Government urged to provide more support to Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry

Nine out of ten members (91%) of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) surveyed on the impact of Covid-19 to their businesses have described the government’s Subsidy Scheme for the sector as “insufficient”.

The full results of the Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry was presented to representatives of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on 11 August 2020, by the association, which urged the authority to provide more support to help the Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry ride out the Covid-19 storm.

HKECIA’s newly-elected chairman Stuart Bailey and other executive members 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

The scheme has a commitment of HK$1,020m (US$154.83m) to subsidise participants and organisers of convention and exhibition activities.  Part of the subsidy was meant to cover 100% of rental value for organisers staging exhibitions and international conventions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo.

A third wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong has led to further postponements and cancellations of exhibitions and the start day of the Subsidy Scheme (originally 24 July 2020) was deferred by the government without a new start day. The association says no event organiser has received any subsidy under the scheme to date.

The HKECIA member Survey was conducted from 23 to 30 July 2020 among all 115 members and 59 members responded. Key findings included:

Business loss:

  • From 18 organiser responses, 52 exhibitions and conferences were cancelled or postponed, events expected to draw 54,000 exhibiting companies and 3.4m visitors;
  • All organiser respondents project a loss of revenue in 2020 with, 36% of them projecting a loss of over HK$100m.

The association added that it is was impossible for organisers to move forward with exhibitor recruitment and overseas buyer promotion due to the uncertainty on the pandemic and travel restriction. Uncertainty over the start-day of the Subsidy Scheme, it said, may cause financial loss as some organisers would have already given discounts on participation fees to exhibitors.

HKECIA members also expressed through the survey the demand for more concrete government policy support, which they said was crucial to the industry revival.  Suggestions included:

  • Exercising greater flexibility for the compulsory quarantine regulations imposed on foreign business travellers if they come with valid health documents.
  • Speeding up of the formation of ‘travel bubbles’ with countries and regions with few Covid-19 cases
  • Extending the scheme period from 12 to 24 months
  • 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)
  • Providing office and warehouse rental subsidies
  • Aggressive promotions by government agencies to market Hong Kong as safe for international events, which are ideal platforms for trade and exchange.

HKECIA chairman Stuart Bailey (pictured) stated that only four small-scale consumer exhibitions took place from February to July, which meant there had 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,” he said. “We urge the government to provide immediate and additional financial assistance for event organisers and event related service providers.”

At its Annual General Meeting on 7 August 2020, the HKECIA elected a chairman and executive committee for the new 2020-2022 term. Stuart Bailey, of Bailey Communications Hong Kong Ltd, will chair the new committee, with Adolph Chan of AMC Exhibits Ltd and Peter Cheung of Comasia Ltd serving as vice-chairmen.