Bleak outlook for Hong Kong’s MICE sector

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s business events sector has come to a screeching halt, in light of the first reported death from Novel Coronavirus and the rapid transmission of infections globally, with stakeholders painting a bleak outlook for business in coming months.

Amid heightened security, many government and commercial functions have been cancelled in order to minimise community-based contamination.

Hong Kong recently regained normalcy soon after protests wound down, but they now have to deal with event cancellations

Liberty International Tourism Group, associate director, Alcuin Li, expects that most of the events in the coming few months will be cancelled or postponed, with many trade workers required to take no-pay leave.

Li told TTGmice: “Before the outbreak, outbound business was just getting stronger. Inbound business (was not doing so well still). Most of our bookings until the end of March have been cancelled, while some confirmed bookings (further on) in April and June will probably be cancelled or postponed as well.”

“What makes it worse is that many suppliers – like airlines and cruise companies – are suspending their services, causing travel agents to cancel their business. Of course this is the best way to stop the transmission of the virus, but the travel industry will suffer from issuing full refunds. No profits will be made, despite agents’ efforts to follow up on bookings,” lamented Li.

He added that as many travel trade workers in Hong Kong draw profits from the company without a basic salary, their income will be severely impacted.

Destination China’s general manager Gunther Homerlein shared similar depressing sentiments.

He said: “Between the protests and the outbreak, everything has been wiped off the books for the coming few months. Some people are postponing, but to the end of the year or 2021.”

Homerlein termed the impact a “total wipeout”, made worse with events such as Art Basel and Vinexpo also “under consideration”, with Vinexpo looking to relocate the event to Singapore.

As for the incentives sector, Momentous Asia Travel & Events’ general manager Doris Lam told TTGmice that most incentives have been cancelled. Cancellations extend into 2H2020, and no new enquires have been received.

Lam indicated that only two events might go ahead, both of which have around 200 pax. One of the events will be held in May, and since most participants will be local, there are no plans to cancel. Meanwhile, the second group in December hasn’t started planning.

On the other hand, the Pacific World Hong Kong team is working closely with clients to either postpone events, or have requested a change in destination.

A spokesman from the company indicated that it was “business as usual outside of Greater China”.

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