. Back and forth: Hong Kong's MICE rebound takes another hit | Meetings & Conventions Asia

Back and forth: Hong Kong's MICE rebound takes another hit

Ongoing uncertainty makes for a challenging 2021 outlook, but DMCs shed light on booking trends and potential path towards recovery.

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A preference for online events looks to remain a trend in Hong Kong as restrictions and quarantine measures are tightened. Photo Credit:Getty Images/Diversity Studio

The fourth Covid-19 wave continues in Hong Kong with a recent two-week extension to restrictions, an extension on quarantine (21 days now required for all visitors outside China), and flights from high risk destinations remaining cancelled.

There is also speculation that restrictions may remain in place until at least the end of February to manage potential virus spread during Chinese New Year, which falls on 12 February.

This uncertainty makes for a challenging 2021 outlook for the SAR's MICE industry, especially for destination management companies (DMCs).

“The pandemic has certainly had a serious impact on the industry in terms of sales and revenue. It is zero income for most DMC and MICE organisers since February 2020. Corporates and organisers are hesitant to book or even seek quotes with everyone waiting to see how the situation develops,” said Michael Mou, general manager for Destination Asia (Hong Kong).

Dr Laurie Lau, director, Momentous Asia Travel and Events Co Ltd, agreed. “Virtually everything has come to a stop. Most planned MICE activities have been postponed or cancelled and if still going ahead have migrated online.”

Mou added, “The only positive sign is that there are a few enquiries for virtual activities from overseas organisers, however the revenue is just too small to support the overhead".

A preference for virtual events looks to remain a trend. “We have a client with a planned conference for Hong Kong that has now migrated to online. The client was not confident that Covid-19 would be over in 2021,” said Lau.

Still, these industry professionals see light at the end of the tunnel.

“With vaccination programmes already under way in places like the USA and the UK, we expect business will gradually resume by Q2-3 and some previously confirmed MICE groups may return in Q4 this year,” said Mou.

Lau's take is that, “improvement is unlikely before the third quarter of 2021, when vaccination will be implemented in most countries”.

It may not be until 2022 that the industry truly bounces back.

For Destination Asia, the DMC is expecting two previously confirmed MICE groups to return this October and November. However, most enquiries and proposals are still looking at 2022.

And when it does resume, Mou expects certain changes. “Travel patterns will change as travellers are more concerned about safety and will prefer single or twin destinations rather than multi.”

Both agree that running costs will be higher. This includes following required social distancing measures such as smaller group sizes, sanitisation tools, and flexible cancellation terms.