Only a fraction of a HK$620m fund to support Hong Kong's embattled meetings industry is being used, according to a trade body that has called for the money to be given to those who need it most.
The Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association has revealed only HK$97m of the HK$620m Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme has so far been allocated.
As part of Hong Kong’s efforts to support its convention and exhibitions industry, a fund of HK$1,020m is available, HK$620m of which is strictly to subsidise 100 per cent of the venue rental until June 2022, for private organisers of exhibitions and international conventions holding an event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo.
However, the Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry 2021 survey from the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) has revealed only a fraction of that money is being used due to organisers facing difficulties securing overseas exhibitors and buyers. As a result of 136 exhibitions and conferences being cancelled in Hong Kong since February 2020, the Subsidy Scheme only paid out HK$97.38m to 42 exhibitions out of the potential HK$620m available. These cancelled events were expected to attract 99,000 exhibiting companies and 4.8 million visitors to Hong Kong in the past year.
“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. Only small-scale consumer exhibitions resumed,” HKECIA chair Stuart Bailey said.
Because of the lack of funding reaching those who need it, including event organisers, contractors, freight forwarders, travel agents and audiovisual equipment suppliers, and because of the strict quarantine rules in place for overseas travellers, 45 per cent out of all the survey respondents said they can only survive for 12 months or less.
Despite the Subsidy Scheme being extended twice since it was announced, the ongoing quarantine rules and restrictions to international travel mean event organisers and industry players are set to lose an estimated HK$50m this year, according to the report.
The association is therefore calling for the unutilised money to be redirected to areas where it can be of real use.
“The Subsidy Scheme 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,” Bailey added.
The report also revealed that 75 per cent of organisers respondents who organise international events in Hong Kong, said they will look to move their international events to other countries if the travel restrictions are not removed by the end of 2021.
Currently, all those travelling to Hong Kong from 'high risk' areas and who are not fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents face 21 days of compulsory quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel on arrival, followed by seven days of self-monitoring.
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.