Hong Kong International Airport sits on an island of reclaimed land in the South China Sea. 

Building a third runway is key for Hong Kong International Airport to keep its edge in Asia as upstart challengers contend more and more fiercely for regional airport preeminence, the Chinese city’s top U.S. official told Global Atlanta

“Of course we are very conscious of the competition posed by the very new airports like in Korea, like Singapore, like even Bangkok … and we are benchmarking them more than the New York airports,” said Clement Leung, commissioner of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington

Mr. Leung was making light of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments praising Hong Kong’s airport as “modern” in contrast to what he called “third-world” conditions at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

Hong Kong’s airport is doubling down on its long-time global edge in cargo, with Cathay Pacific last week opening a $760 million facility that can process 2.6 million tons of goods annually. 

On the passenger side, the airport is set to reach capacity by 2023, bringing about the need for a third runway as tens of millions of tourists continue to flock to Hong Kong from mainland China. Sitting on a manmade island, the airport also is reclaiming more land for new terminal space, Mr. Leung said.

These improvements complement coming moves to further entwine Hong Kong with the mainland, including the 31-mile Zhuhai bridge and the extension of China’s high-speed rail system to Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong airport’s proximity to China and access to half the world’s population within a three-hour flight are its differentiators, Mr. Leung said during a visit to Atlanta. 

Incheon airport, just outside of the Korean capital of Seoul, has been telling the same story around the world. Korean Air Lines officials visiting Atlanta last year played up their one-stop connections from here to 45 cities in China, along with the airport’s various amenities, including an ice-skating rink, movie screenings and countless duty-free shops. 

Mr. Leung, who recently arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong, visited Atlanta on a tour of the U.S. He presided over the annual Hong Kong Chinese New Year celebration, held for the second year in a row at the Carter Center. Before arriving in the U.S., he served as head of food and environmental hygiene in Hong Kong from 2010-14. 

The event was once again organized by Gene Hanratty, the local representative of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York. 

Anita Chan, who visited Georgia frequently in the last four years as director of that office, announced in an email after the event that she would retire from government service. 

Georgia’s exports to Hong Kong declined from $746 million in 2012 to $650 million in 2013, but it was still the No. 14 market overall for the state’s merchandise. 

For more on Hong Kong airport expansion, click here

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...