Hong Kong businesses said they are ready to capitalise on growing opportunities in the Middle East for a greater presence there.
Chief Executive John Lee will on Saturday lead a delegation of officials and business representatives to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to strengthen trade ties, and officials and economists believe local firms could tap into potentials in the region.
Nicholas Ho is chairman of Ho & Partners Architects and a member of the delegation.
His firm took up private property projects in the United Arab Emirates in 2004, but its foray into the market ended when the financial tsunami hit in 2008.
Ho said his business is ready to venture into the region again thanks to new opportunities there, such as attempts to diversify their economies and develop non-oil sectors like green technologies.
"I think that fits perfectly with Hong Kong because we have the whole green ecosystem ready and established since five years ago, with not just the green finance platform and ecosystem, but also the green professionals and the green technologies," the award-winning architect said.
Ho said he's seeking to sign a memorandum of understanding with a state-owned oil company in the UAE, for potential collaboration that involves smart city planning and carbon-neutral technologies.
David Sit, an assistant principal economist with the Trade Development Council, says mega infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia – such as a smart city with a linear, shiny exterior called Neom City – will offer plenty of opportunities for Hong Kong companies in construction and other industries.
He also cited Project Red Sea, under which Saudi Arabia aims to develop a belt along the Red Sea coast for tourism. It's a massive scheme covering various areas such as construction, tourism and hospitality services.
Sit said for Hong Kong businesses to be successful, they must do their homework and get to know the Middle East before expanding into the region. And they should not be deterred by cultural differences.
He added that the Dubai office of the Trade Development Council has been highlighting the latest opportunities the SAR has to offer, and some firms are interested in breaking into Hong Kong, with the Greater Bay Area as their next target.