What China's great reopening means for the world of MICE

As China and Hong Kong scrap their last remaining Covid restrictions, are groups tempted to return to the region?

Event professionals are seeing initial signs of market recovery ahead of China reopening its borders.
Event professionals are seeing initial signs of market recovery ahead of China reopening its borders. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mehdi33300

With China set to reopen to the world on 8 January and unlocking its doors with Hong Kong removing pandemic restrictions for visitors into the city, the wave of new measures are already providing a sizeable boost to business events prospects in the Greater China region.

These were the sentiments of industry professionals who spoke at a recent webinar hosted by UFI to explore the impact of changing Covid restrictions in China on the business events sector, which was held just prior to official announcements on restrictions easing.

Diane Chen, general manager, Shenyang New World Expo said the venue was confident about business growth, with numerous bookings already confirmed from March to May.

“Airlines in China are also providing a large number of additional routes, easing journeys for international travellers,” she said. “We expect business to gradually return to levels seen pre-pandemic.”

Echoing these sentiments, Michael Kruppe, general manager of Shanghai New International Expo Center, said: "If we take 2019 as the benchmark of being normal, we are very positive that 2023 will be a very good year.

“Many organisers are calling my team and fighting over time slots in 2023,” he said. “This is definitely a good indication of how the whole industry is thinking and how 2023 is likely to develop.” 

Many organisers are calling my team and fighting over time slots in 2023. This is definitely a good indication of how the whole industry is thinking and how 2023 is likely to develop.
Michael Kruppe, general manager, Shanghai New International Expo Center

Athena Gong, vice president at Informa Markets Asia said that those exhibitions with a strong brand will continue to create value in 2023.

With regards to prospects in Hong Kong, Monica Lee Müller, managing director of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, said financial contributions from the government are encouraging people to return to Hong Kong.

These include an extension of the 100% free venue rental for eligible events until 30 June 2023, and a new subsidy for recurrent exhibitions to be staged in the city over three years.

“We’re optimistic but with some caution. I don’t think we’ll see levels in 2023 returning to those of 2019 – not because of the Covid situation or the policy in Hong Kong, but because of what’s going on in the wider world,” she said. 

We’re optimistic but with some caution... We’ll be back – perhaps not 100% but at least 80% and more.
Monica Lee Müller, managing director, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

“Covid is just one challenge and there are many other things happening in the world. When we deal with international events, and participants coming from abroad, we have to take all that into account. We’ll be back – perhaps not 100% but at least 80% and more.”

Lee said issues such as increased inflation might lead to companies cutting back on travel spend, while competition within different industries has also intensified.

“We have to do the best we can with our facilities to attract people and we have responded by renovating our venue and ensuring more training for our staff,” added Lee.

While China has eased its Covid restrictions, those travelling from China will be subject to new rules. A number of countries, including the US, Italy, Japan, Taiwan and India have announced mandatory Covid tests on visitors entering these destinations from China.



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