for every kind of visitor,” said Tam with a knowing smile. “And plenty of great seafood, too!”

In the end, a lively atmosphere and hospitable people make Hong Kong ideal for having fun. With ample stimulation in one’s free time to round out promising work-related opportunities, Hong Kong possesses all the best qualities that get event organisers and attendees raving and coming back for more.

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