A colorful lion dance kicked off the annual convention of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB), July 19 to 22 in Hong Kong--only the third time the 84-year-old IACVB has met outside North America.

Just 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 group to meet in Hong Kong after the changeover. About 140 CVB delegates attended.

The Honourable Sir Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen, OBE, JP, financial secretary, Hong Kong, reassured IACVB attendees and the 40 members of the Asian press in the audience that the China 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, oversimplistic."

Also speaking at the opening ceremonies was Amy Chan, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA), and 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. The delegates also traveled to Macau on the second day, a one-hour trip by jet foil, for a joint meeting with the Asian Association of CVBs. Chan said 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 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 economic vitality. An international exposition center to open in 2001 or 2002 has also been proposed.

"We've enjoyed more than our fair share of publicity," added Ellen Kwan, general manager, tourism & convention marketing, HKTA, in a separate interview. Kwan added that handling the massive media coverage and troops of dignitaries and tourists during the changeover was good experience for the island's hospitality community. The summer months and late December through early March are traditionally slow periods in Hong Kong. "But," Kwan stressed, "there are rooms to be had year-round, even in the short term." Hotel occupancy has dipped since the changeover, and reportedly hotel rates as well.

In other IACVB news, the search continues for a replacement for Karen Jordan, president and CEO of IACVB, who resigned, stating that "it became too difficult to carry on a 1,200-mile relationship," referring to the distance separating the IACVB office and her family in Texas. Jordan will stay with the association until a replacement can be found. Charles Ahlers, IACVB secretary and president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitors & Convention Bureau, chairs the search committee.