Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam pledges MICE support

Plans to boost convention capacity with new subsidy scheme and Wan Chai North redevelopment.

Despite city-wide protests for much of 2019, 1.6 million overnight MICE visitors attended more than 100 trade events last year, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Pictured: HKCEC
Despite city-wide protests for much of 2019, 1.6 million overnight MICE visitors attended more than 100 trade events last year, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Pictured: HKCEC Photo Credit: Informa Markets

In her fourth Policy Address on 25 November, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam pledged support for the city’s beleaguered tourism, convention and exhibition industries, and to move forward with plans to expand the SAR’s MICE capacity by 40%.

 

Referring to tourism as one of Hong Kong’s “four pillar industries,” Lam announced HK$600 million (US$77 million) in immediate support targeted at travel agencies and their staff, guides and drivers impacted by Covid-19.

 

Tourist arrivals have plunged over 99% since the emergence of Covid-19 and the pandemic. Despite city-wide protests for much of 2019, 1.6 million overnight MICE visitors attended more than 100 trade events last year, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Currently, 50 venues offer more than 148,000sqm of space, led by the central Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) near the airport, and Hong Kong International Trade and Exhibition Centre (KITEC) in Kowloon Bay.

 

Lam also indicated she would begin positioning Hong Kong’s MICE sector for 2021 and beyond, with a commitment to expanding mainland China and international visitor source markets, broadening the Hong Kong-for-Hong Kong market, and boosting the city’s convention capacity with the new Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme.

 

Under the scheme, the government is committing HK$1 billion to the MICE sector in the next year, and will officially plough ahead with existing plans to redevelop the Wan Chai North government towers (currently home to the immigration and revenue departments) and the Kong Wan Fire Station — across from the HKCEC — into MICE, hotel and office facilities.

 

When plans were first floated nearly a decade ago, the sites were valued at approximately HK$20 billion. “I think it makes sense for the government to maximise the value of the nearby area by redeveloping the Wan Chai North buildings," said Rosanna Tang, Colliers head of research for Hong Kong and Southern China. “The plan also resonates with the government’s vision of enhancing the harbourfront area and walkability along the coastal line.”

 

Elsewhere, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) will begin carrying out phase two of AsiaWorld-Expo's construction, as well as visitor-focused infrastructure, including autonomous transport connecting the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Boundary Crossing Facilities island, the airport, the SkyCity commercial complex (and Marriott Hotel) and Tung Chung town.

 

The two projects combined will increase MICE capacity by more than 40%.

 

“The Hong Kong Tourism Board is taking the opportunity to examine the positioning of Hong Kong’s tourism to meet future challenges,” said Lam, adding, “In the long run, we still have great confidence in the [MICE] industry.”

 

Lam stated the plans to develop a new convention centre above the forthcoming Exhibition Station, the terminus of the MTR’s new Sha Tin-Central link, have been scrapped due to time and cost concerns.



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