Heritage moves events forward

Local experiences have an important role to play in driving the city’s MICE sector. By Prudence Lui

For event planners who are constantly looking to create one-of-a-kind experiences for their groups, Hong Kong’s historic destinations are just the place, as the city’s rich culture and heritage have yet to be fully explored.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is looking to tap into this area, having launched the brand new Ultimate MICE Guide to Old Town Central in November last year.

Old Town Central’s You Wu Studio

“(Listings) in the guide have been recommended by top planners from four strategic markets across the region. It’s a useful guide for planners to designate the best spots in the Old Town Central (OTC) cluster, a 100-year-old community which offers a variety of meeting ideas,” a HKTB spokesperson said.

“Hong Kong definitely has a lot to offer in 2019 with its heritage venues,” the spokesperson added.

The OTC cluster is the heart and soul of Hong Kong’s central district. Home to a number of Hong Kong’s cultural landmarks, contemporary street art and exceptional dining, it is a colourful neighbourhood and cultural hub where East-meets-West.

The Ultimate MICE Guide has five categories: multipurpose event venues; dining options designed for different requirements; a scavenger hunt; and a choose your own adventure option with more than 20 locations to match every interest.

Meanwhile, the Authentic Scavenger Hunt in Old Town Central is designed to give delegates the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the OTC cluster. This teambuilding activity features 10 unique checkpoints, and fun-filled ideas that encourage corporate groups to complete competitive challenges while getting acquainted with the neighbourhood’s historical gems and local food.

“Looking ahead, we will work with local trade partners to identify heritage sites and experiences, to craft even more MICE-friendly products and experiences,” the HKTB spokesperson said.

For instance, at the recently opened Tai Kwun arts centre and West Kowloon Xiqu Centre, corporate groups can hold a variety of cultural team bonding experiences, from tea appreciation sessions to enjoying dim sum while watching traditional Chinese opera.”

Operators like Hong Kong A La Carte focus not only on venues, but also on local activities. Alexandra Malandain, its managing director, revealed that corporates want to organise new and unique events for their employees that combine local culture with off-the-beaten-track adventures.

“They want to surprise their colleagues who can be blasé about teambuilding events organised in Hong Kong. We recently organised a champagne cocktail team building event for a large French company in “the middle of nowhere” at a private garden on Lantau Island,” she elaborated.

Initially, the organiser was not keen to host the event in the middle of nowhere, as it would be impossible to drive there.

However, both the client and Hong Kong A La Carte insisted that the uniqueness of the place would make the event a big success.

“Most people taking part in this event had been to Hong Kong numerous times but had no idea Hong Kong’s country side is stunning and worth visiting. The ‘wows’ we heard arriving at the garden after a 40-minute hike was definitely our best reward. We achieved our objectives, which were to show an off-the-beaten-track Hong Kong, and to make people happy at working together as a team,” Malandain shared.

Hong Kong Greeters revealed that while corporates are interested in getting the “local feel” by walking through a city, they still want classic Hong Kong experiences such as a Aqua Luna harbour tour or Victoria Peak and the Peak Tram.

Amy Overy, owner and operator of Hong Kong Greeters, said: “I think the Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan areas should definitely be on the list.

“They have dried seafood and medicine shops, as well as cool co-working places, great restaurants, and the Western market. Operators may consider Kwun Tong or Fotan with their history as industrial centres. Whampoa too has a great food scene and plenty of local culture.”

She said corporate travellers would benefit in the future if HKTB were to understand their needs, and share those needs with supporting businesses who can create appealing itineraries for this segment.

Additionally, Overy opined that the future for corporate clients visiting Hong Kong would fare better by concentrating on particular areas of interest by location, rather than trying to create an entirely brand new experience for groups.

“There is a lot more of Hong Kong’s culture to embrace by walking around specific neighbourhoods, rather than by joining a workshop or doing just one activity,” she posited.

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