HK MICE industry receives long-awaited subsidy

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The Hong Kong government will finally be launching the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme, worth HK$1,020 million (US$131 million) on October 3, 2020.

The monetary injection, under the government’s Anti-epidemic Fund, was supposed to be launched in July 2020, but was postponed due to a third outbreak in the city. It will be in place for a year until October 2021.

The anti-epidemic fund is aimed at easing the financial pressure on event organisers; HKCEC pictured in the foreground

The Subsidy Scheme covers 100 per cent of the venue rental cost for organisers of exhibitions and international conventions scheduled at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), and AsiaWorld-Expo. To qualify, the events must have more than 400 participants and at least 50 per cent from outside Hong Kong.

A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) said that recurring exhibitions at HKCEC and AsiaWorld-Expo over the past five years can apply for an advance subsidy of 50 per cent of the venue rental. The remaining will be disbursed after the exhibition concludes.

While the scheme was met with overall support from Hong Kong’s business events stakeholders, business leaders sounded some concerns.

Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), chairman, Stuart Bailey, highlighted that with several large exhibitions unable to proceed in 2020 and postponed to 2021, many will not be able to qualify for the subsidy.

Monica Lee-MĂĽller, managing director of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management), agreed, saying that mega exhibitions typically have long planning lead-times, and relaunching them before the October 2021 deadline for the Subsidy Scheme may be “challenging”.

“Given this and several other factors, we are in the process of petitioning the government to extend the scheme so that all recurring exhibitions in Hong Kong can benefit and help to revitalise the badly damaged economy,” Bailey told TTGmice.

He shared that HKECIA has also been campaigning the government for “targeted relief”. Some suggestions put forward included an extension of the employee subsidy scheme for workers in the MICE industry with no income; and rent relief for suppliers struggling to meet their overheads.

Meanwhile, Katerina Tam, director of International Conference Consultants, told TTGmice that the subsidy would not apply to her events as most – mainly medical conferences – are conducted in a virtual format and on hotel premises.

She added that it was also not easy to meet the attendee requirements.

“If travel restrictions are not lifted, how are we to draw international visitors? People are still hesitant to travel without a vaccine,” Tam said.

TKS Exhibition Services, founder and managing director, KS Tong, opined that for business events in Hong Kong to truly rebound, the government must “push for a travel bubble or corridor” and “establish a standardised programme for Covid-19 prevention which can be used as a benchmark for safer events”.

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