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Hong Kong meeting professionals demand ‘immediate financial help’

Meeting and event professionals in Hong Kong are urging the government to provide more financial support to help them stay afloat as Covid-19 continues to batter the industry.

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 the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) earlier this month.

In the meeting, the newly elected Chairman Stuart Bailey and office bearers detailed to government officials the biggest challenges faced by the industry and asked them to provide immediate financial and policy support in addition to the existing Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (subsidy scheme) under the HKSAR Anti-epidemic Fund.

Some 91 per cent of respondents said the commitment of HK$1,020 million to subsidise participants and organisers of convention and exhibition activities in the subsidy scheme was ‘insufficient’.

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 scheme.

No event organiser has received any subsidy under the scheme so far.

Bailey said: “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 organisers, 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 organisers 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.

 

SURVEY FINDINGS:

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 per cent being event organisers and 69% non-organisers.  Here are some of the key findings:

Business loss:

  • From the 18 organiser 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 organiser respondents and 59% of non-organiser project more than 12 months for their business to recover; and
  • All organisers 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 was insufficient

  • Impossible for organisers 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 organisers would have already given discounts on participation fee to exhibitors.

Some suggestions:

  • Exercise greater flexibility for the compulsory quarantine regulations imposed on foreign business travellers if they come with valid health document. For instance, if travellers 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 organisers project the industry will need more than 12 months to recover
  • As the Scheme does not apply to exhibition related service providers (non-organisers) 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-organisers)
  • 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.