Bridging connections

Improved transport options between mainland China and Hong Kong are helping to bolster the MICE segment in the latter

With the opening of the Express Rail Link (XRL) on September 23 and soon-to-launch Hongkong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), Hong Kong is currently consolidating its position as a bridge between China and the rest of the world.

More Chinese groups are expected once the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opens

In addition, initiatives such as the Belt and Road (B&R) and Greater Bay Area (GBA) are contributing to the increase in business events for event organisers, as well as tourist numbers for Hong Kong.

Topic-specific conferences and exhibitions that have already taken place this year include the First Belt and Road International Food Expo (Hong Kong) which was held from June 27–29 at the AsiaWorld-Expo;  and the third edition of the Belt and Road Summit held on June 28 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

According to a Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) spokesperson, the destinations “aims to attract events that incorporate cross-border itineraries to capitalise on Hong Kong’s strengths as a connected hub”.

For instance, the Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference – to be held from November 20-21, 2018 – will include elements of enhanced accessibility to the Western Pearl River Delta.

Hong Kong will also be hosting The World’s First Cross-border FinTech Event during the Hong Kong Fintech Week 2018 on October 29 to November 2, with four days in Hong Kong and a one-day trip to Shenzhen for additional networking and a site visit, showcasing the business synergies brought about by the GBA initiative.

Later this year, Hong Kong will also be hosting a seminar in Zhuhai for travel trade partners, as well as corporate fam trips targeting corporations in the GBA to educate them about the city’s offerings for their next corporate meetings and incentive trips.

Meanwhile, Momentous Asia Travel & Events has been offering its PCO services to conference organisers that are keen to attract more delegates from mainland China, as well as countries like Kazakhstan.

Its general manager Doris Lam expects more corporate business in the future.

She shared: “We previously confirmed one big conference expecting 1,500 pax in 2019, but unfortunately, because there is no space available at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the organiser decided to move the event to Shenzhen.

“However, with the XRL and convenient transfer between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we do expect a large number of overseas delegates arriving via Hong Kong and transferring to Shenzhen.”

Lam added that for most of the company’s incentive groups that hail from Western countries, they will usually have a day trip in Macau. To offer a fuller experience, Momentous Asia Travel & Events will be extending their itineraries to Macau and Guangzhou.

“This will offer a fuller experience for visitors, as Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou are unique (destinations), where each has a distinctive blend of East meets West,” she said.

While International Conference Consultant’s director, Katerina Tam, agreed with Lam’s views about the improved access, she pointed out: “The link between China and Hong Kong will in turn boost the number of attendees from Mainland. But that’s just the transportation. Chinese participants have to take into consideration other factors such as the relevance of the conference and cost of trip.”

Pacific World Meetings & Events Hong Kong’s business development manager, Dwirt J Ang, believes that GBA synchronises well with their destination coverage – Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong, from GBA and Sanya – and provides “a complete approach” to the region that was lacking previously.

He added: “There will be minimal impact from B&R as it mostly focuses on commercial trade. We’ve not yet obtained (event) leads from the mainland, (and as such) have identified this as one of our targeted key segments for 2019.”

With the HZMB straddling Lantau Island, both Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) and AsiaWorld–Expo are also gearing up to tap into potential traffic – resulting from the improved access – with dedicated strategies.

Hong Kong Disneyland, for example, has extended its radar to reach more cities in central China, such as Changsha, Fuzhou, Nanning, Xiamen, Kunming, and Hangzhou. These cities will benefit from the launch of XRL as they are within the XRL 5-hour zone.

HKDL’s business solutions & events director, Karen Kwan, shared: “We will also zero in on Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhuhai, Maoming, Yangjiang and Zhanjian, which will have shorter drive time to Hong Kong via the HZMB.

Kwan added that they have been working closely with HKTB to participate in business events promotion briefings in mainland China and overseas. HKDL has also stepped up collaborations with travel trade partners in Guangdong, as well as local industry partners to conduct promotions across nine Asian countries and mainland China.

As for AsiaWorld–Expo, the convention and exhibition facility formed the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridgehead EXPO Tourism Belt alliance with Zhuhai International Convention & Exhibition Center, Hong Kong Regal Hotel, and Zhuhai Chimelong Henqing Bay Hotel.

They will jointly increase global awareness of the exposition and tourism resources of Hong Kong and Zhuhai, and showcase the multi-destination travel model, with the ultimate objective of enlarging its business events catchment area.

Currently, the alliance members are in the midst of customising marketing materials to promote the regional concept on international trade shows, align their resources, and implement the One Fair, Two Cross-Boundary Venues strategy.

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