It's been a tough year for the tourism trade everywhere but in Hong Kong at least, it seems things are taking a turn for the better.

And the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is expecting big things over the remainder of 2009 too with the inaugural three-day Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com) leading the way October 30 - November 1.

Visitor numbers have already risen 12 percent this month, year on year, thanks mainly to China's extended, eight-day National Day holidays and the HKTB is still predicting 29 million visitors for the year, down 1.6 from last year.

Numbers had fallen by as much as 15 percent in previous months but "hopefully we can catch up and achieve our original full-year prediction,'' HKTB chairman James Tien told reporters this week.

The hope is that the lure of food and wine will play its part. Hong Kong has established itself as the world's second largest market (behind New York) for the sales of fine wines since all wine duties were abolished early in 2008 and the HKTB has been quick to jump on this bandwagon.

There are a series of food- and wine-related "Spotlight Events'' coming up over the next month, in an effort to boost the city's image as a gourmet's paradise.

First up is the Wine and Dine Festival, which will be held at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade right on Victoria Harbour and will boast 150 exhibition booths.

"Not only can participants taste approximately 300 brands of wines from 15 "old world" and "new world" countries, as well as over 150 local food items, but they can also enjoy Hong Kong's first-ever, outdoor 3D multimedia show, a large-scale art installation by local artists, and an array of live performances with different themes,'' Tien said in a press release.

Next on Hong Kong's agenda will be two food- and wine-themed carnivals in the city's downtown entertainment districts -- Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo -- over November 6-8, while the HKTB is sponsoring a series of food and wine tours from now until the end of the year, led by local food and wine critics and taking in some of the city's various dining districts, including Tsim Sha Tsui, and some of the cellars which have sprung up over the past 12 months.

For full details of all events, go to http://www.discoverhongkong.com

MS

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