New efforts doled out this year could be the driving force steering attention from emerging Asian markets back to the vibrant city of Hong Kong.
BY KRISTIE THONG
The Hong Kong spirit is infectious. Business travellers and MICE professionals find themselves returning to the city year after year, rejuvenated by the fast-paced culture filled with mind-numbingly good cuisines, shopping and attractions. Along with good infrastructure and a transportation system running itself like clockwork, the city has also established itself as a mature MICE market due to excellent service delivery standards and efficiency.
“Hong Kong is a wonderful city with a level of sophistication you would expect as one of the world’s leading international finance centres,” Sydney-based cievents director of supplier relations, Caroline Gair says.
“It offers its visitors not only a cultural experience for those interested in its history, but all the ‘bells and whistles’ of a modern society with a real sense of fun and excitement.”
Likening Hong Kong to the New York of Southeast Asia, she feels the city ticks all the boxes as a market for conferences and incentives.
“Excellent airline capacity from all Australian capital cities in and out of Hong Kong, a great range of hotel products in all categories to suit all budgets, amazing food with an array of cuisines on offer and of course, no tax on alcohol which can be a significant saving when you have large numbers. Service delivery is exceptional and overall our experience with suppliers has been excellent,” Ms Gair says.
Tightened corporate budgets in the face of a volatile global economy have placed the industry on tenterhooks as it witnesses a dampened state of consumer confidence and travel sentiments. Undeterred, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) went ahead with the launch of its 2013 MICE campaign. Themed “Hong Kong – The World’s Meeting Place”, it has been working closely with event organisers, local attractions and venue operators to roll out initiatives to attract event organisers with a segment-focused approach.
While efforts have proven to be promising thus far, with a 8.1 per cent growth recorded in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, the challenge for Hong Kong is a dwindling interest as event organisers start to look elsewhere.
“As a destination with a strong affiliation with the Australian traveller, many of our customers have previously visited Hong Kong either as a leisure
traveller or as a delegate and are looking at trying somewhere new and different,” Ms Gair says.
With markets like Singapore and Vietnam coming to mind as destinations of interest in recent times, she feels Hong Kong has to keep people interested.
“It is about selling the destination holistically and putting forward a programme which reignites people’s interest in the amazing territory.”
Hong Kong recently welcomed the launch of a US$1 billion cruise terminal on the Victoria Harbour, which a HKTB spokesperson believed is destined to become a stunning new gateway to welcome visitors to the city.
The terminal features two berths, which will open in two phases this year and 2014. Each berth is designed to accommodate the biggest vessels in the world, along with a three-storey terminal building to clear 3000 passengers per hour through immigration and customs channels, and a landscaped roof garden.
The HKTB spokesperson adds that the cruise terminal is expected to offer diversified itineraries for regional tourism, and in some cases, be an alternative venue choice for events.
“There is always something new in Hong Kong to keep you interested. Each time I go there I venture out a little more,” Ms Gair says.
Hong Kong consistently connects with the global market via industry tradeshows. Its own ITE & MICE expo, in the 27th edition of ITE and the 8th of ITE MICE, has a highly international profile with 86.5 per cent of exhibitors from outside Hong Kong. Held from June 13-16 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, the show this year was 6.6 per cent bigger in scale with a record 680 exhibitors from 46 countries and regions. Of the 46 exhibiting destinations, 41 per cent came from Asia, 28 per cent from Europe, 11 per cent from the Americas & Oceania, and 20 per cent in Africa and the Middle East.
The first two days dedicated to trade visitors saw a total of 11,872 buyers and visitors, with 72 per cent coming from Hong Kong, 20 per cent from China and 8 per cent from abroad. Visits from travel agents and tour operators also increased 5.8 per cent at 6055 during the first two days. Approximately 100 seminars and meetings were held in the four-day exhibition, including a corporate travel seminar by The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and functions by The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Hotel General Manager Association.
Organised by TKS Exhibition Services Ltd., ITE & MICE is also supported by China National Tourism Administration, Hong Kong Tourism Board, Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and Macau Government Tourist Office, trade associations of travel agents and event industries from Hong Kong and in the region.