HONG KONG — The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) is urging the government to provide more support to help the exhibition and convention industry following a recent survey that revealed a vast majority of members have experienced 'extremely severe' business losses due to Covid-19.
On 11 August, HKECIA chairman Stuart Bailey presented the survey findings to senior government officials and asked representatives of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to provide immediate financial and policy support in addition to the current HKSAR Anti-epidemic Fund subsidy scheme.
Ninety-one per cent of survey respondents stated the existing subsidy scheme — which only subsidises participants and organisers after an event has taken place — is insufficient, and does not go far enough in ensuring the future of the MICE supply chain. Event organisers who responded to the survey also stated that, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and travel restrictions, it is "impossible" to move forward with exhibitor recruitment and overseas buyer promotion.
“Only four small-scale consumer exhibitions took place from February to July. All other exhibitions and conventions scheduled to take place have not been held," Bailey said. "No event being held means that there has been zero cash generated by organisers, venues, and suppliers to the industry.
"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 we have yet to reach. We urge the government to provide immediate and additional financial assistance for event organisers and event related service providers."
He added: “Apart from immediate financial assistance, we seek clarity from the government on matters relating to travel restrictions, and to demand much greater transparency around the reviews of the compulsory quarantine arrangements for countries / regions that have a good record against the pandemic.”
From the 18 organiser respondents, 52 exhibitions and conferences have been cancelled or postponed and these events expected to draw over 54,000 exhibiting companies and over 3.4 million of visitors. Ninety-eight per cent of respondents claim that the impact of COVID-19 on their business is either severe or extremely severe. Eight-nine per cent of organisers and 59% of suppliers project it will take more than 12 months for their business to recover. All organisers project a loss of revenue in year 2020 with 36% projecting a loss of more than HK$100 million in 2020.
Challenges and solutions
According to the survey, top challenges faced by event professionals in Hong Kong include loss of business incurred by postponement or cancellation of events, lower market demand, and uncertainty due to government’s policy, e.g. social distancing, immigration control, compulsory quarantine regulation.
HKECIA members also expressed that concrete government policy support is crucial to the industry's revival and suggested the following measures:
- Exercise greater flexibility for the compulsory quarantine regulations imposed on foreign business travellers if they come with valid health document. For instance, if travelers are tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before their flights to Hong Kong, they can enter and stay in HK for maximum seven days without compulsory quarantine.
- Speed up the formation of “travel bubbles” with countries and regions with few Covid-19 cases.
- Extend the Scheme period from 12 to 24 months as some organisers project the industry will need more than 12 months to recover, and offer support to service providers within the MICE supply chain.
- Provide office and warehouse rental subsidies.