During the trip he also met with a number of travel agencies to try and convince them to include the three counties on their tours. He said Far East visitors to the eastern United States often visit New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlantic City, N.J., but the Panhandle provides opportunities in retail sales, resorts and eco-tourism, or "back to nature," Unger explained. The outlet malls provide visitors a chance to shop for name-brand American goods at low prices and without high import duties.
"I was impressed with how much everything American is loved in Hong Kong," said Mary Lou Trump, the council's vice president. She had visited there during the transition and said there was plenty of evidence of American culture, particularly among young people.
Unger also reported that the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is interested in doing a market study of the region that would identify local companies suitable for joint ventures or trade with Hong Kong and China. During the trip he also made contacts with more than 60 businesses in Hong Kong and the Philippines, trying foster relationships between them and West Virginia companies.
Hong Kong's International Trade Resource Center has also agreed to begin trading information with the council's resource center, which has facilities at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library and the library at Shepherd College.
Some members of the council expressed concern over the stability of Hong Kong in the aftermath of the takeover. "As far as business relations go, they have a very high level of autonomy," Unger assured them.
"If they violate the agreements, it would complicate the Taiwan issue," added council member Clarence E. "CEM" Martin III. If China violated the terms of the takeover agreement, it would be a setback in its efforts to bring the former province back under its dominion.
Formed at the beginning of the year by the economic development authorities of the Eastern Panhandle, the WVITDC hosted its first trade delegation in February. The group was composed of dairy industry executives from Russia and the former Soviet republics.
Thursday it will host another delegation from Russia. This time executives from fruit-growing and processing companies will be touring orchards and supermarkets in the Panhandle.