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Hong Kong hoping subsidy scheme will ‘ease financial burden’

Managers at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HML) have welcomed the launch next month of a subsidy scheme to help ‘reinvigorate’ the business events industry.

The HK$1,020million ($US131m) support package, which offers to cover full venue rental cost for organisers of exhibitions and international conventions, will be available from October 3rd.

It was originally slated for July, but a spike in coronavirus infections in the city led to its postponement as events that were due to be held were cancelled or pushed back.

Because the 12-month scheme only applies once events resume, critics have said it does nothing for firms that are struggling to stay afloat because restrictions mean they can no longer function.

HML managing director Monica Lee-Müller said: “The Government’s launch of the Subsidy Scheme in early October will help ease financial burdens on the local convention and exhibition industry and help it attract domestic and overseas exhibitors, buyers and conference delegates to Hong Kong, strengthening the city’s competitiveness as the region’s leading convention and exhibition hub.”

She added: “With the on-going pandemic situation overseas, countries are continuously updating their inbound and outbound travel restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirements. As such, many international exhibitions and conventions originally scheduled for the second half of 2020 have been postponed or cancelled.

“Mega exhibitions typically have long planning lead-times, and re-launching them before the October 2021 deadline for the Subsidy Scheme may prove challenging.  However, we believe that once the pandemic is under control, exhibition and convention organisers will waste no time bringing exhibitions back onto their event calendars.  To ensure that mega exhibitions and international conventions return to Hong Kong after the pandemic, the industry will continue to communicate closely with the Government so that timely actions can be taken to maximise the impact of the Subsidy Scheme.”

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) has called for greater flexibility from the government and more support for those business struggling to make an income.

Speaking last month chairman Stuart Bailey said: “The subsidy scheme only assists 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.”