Prolonged protests in Hong Kong dent MICE business

Prolonged city-wide protests in Hong Kong against encroaching control from Beijing have resulted in event cancellations and poor business expectations for the rest of the year, reported events specialists in the destination.

City-wide protests are hurting business events in Hong Kong

Besides a sit-in protest at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) which led to an abrupt 12-hour shutdown of the facility on Monday evening, Hong Kong has also suffered protests that spread into various districts over the last 10 weeks.

These protests – some of which were violent – have impacted tourism and business events.

Tourism stakeholders have reported poor business in July and their outlook remains bleak for August.

Most MICE stakeholders are reluctant to speak on record about the situation’s impact on business.

Doris Lam, general manager of Momentous Asia Travel & Events Co, told TTGmice that “the damage has been done”.

Lam said: “Business has been affected very seriously. Many groups originally bound for Hong Kong were cancelled, and many agents are letting their staff go on no-pay leave. It will take a very long time for (the industry) to recover.”

She added: “We are lucky that our next event is in China and another one is heading out of Hong Kong. Going forward, we may direct our events elsewhere. This is not good for Hong Kong in the long run.”

Over at Destination China, general manager Gunther Homerlein is expecting no new events for the rest of 2019.

“Traditionally this period brings us quite a bit of business, which can make up 15 to 20 per cent of our annual revenue,” he lamented.

However, for Destination China, confirmed events are still “stable”, with clients only asking for situation updates and not yet cancelling.

Homerlein said: “I believe if they had the opportunity to cancel under “force majeure”, at least 50 per cent of the upcoming events would. But most (clients) have invested deposits and would lose these at the moment if they chose to cancel. So for the time being, things are stable.”

He warned that “force majeure” would come into effect should the situation worsens and the United Nations or other globally-recognised body issues a travel advisory against Hong Kong.

“What has prevented this from happening so far is that there has not really been any risk to livelihood and no tourists have been hurt or affected by the riots and protests, with the exception of travel distruption,” he added.

Homerlein said event operations will have to work around the protests.

“The bigger rallies in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central earlier on affected us more than the now sporadic violent ones. If we know protesters are in an area, we avoid it. We have had to cancel a couple of dinners, based on clients concerns rather than the actual situation, but it is just a matter of keeping on line, keeping in touch and avoiding areas where there is confrontation.”

Corporate travel companies, like Connexus Travel, are issuing regular alerts to clients and advising them to monitor local media for updates on the demonstrations.

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