A colorful lion dance led off the opening ceremonies of the Annual Convention and Asia-Pacific Trade Mission of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) in Hong Kong, only the third time the 84-year-old IACVB has met outside North America.

The dance was meant to bring good fortune to those convening July 19 to 22. More significant, however, was the fact that only 20 days earlier the British colony of Hong Kong reverted to its original sovereign--China--in ceremonies that took place in the very same building, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. IACVB was the first U.S.- based hospitality association to meet in Hong Kong after the changeover.

At the opening ceremonies, Mike Wilson, chairman of IACVB and president of the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitor Bureau, spoke of the historic occasion and the chance for CVBs to experience the "global diversity of its membership."

Amy Chan, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA), welcomed attendees and remarked on the auspiciousness of the occasion. Chan was the driving force behind the Asia-Pacific Trade Mission, which brought 100 travel buyers from the region to meet with bureau executives on the last day of their meeting.

But it was The Honourable Sir Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen, OBE, JP, financial secretary, the last Hong Kong official to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II before the handover, that IACVB attendees and 40 members of the Asian press came to hear. He reassured them that the Chinese government intended to maintain the status quo in Hong Kong.

"There is full support of government in tourism activities," Tsang said amid photographers' flashes. "There may be prophets of doom and gloom who predict Hong Kong's star will fade. But I earnestly believe such predictions are ill-founded, over-simplistic."

He said that Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the "one country, two systems principle," adding that China's president and its premier "stressed in one voice their determination to see Hong Kong flourish and to take on an even more important role as China's window on the world and the world's window on China."

Tsang said Hong Kong's law and currency had not changed, that government would remain corruption-free, the streets safe, and that freedom of the press "was second to none." He concluded, "Come back next year, in five years, or ten years. You will find Hong Kong's star shining bigger, brighter, and better than before."

Around 140 convention and visitor bureau delegates, with guests, speakers, staff, and sponsors bringing the number to about 275, attended the annual convention.

The IACVB delegates traveled to Macau on the second day, a mere one-hour trip by jet foil, for a joint meeting with the Asian Association of CVBs (see page 17).

The HKTA also arranged dazzling eve- ning events, including a harbor cruise and dinner at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.

Hong Kong: Open for Business Chan said at the opening ceremonies that Hong Kong is at the forefront of an Asian economic boom. She pointed to the doubling of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (now 2.67 million square feet); the construction of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok, which will be able to handle 35 million passengers a year when it opens in 1998; and 45,000 new hotel rooms by the year 2000 as signs of Hong Kong's continued economic viability. In addition, an international exposition center has been proposed to open in 2001 or 2002.

"We've enjoyed more than our fair share of publicity," added Ellen Kwan, general manager, tourism and convention marketing, HKTA, in a separate interview. But Kwan pointed out that handling the massive media coverage and troupes of dignitaries and tourists during the changeover was good experience for the island's hospitality community.

AACVB Establishes Web Site The ten member countries of the AACVB--China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand--met for their annual convocation in Macau at the Tourism Activities Centre starting on July 17.

The AACVB enacted a five-year business plan, which calls for a permanent secretariat to be established by 1999. Currently, the secretariat is housed at the Macau Government Tourism Office. Full-time, fully funded management will enable the organization, created to promote, sell, and service meetings and incentives to and in Asia, to prove tourism's economic viability to the region.

AACVB endorses education courses put on by the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, and will publish a master list of training courses at its new Web site, www.aacvb.org.

IACVB Head Jordan Resigns Delegates returned home from the IACVB meeting to find that Karen Jordan, president and CEO of IACVB, was resigning, stating that "it became too difficult to carry on a 1,200-mile relationship," referring to family in Texas. Jordan will remain head of the association until a replacement can be found. A search committee has been formed--Betsy Bair

Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) has taken the first step toward updating its qualification criteria, fulfilling a pledge made a year ago by MDRT President John Cruikshank. For the first time, agents will earn membership credits for "nontraditional products"--for example, long-term care, mutual funds, group and individual health insurance, and (for international qualifiers) retirement products. When incorporated into the MDRT by-laws, agents will be able to earn up to 40 percent of their membership credits with sales of these products.

Cruikshank also plans to implement MDRT qualifications based on customer service and professional excellence measures, but those changes are still under discussion and are unlikely to be rolled out for several years.

Use the knowledge and motivation of MDRT meetings--even if you can't attend. MDRT is now releasing educational and motivational manuscripts of speeches delivered at its annual meeting--on floppy diskettes. The two-disk set is $62.50 for nonmembers. Also available from MDRT: the proceedings of annual meetings from 1988 through 1996 on CD-ROM. Call (847) 692-6378 for information or to order.

The Insurance Broadcast System (IBS)--two dedicated television networks aimed at the life-health and property-casualty insurers--debuted in June. The Life-Health Network and the Property- Casualty Network will broadcast half-hour shows two days a week, repeated three times a day, and feature live, daily industry news broadcasts and taped interviews. Subscribers pay $1,000 for installation, then $595 per month. IBS is based in Los Angeles.