. Hong Kong trade industry restarts, with focus on wellness and reconnecting | Meetings & Conventions Asia

Hong Kong trade industry restarts, with focus on wellness and reconnecting

While caution remains, many participants were won over by the prospect of restarting business beyond Zoom.

With restaurant dining starting to emerge from long semi-lockdown, Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong and Asia Gourmet shows generated strong visitor interest.
With restaurant dining starting to emerge from long semi-lockdown, Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong and Asia Gourmet shows generated strong visitor interest.

The Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is hosted its first trade shows last week since February. Between November 11 and 13, Informa Markets launched four B2B events at HKCEC’s Hall 1, normally reserved for major events like Filmart, Vinexpo or HOFEX.

While it’s not humming quite as much as it does when convention season is in full swing — which at the HKCEC is every season — considering the distancing impact of COVID-19, the main entrance is active, if cautious.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, response by both exhibitors and visitors was largely positive, with most expressing a strong desire to “get back to business”.

“Our exhibitors and visitor attendance and support has provided a huge voice in the industry and strongly confirms the significance of our shows,” commented Informa Marketing Communication Executive Bethany Lai.

Masked up exhibitors at Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong and Asia Gourmet, Hong Kong's only F&B show in 2020.
Masked up exhibitors at Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong and Asia Gourmet, Hong Kong's only F&B show in 2020.

Roughly 270 exhibitors were lined up for Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong and Asia Gourmet (RBHK X GA), which will be the only F&B show in Hong Kong for 2020; more than 30 exhibitors attended Natural & Organic Asia (NOA), which exploited the current focus on health and wellness; similarly many of the 450 building, engineering and security firms showcased at Build 4 Asia focused on green tech and innovation; and the Retail Asia Conference & Expo (RACE) welcomed industry leaders to explore the impact of COVID-19 on retailing and to consider its digital future. All four shows included seminars and demonstrations, with RBHK X GA managing a series of wine tastings.

Though Informa was unable to provide visitor numbers at press time, Lai noted the organiser was pleased with the results given the COVID-19 hurdles. “A lot of key industry individuals attended to show support. Overall it’s a positive, and the outcome is beyond expectation.”

Informa and the HKCEC observed now-standard precautionary measures, including mandatory temperature checks at entrances and use of face masks, and hand sanitising reminders. Food consumption was restricted to designated areas, participants were subtly discouraged from shaking hands, and seminar spaces were configured with two- and four-seat maximums. Staff walked the floor with signage reminding visitors to remain one metre apart (often to little effect), and exhibitor booths were spaced farther apart than has been standard in the past.

With travel restrictions and quarantines still in full force (expect for the SIN-HK air travel bubble that launched over the weekend), the focus for participants at all four shows was on the local market, and growing businesses at home. With restaurant dining starting to emerge from a long semi-lockdown RBHK X GA generated strong visitor interest, followed closely by NOA, which was riding the healthy living wave brought on by the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a rising trend in B2B and B2C — and not just because of the pandemic. People are pondering a healthier diet,” said exhibitor Winnie Choi, assistant business development manager for plant-based protein brand distributor Green Common (OmniPork, Beyond Meat). “There’s been restaurant demand from all sectors, so we wanted to take advantage of that. If there’s a fourth wave there’s a chance any other show could be cancelled, so we thought we should take advantage of this one while we can.”

Organiser, Informa, and host venue HKCEC observed now-standard precautionary measures, including seminar spaces configured with two- and four-seat maximums.
Organiser, Informa, and host venue HKCEC observed now-standard precautionary measures, including seminar spaces configured with two- and four-seat maximums.

Exhibitors and visitors alike acknowledged that some participants opted out of attending a potentially crowded trade show, but just as many felt comfortable with the HKCEC, Informa and Hong Kong’s biosecurity protocols. Many were ultimately won over by the prospect of restarting businesses beyond Zoom.

“It was fantastic to attend an in-person conference and meet with other industry colleagues,” said RACE visitor Simon Oxley, executive director, head of global business development, LF Logistics. “2020 has been a difficult year and this conference reminded me of the importance of sharing our knowledge in person.”