In the face of zero international trade events, the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) is renewing its call to the government to reassess pandemic measures and repurpose an industry scheme — or risk massive industry closure.
They are referring to the Government's Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme, which was recently extended by six months to 30 June, 2022.
The first part of the scheme subsidises 50% of participation fees for exhibitors at events organised by HKTDC, capped at HK$10,000 (US$1,288) per standard booth and 10 booths per exhibitor each time. The second component, applicable to organisers of exhibitions and conventions held at the HKCEC, covers 100% of the venue rental without a cap.
HK$620 million out of the HK$1,020 million Subsidy Scheme under the HKSAR Anti-epidemic Fund subsidises private organisers of exhibitions and international conventions held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo 100% of the venue rental.
However, as of 30 June 2021, the scheme has only doled out HK$97.38 million to 42 exhibitions.
This is since local organisers of international trade fairs and conferences face difficulties in recruiting overseas exhibitors and buyers — a large part due to ongoing travel restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirements.
Many events have been cancelled or postponed to 2022, which automatically nixes local organisers' qualification rights for the scheme immediately.
HKECIA Chairman Stuart Bailey stated, “The convention and exhibition industry has been in deep water since February 2020... only small-scale consumer exhibitions resumed. The Subsidy Scheme, however, is only able to assist the convention and exhibition sector once it is practicable for events to resume, a point which trade fair organisers have yet to reach."
HKECIA is thus urging authorities to repurpose these funds, and to also develop a roadmap towards relaxing compulsory quarantine requirements for qualified business travellers — or risk 45% of industry players closing down in 12 months.
A recent HKECIA survey, conducted from 2-13 August among 60 members, highlighted:
From organisers, some 136 exhibitions and conferences have been cancelled or postponed since February 2020. These could have drawn in more than 4.8 million visitors
37% of event organisers and 29% of non-event organisers project a loss of more than HK$50 million in 2021
100% of respondents agree quarantine-free travel is vital for overseas attendees to return
75% of organisers say they will move their international events to other destinations if Hong Kong's travel restrictions are not removed by end 2021
Just 45% of all respondents say they can survive for 12 months of less, if borders remain closed or if no financial assistance arrives by end 2021
More than half (55%) claimed they did not benefit from the government's subsidy scheme
The survey comprised event organisers (36%) and non-organisers (64%) including contractors, freight forwarders, travel agents, AV equipment suppliers, and design houses.