Hong Kong convention sector in ‘deep water’ without immediate government support

The Hong Kong convention and exhibition industry has called on the government to provide immediate support for the struggling sector as it grapples with zero international trade events.

The latest industry survey by the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association showed 45 per cent of industry operators may close down in 12 months unless given financial support and a timetable of when business travellers may once again restart without the need for quarantine.

Only around half of a HK$1,020 million Subsidy Scheme that covers the cost of venue hire for exhibitions and international conventions held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo has been used with organisers cancelling or postponing their events until 2022 while travel restrictions for international visitors still apply.

The survey found that 136 exhibitions and conferences have been cancelled or postponed since February 2020 and these events expected to draw over 99,000 exhibiting companies and over 4.8 million of visitors.

All respondents projected a loss of revenue in the year 2021, with 37 per cent of event organisers and 29 per cent of non-event organisers projecting a loss of over HK$50 million in 2021.

All the respondents stated that quarantine-free travel for overseas participants is important for them to run and materialise their events, with three-quarters of organisers of international events in Hong Kong saying they will move their international events from Hong Kong to other countries if the travel restrictions in Hong Kong are not removed by the end of 2021.

Almost half (45%) out of all respondents can only survive for 12 months or less, if the current travel restrictions remain till the end of 2021, or if no further financial assistance is received by the end of 2021.

“The convention and exhibition industry, which contributed over HK$58 billion to Hong Kong’s economy in 2018, has been in deep water since February 2020 as no international event was able to be held in Hong Kong due to travel restrictions and preventive measures,” said HKECIA Chairman Stuart Bailey.

“Only small-scale consumer exhibitions resumed.  The Subsidy Scheme, however, is only able to assist the convention and exhibition sector once it is practicable for events to resume, a point which trade fair organisers have yet to reach.

“We urge the government to repurpose the Subsidy Scheme and provide immediate and additional financial assistance for event-related service providers.  Our industry also needs a roadmap to prepare for a strong revival.”