Hong Kong government urged to help events industry ride out COVID-19 storm

Hong Kong government urged to help events industry ride out COVID-19 storm

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) presented results of the latest member survey “Impact of COVID-19 to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry” to representatives of Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on 11 August 2020 and urged the authority to provide more support to help Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry ride out COVID-19 storm.

In the meeting on 11 August 2020, the newly elected Chairman Mr Stuart Bailey and office bearers explained to the senior government officials the biggest challenges faced by the industry and asked the government to provide immediate financial and policy support in addition to the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme under the HKSAR Anti-epidemic Fund.

91% of survey respondents state that the Subsidy Scheme with a commitment of HK$1,020 million to subsidize participants and organizers of convention and exhibition activities was insufficient. Part of the Subsidy Scheme subsidises private organizers of exhibitions and international conventions held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo 100% of the venue rental. Due to the third wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, there are further postponements or cancellations of public exhibitions originally scheduled for this summer and the start day of the Subsidy Scheme (originally 24 July 2020) was deferred by HKSAR government without a new start day. No event organizer has received any subsidy under the Subsidy Scheme so far.

The HKECIA member Survey was conducted from 23 to 30 July 2020 among all 115 HKECIA members. 59 members have responded and completed the survey, with 31% being event organizers and 69% non-organizers. Here are some of the key findings:

Business loss:

– From the 18 organizer respondents alone, 52 exhibitions and conferences have been cancelled or postponed and these events expected to draw over 54,000 exhibiting companies and over 3.4 million of visitors;
– 98% of respondents claim that the impact of COVID-19 on their business is either severe or extremely severe;
– 89% of organizer respondents and 59% of non-organised project more than 12 months for their business to recover; and
– All organizers respondents project a loss of revenue in year 2020 with 36% of them projecting a loss of over HK$100 million in 2020.

3 biggest challenges faced by HKECIA members:

– Loss incurred by postponement or cancellation of events;
– Lower market demand; and
– Uncertainty due to government’s policy, e.g. social distancing, immigration control, compulsory quarantine regulation, etc.

91% of respondents claim the Subsidy Scheme does not provide sufficient assistance to their companies

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– Impossible for organizers to move forward with exhibitor recruitment and overseas buyer promotion due to the uncertainty on the pandemic and travel restriction; and
– Uncertainty of the start-day of the Scheme may cause financial loss as some organizers would have already given discounts on participation fee to exhibitors.

HKECIA members also expressed through the survey that more and concrete government policy support is crucial to the industry revival. Some of the suggestions are:

– Exercise greater flexibility for the compulsory quarantine regulations imposed on foreign business travelers if they come with valid health document. For instance, if travelers are tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before their flights to Hong Kong, they can enter and stay in HK for maximum seven days without compulsory quarantine.
– Speed up the formation of “travel bubbles” with countries and regions with few COVID-19 cases
– Extend the Scheme period from 12 to 24 months as some organizers project the industry will need more than 12 months to recover
– As the Scheme does not apply to exhibition related service providers (non-organizers) who don’t generate any income until events resume, the government is asked to provide one-off special business operation support fund to convention and exhibition related businesses (non-organizers)
– Provide office and warehouse rental subsidies
– Conduct aggressive promotions by government agency to highlight Hong Kong is safe and international events are ideal platforms for trade and exchange.

HKECIA Chairman Mr Stuart Bailey stated, “Only four small-scale consumer exhibitions took place from February to July. All other exhibitions and conventions scheduled to take place have not been held. No event being held means that there has been zero cash generated by organizers, venues, and suppliers to the industry. 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 we have yet to reach. We urge the government to provide immediate and additional financial assistance for event organizers and event related service providers.

“Apart from immediate financial assistance, we seek clarity from the government on matters relating to travel restrictions, and to demand much greater transparency around the reviews of the compulsory quarantine arrangements for countries / regions that have a good record against the pandemic.” added Mr Bailey.

Mr Bailey stressed that the exhibition industry plays a critical role for the Hong Kong economy and has contributed significant economic benefits to Hong Kong by generating spin-offs for related industries, e.g. hotels, restaurants, transport, retail, etc), creating numerous jobs and business opportunities for small and medium enterprises, and enhancing Hong Kong’s international image and reputation. Exhibitions need to come back strongly to support the recovery of trade and business in Hong Kong.

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