HK-SG travel bubble: How do event regulations differ?

In anticipation of the HK-SG travel bubble, we highlight the limitations and safety measures for meetings in Asia's respective business hubs. 

As the Covid situation stabilises in Hong Kong, the rising number of cases in Singapore casts a doubt on the two cities' upcoming travel bubble, set for 26 May.
As the Covid situation stabilises in Hong Kong, the rising number of cases in Singapore casts a doubt on the two cities' upcoming travel bubble, set for 26 May. Photo Credit:Getty Images/estherpoon, fazon1

With the ongoing pandemic, governments on both sides have compiled stringent health and safety regulations to plan and attend events. So how do the cities compare?

The latest Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble is set to take off on 26 May 2021, so here's what event planners on either side of the bubble need to know.

Capacity limits

In Singapore, Safe Management Measures (SMMs) remain strict and vigilant. Following recent spike in cases, temporary restrictions have been put in place until 31 May. This includes limiting capacity of MICE pilot events to 250 pax (down from 750), and mandating on-site Covid testing for events with more than 100 pax. However, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is encouraging planners to continue submitting applications for larger events on or after 31 May 2021.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, event size is determined by venue capacity rather than a maximum number of people. “Maximum capacity for MICE events in Hong Kong varies depending on the nature of the event,” said a spokesperson of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). “For exhibitions, it's a maximum 75% of the original hall capacity”.

Application process

For any MICE events with over 50 pax, planners must apply to STB and the Ministry of Health outlining how they will abide by the rules before they can go ahead with the event.

Interestingly, in Hong Kong, the application process for relevant government licenses — such as the Temporary Places of Public Entertainment Licence — remains unchanged since pre-pandemic times. “There are, however, additional requirements for exhibition organisers who plan to apply for the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (“CEISS”) launched by the HKSAR government,” said the HKCEC spokesperson.

As for corporate meetings, no permit or approval is required to book, as long as the capacity doesn’t exceed the 50% occupancy limit.

The HKCEC has hosted 13 public exhibitions and auctions since January this year,
The HKCEC has hosted 13 public exhibitions and auctions since January this year, Photo Credit: Facebook/HKCEC

Contact tracing

“For exhibitions and international conferences at HKCEC, organisers must ensure all visitors and conference delegates scan the 'LeaveHomeSafe' QR code or register their contact details before admission,” said the spokesperson.

Similarly in Singapore, attendees must use the TraceTogether app or TraceTogether wearable device to scan 'SafeEntry' QR codes at all venues.

Covid testing

In Hong Kong, a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for Covid-19 is mandated by the government for all staff involved in exhibition operation if they apply for the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (CEISS) — this includes catering and restaurant staff. 

As of now, vaccinations for MICE attendees or staff is not mandatory, although the government recently implemented a ‘vaccine bubble’ premise for bars in the city. “They are also required to arrange for all staff (including employees of the organising company, contractors, exhibitor staff and venue staff etcetera) involved in the operation on show open days to undergo a PCR nucleic acid test within 14 days before the last show day and present negative results before being admitted to the event venues,” said HKCEC. 

In Singapore, any MICE event pilots of more than 100 participants at a time must undergo mandatory Pre-Event Testing (PET) for all local and foreign participants, except for exempted individuals. All participants at events in both cities must maintain social distancing to prevailing regulations.

Health and safety on-site

A set of “Advice on prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) for organisers to hold events at the HKCEC” is available on the official website with password protection. “This guideline advises event planners to take precautionary measures to minimise the risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19”, said HKCEC. This includes preparation of comprehensive risk assessment and contingency plan, design of social distancing physical layout and logistics, set up of isolation room for participants who present symptoms while waiting for medical help and etcetera.

Hong Kong subsidy spotlight — CEISS

Applicants of the Convention and Exhibition Subsidy Scheme (CEISS) provided by the Hong Kong Government have slightly stricter anti-epidemic measures but allows free venue rental support. The scheme was designed to support the gradual resumption of business events and strengthen the city’s reputation as a premier convention and exhibition hub.

“They are required to comply with health and anti-epidemic measures stipulated in the guidelines for convention and exhibition (C&E) activities prepared by the venue operators,” a HKTB spokesperson told M&C Asia.

“Venue operators and organisers shall assign staff to monitor and control visitor traffic, in order to avoid excessive visitors gathering at particular exhibition booths; and if a person confirmed to be contracted with Covid-19 visited the C&E event, venue operators and organisers shall follow the advice of the Centre for Health Protection to adopt health precautionary measures."

As well, the number of visitors must not exceed 50% of the premise capacity, and all visitors must use the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ app to scan their attendance.

Singapore is expecting to host the Shangri-La Dialogue in June, which will see US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin in attendance.
Singapore is expecting to host the Shangri-La Dialogue in June, which will see US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin in attendance.

The show must go on

A total of 13 public exhibitions and auctions have taken place at the HKCEC since January this year, including 28 April's HKTDC Lifestyle ShoppingFest. More events are slated including May's Art Basel, "proving that industry players are ready to welcome back international visitors," said the centre spokesperson.

With the pandemic gradually stabilising in Hong Kong, a HKTB spokesperson said that the city "has begun an orderly relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, while encouraging vaccinations and remaining vigilant with infection control measures and contact tracing.

“As the current social distancing measures or vaccination requirement varies depends on the nature of gatherings, the HKSAR government would continue to exercise flexibility on measures relaxation based on the latest Covid situation.”

As for Singapore, upcoming events include Asia Tech X Singapore – which includes Broadcast Asia 2021, CommunicAsia 2021 and SatelliteAsia 2021 — all set for July. The Shangri-La Dialogue is slated for June.

However, event professionals in Singapore were sent into a tailspin with recent tightened restrictions, following the emergence of several new clusters linked to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Changi Airport.

As of 11 May, 135 confirmed cases are still in hospital, with three in critical condition. During parliament this week, Minister for education, Lawrence Wong, described the situation as being on a "knife's edge" as the country's total cases nears the 61,000 mark.

STB executive director, exhibitions & conferences, Andrew Phua, said: "The safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders such as business event attendees, players in the MICE industry and their employees, as well as our local community, remains our top priority. STB will continue to monitor and review the implementation of safety protocols for MICE events, taking into account the prevailing health situation here and around the world."



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