Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2008 in Hong Kong saw an 28.8% increase in professional visitors on 2006 figures, exhibition statistics have shown.

The annual exhibition, attended by buyers, importers and distributors, alongside the international press and wine experts saw 45% of the attendees come from Hong Kong and Macao, while 55% came from 19 other Asian-Pacific countries.

According to the IWSR study, continental China (2,254) led with twice as many visitors as in 2006, followed by Korea (657), Taiwan (438), Japan (209), Singapore (203), Australia (175), Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and other countries in the region.

Exhibition organisers believe the strong interest generated by the exhibition confirms the energy that exists in the Asian market, which is a consequence of the growing attraction of consumers towards wine and spirits.

"All the exhibitors reported noticing marked progress over the past few years in the knowledge and appreciation of the products. We are convinced that this contributes to the development of the wine and spirits industry in the region by stimulating consumption," said Dominique Hériard Dubreuil, president of Vinexpo overseas.

Around 692 exhibitors from 32 countries presented at the event in Asia-Pacific with approximately 70,000 bottles available for tasting.

According to the study, Asia's wine market will grow the fastest in the next five years, achieving 8% annual growth compared to a world average of 1%. Retail sales of still wines in Asia in 2006 amounted to US$4.753bn and should increase by 33.9% between now and 2011.