Hong Kong’s exhibition industry continues strong recovery

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Stuart Bailey has been re-elected as Chairman of the HKECIA.

The rebound in Hong Kong’s exhibition industry continues to gain momentum with a 30 per cent increase in large-scale exhibitions in 2023 compared with the previous year.

The latest survey by the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) shows that 125 large-scale exhibitions (over 2,000sqm) were hosted in Hong Kong in 2023, bringing with them significant rises in exhibiting companies and visitor numbers.

Of those large-scale exhibitions, 73 fell into the ‘Trade’ and ‘Trade and Consumer’ category, up from 40 in late 2022, reflecting the return to Hong Kong of a number of exhibitions that  had been suspended or temporarily staged outside Hong Kong during Covid.

Attendee numbers at these exhibitions soared significantly year-on-year, with the number of exhibiting companies rising by over 400 per cent, from under 9,000 to over 45,000.

The increase in the number of exhibition visitors was even more dramatic, as numbers rose by nearly 560 per cent to more than 1.4 million. The expansion in floor space occupied by ‘Trade’ and ‘Trade and Consumer’ exhibitions increased by nearly 280 per cent to almost 890,000sqm.

“This is a rebound we have been expecting, and which our exhibition venues and organisers in Hong Kong have worked hard to make happen,” said Stuart Bailey, Chairman of the HKECIA.

“We have been greatly helped by the government’s $1.4 billion Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions launched in July 2023, designed to support the recovery of the exhibition industry by incentivising organisers to stage their recurrent exhibitions in Hong Kong.

“The survey shows that the government’s investment is already reaping very valuable returns as organisers and visitors flock back to Hong Kong in numbers. Given the clear benefits it is bringing to Hong Kong’s wider economy, we do urge that the scheme continues to be funded until June 2026, as originally announced.”

The survey results have also proved a useful yardstick for assessing how quickly the exhibition industry is recovering to pre-Covid levels. A gap remains, partly as a result of a shortfall in flight capacity to Hong Kong which has made it harder for international visitors to travel to the city.

When the 2023 survey figures are placed against the pre-Covid figures for 2019, they show a 9 per cent drop in the number of ‘Trade’ and ‘Trade and Consumer’ exhibitions, although only a 5 per cent fall in the total space rented by exhibitors.

The numbers of exhibiting companies and of visitors stand at roughly three quarters of pre-Covid levels, with exhibiting companies numbering 70 per cent and visitors 76 per cent of 2019 levels.

The most robust recovery has been in the number of visitors from Mainland China attending ‘Trade’ and ‘Trade and Consumer’ exhibitions. By the end of 2023, their numbers stood at 91 per cent of the equivalent figure in 2019.

“As long as flight capacity to Hong Kong continues to grow, we expect that the volume of international exhibitors and visitors in 2024 will gradually increase from 2023,” said Bailey.