September 8, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

Even as triumphant reports out of Hong Kong detail major exhibitions with over 800,000 attendees going ahead, the local industry is suffering from the lack of international business events with 45 percent of industry businesses in danger of closing down over the next year, according to the latest survey of the Hong Kong industry.

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association’s (HKECIA) latest survey “Impact of COVID-19 to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry 2021” attracted responses from 60 members and reveal that 136 exhibitions and conferences involving 99,000 exhibitors and almost five million attendees have been cancelled or postponed since February 2020. All survey respondents projected a loss of revenue in 2021, with 29 percent expecting to lose over HK$50 million (AUD8,701,955).

All respondents said quarantine-free travel for international participants was important to their events and three quarters of those who organise international events said they would move their events out of Hong Kong if travel restrictions persisted beyond the end of the year.

Alongside a roadmap for easing travel restrictions, the association is calling for the funding of a significant venue hire subsidy program to be repurposed, with 55 percent of organisers saying they did not benefit from the subsidy as they were not able to hold their events due to travel restrictions. The survey also showed that other funding provided to the industry was not sufficient and left gaps in support, including for contractors and logistics.

“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,” said HKECIA Chairman Stuart Bailey.

“Only small-scale consumer exhibitions resumed. 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 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.”