Hong Kong officials seek to reassure planners in face of protests

They insist destination is ‘definitely still open for business and safe to travel’

Business is as usual in Hong Kong’s meetings industry despite the recent wave of social unrest.
Business is as usual in Hong Kong’s meetings industry despite the recent wave of social unrest.

HONG KONG - Following the recent wave of political protests, Hong Kong's meeting and tourism officials are addressing planners' concerns and reassuring them that the political disruptions have had little or no effect on events held in the destination.

According to an industry insider, the disruptions have mainly taken place on weekends in areas that do not impact day-to-day business in Hong Kong, which is designated as a Special Administrative Region of China.

In a statement, Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) chairman Stuart Bailey said: "Business is as usual in Hong Kong. At this time, we are seeing that major exhibitions and conferences are running without incident or interruption. Exhibitions and conferences were not targeted for disruption. Hong Kong is definitely still open for business and safe to travel."

He added: "Of course, visitors should take extra care and be mindful of areas in which protests might be taking place, and take note of any special traffic arrangements such as temporary road closures and disruptions on public transport. But it's worth remembering that Hong Kong is consistently ranked one of the safest cities in the world."

The HKECIA release also addressed the airport disruption that caused flight cancellations to and from Hong Kong on Aug 12-13, stating that "smooth operations of the airport terminals and normal flight movements have been resumed since August 14. Currently, the Airport Authority Hong Kong has obtained an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully obstructing the airport's operation".  

The exhibition association also cited major events that took place since the protests: the Food Expo, the Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong X Gourmet Asia 2019, Natural Organic Asia 2019, Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, Asia Fruit Logistica and Centrestage. Just one major show, the Seafood Expo Asia, has cancelled so far, according to the HKECIA.

Hong Kong suppliers and representatives who attended IMEX America, the meetings industry trade show that took place Sept 10-12 in Las Vegas, said they knew of several incentive programs and conventions that postponed their booked events. But, for the most part, it was business as usual.

"We have not seen any disruptions, anything meeting-wise and exhibition-wise, as far as operations on the ground. The nature of these (protests) is such that they're closely monitored or approved by the police and the government; they're localised," noted James LaValle, manager, conventions, exhibitions and corporate events, at the Hong Kong Tourism Board, who spoke with Northstar Meetings Group in an exclusive interview.

When asked how they are handling planner concerns, LaValle said: "All we can do is keep our planners or customers on the leisure side up to date with what's going and give them all the points of contact for ourselves and our partners in the city. We're publishing updates on our consumer website every day."

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