Hong Kong rolls out hygiene framework for MICE and tourism

Standardised protocols will bolster travel confidence, but is it too late for industry recovery?

Kerry Hotel Hong Kong night skyline
Kerry Hotel Hong Kong: Over 1,800 local businesses have already expressed interest in adhering to the new protocol. Photo Credit: Kerry Hotel Hong Kong

Following months of industry speculation, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has rolled out a set of standardised hygiene protocols for tourism and MICE-related businesses in an effort to restore confidence among travellers.

Launched in partnership with the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA), the protocol will provide unified guidelines on hygiene and anti-epidemic measures for tourism-related industries, and ultimately, bolster public confidence for out-of-home consumption and international travel into Hong Kong.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new normal to the tourism landscape, and public health and safety have become a priority for visitors. Many international travel and tourism organisations have already put in place hygiene and anti-epidemic guidelines, and standardising hygiene measures for each sector can spread to visitors the message that different sectors across Hong Kong value their commitment to hygiene and safety,” said Dr YK Pang, chairman, HKTB.

The protocol will roll out in two phases and more than 1,800 local businesses have already expressed interest in participation.

Applications for phase one began on 8 October, covering shopping malls, hotels, attractions, inbound tour operators, and restaurants and retail outlets under the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme. M&C Asia understands that phase two will launch about three months after, covering cross-boundary coach companies, tour coach companies, MICE venues, and other retail and dining merchants. To relieve the financial burden on trade, HKTB will fully sponsor application fees for qualified businesses.

Thereafter, public may easily identify the list of businesses and outlets who have passed the assessment via a designated logo displayed physically at venues, or at HKQAA’s website. Authorities will also conduct random visits for continued inspections.

In addition, as a step of transparency in a time where the public are scrutinising more than ever, all details submitted by qualified organisations will be uploaded to a designated website and left open for a year.

“While restaurants and retailers under the QTS Scheme have already actively improved their hygiene and anti-epidemic measures, having a standardised protocol will certainly boost the confidence of the public and visitors in enjoying the services provided by the participants. I hope chain stores and individual outlets will adopt the protocol and foster a healthy and safe consumption environment in the whole city,” said Simon Wong, Chairman of the Quality Tourism Services Association.

Hong Kong’s delayed tourism hygiene framework comes as travel between Macau and China resumes, signalling that a reopening of the SAR's boarders could be on the horizon. 

HKTB’s approach is similar to Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) SG Clean initiative, launched back in March. The island destination then gradually eased social restrictions and most recently allowed pilot MICE events of up to 250 pax to take place.

So the only question left for Hong Kong is, could this be a case of good news that has come a little too late?