With heftier destination promotion funds for HKTB and improved connectivity to China, Hong Kong is expecting rosy days ahead.
Geographical advantage, global connectivity and destination appeal continue to position Hong Kong as a regional magnet for business events, especially mega direct-selling events.
One mega win that Hong Kong is most proud of is the Unicity Global Leadership and Innovation Conference 2018, the first edition to be held in the destination. The event will be attended by about 17,000 overseas delegates.
Hong Kong is making progress on the association meetings front too. It will host some major medical conferences in the coming months, starting with the Asia Pacific Digestive Week from September 23 to 26 2017. This will be followed by at least 10 medical events, of which eight are first for Hong Kong or Asia. Three of the largest gatherings are the 33rd Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress 2018 (February), Spine Summit 2018 (March) and 22nd International Congress of Parkinsonâ€™s Disease and Movement Disorders (October), bringing over 15,000 medical professionals from all over the world to Hong Kong.
According to latest statistics, Hong Kong welcomed 857,022 MICE arrivals in 1H2017, up 3.4 per cent year-on-year. Unsurprisingly, China was the strongest performing source market for Hong Kong, with arrivals up by 6.1 per cent.
Despite Hong Kongâ€™s success in business events, there is still much to be done especially considering the number of challenges facing the destinationâ€™s convention bureau â€“ stiff competition among CVBs around the world; many Asian destinations have lowered their barrier to entry for Chinese visitors, eating into the much in demand China pie; depreciation of the other currencies against the Hong Kong dollar reduce the destinationâ€™s competitive edge.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), general manager MICE & Cruise, Kenneth Wong, said: â€śTo enrich Hong Kongâ€™s appeal, the government has earmarked an additional funding of HK$243 million to support the tourism industry in the year 2017/2018.
â€śMeanwhile, connectivity between Hong Kong and the mainland will be enhanced in the coming years with the establishment of new infrastructures, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the Chinaâ€“Hong Kong Express Rail Link. These will not only provide mainland visitors with easier access to Hong Kong, they will also facilitate overseas visitorsâ€™ travel to the mainland via Hong Kong, consolidating our position as the gateway to the mainland.â€ť
While HKTB is upbeat about the future, a Langham Hong Kong spokesperson told TTGmice that the hotel has only seen moderate growth in 1H2017 and forward bookings in the second half and 2018 appears to be sluggish.
â€śAs the city operates a linked currency exchange rate to the US dollar, the strength of the latter has made Hong Kong a pricey destination for events in comparison with other Asian destinations, particularly those in South-east Asia,â€ť said the spokesperson.
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong has also reported smaller business events coming into the hotel this year compared to the last. Director of group sales, Olivia Lui, said that the â€śsofter marketâ€ť could be a result of various major world events, such as the US presidential election and the 20th anniversary of Hong Kongâ€™s return to China rule.
However, Lui added that her team is optimistic about the remaining months of 2017, with some last minute event bookings likely to come.
Also, attention is now on meetings conducted by education, insurance and medical industries which are â€śleast impacted by global economic and political turmoilâ€ť, she said.
A more positive performance was reported by InterContinental Grand Stanfordâ€™s director of sales & marketing, Ulysses Leung.
â€śBusiness enquiries from shorthaul markets have increased compared to previous years, especially from Japan,â€ť said Leung, adding that event enquiries tended to rise during a a low airfare period.
Leung also shared her observations of an increased demand among clients for non-traditional event proposals that feature new concepts and ideas and more technology being used.
She welcomes this trend, saying that venue providers will now have to compete on creativity instead of price, elevating event quality in Hong Kong.
Maxine Howe, director of sales and marketing for The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel, a property slated to open in late-2017, has also observed the same growing interest in â€śunconventional and intriguing meeting spacesâ€ť.
Howe expects her hotel to do well once it is open for event bookings in mid-January 2018, as the property offers â€śseveral unique venues, both indoor and outdoors, with landscaped areas which are rare in Hong Kongâ€ť.
Faces of Hong Kongâ€™s CEO Ivy Sung lamented that the challenge is real for her team to fulfil â€śclientâ€™s requests for unique, extraordinary, (new-to-market) venues that are also affordableâ€ť.
â€śWe hope that our government will continue to be supportive of tourism development especially for the high-end market,â€ť said Sung.