Bigger, it seems, is most definitely better when it comes to the 39th edition of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, which is aiming to stamp its authority on the Asian arts scene after a HK$14 million (1.3 million euros) injection of funds.

Hong Kong is facing an increasingly tough battle to maintain its relevance in the region, with the likes of the massive Chinese metropolis of Shanghai and more recently the island state of Singapore stealing its thunder in terms of events, attractions and lifestyle, if you'll believe the press and the opinion polls.

And the new funds are the first sign the city is fighting back, following the Hong Kong government's claim that it wants the city to develop into an "arts hub."

The total budget for the February 17-March 27, 2011, event is now HK$97 million (nine million euros) - with the likes of Elvis Costello , the New York City Ballet and the acclaimed theater group Cheek By Jowl set to perform - and organizers are saying they have been told to start building an arts-loving audience before the Hong Kong Government tills the soil on its long-awaited West Kowloon Cultural District, a HK$2 billion (186 million euros) complex that has been on the books for years.

"The government is concerned about whether there will be a big enough audience for the West Kowloon Cultural District,'' the arts festival chairman, Charles Lee Yeh-kwong, told the South China Morning Post. "So they want us as an institution to build an audience.''

As well as international acts, the festival is banking on local talent to make a noise - and to attract the crowds - with the highlight a New Stage Series that will give Hong Kong theater groups a chance to play the city's largest venues.
In recent years Hong Kong has seen a score of major annual events spring up in Asian cities that are seen as its competitors as destinations.

Both Shanghai and Singapore have annual Formula One Grand Prix events, Shanghai is currently hosting the World Expo and Singapore has successfully staged music festivals such SINGFest - all of which have proven to be major tourist drawcards.

Both cities also have their own massive arts festivals - Shanghai's ( is currently under way, while Singapore's ( is held in May-June.

But Hong Kong is hoping to steal their thunder with a program that boasts more than 200 performances from 38 international and 18 local arts groups and performers.