The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) has urged the Hong Kong authorities to repurpose the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme to provide immediate financial assistance for event-related service providers.
Currently, HK$620 million (US$79.7 million) out of the HK$1,020 million Subsidy Scheme under the HKSAR Anti-epidemic Fund has been set aside to subsidise 100 per cent of the venue rental – for exhibitions and international conventions – held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo until June 2022.
However, organisers of international trade fairs and conferences were unable to recruit overseas exhibitors and buyers due to travel restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirements. Subsequently, these event organisers cancelled their events, or postponed the events to 2022, and organisers are unable to benefit from the Subsidy Scheme. As of June 30, 2021, the Subsidy Scheme provided a total subsidy of only around HK$97.4 million to 42 exhibitions.
HKECIA also called upon the government to provide a roadmap to reopening and relaxing compulsory quarantine requirements for verified overseas business travellers, so that organisers of international trade fairs can plan ahead for the recruitment of exhibitors and buyers.
Recently, HKECIA conducted a survey among its 101 HKECIA members from August 2-13, 2021. Sixty companies responded, with 36 per cent being event organisers and 64 per cent non-organisers (including contractors, freight forwarders, travel agents, AV equipment suppliers, and design houses etc).
These are the key findings:
- From the organiser respondents, 136 exhibitions and conferences were cancelled or postponed since February 2020 and these events were expected to draw over 99,000 exhibiting companies and over 4.8 million visitors.
- 93 per cent of respondents claim that the impact of Covid-19 on their business is severe or extremely severe.
- All respondents project a loss of revenue in the year 2021, with 37 per cent of event organisers and 29 per cent of non-event organisers projecting a loss of over HK$50 million in 2021.
Severe impact of compulsory quarantine requirements
- 100 per cent of organiser respondents claim that quarantine-free travel for overseas participants is important for them to run and materialise their events.
- 75 per cent of organisers respondents which organise international events in Hong Kong say that they will move their international events from Hong Kong to other countries if the travel restrictions in Hong Kong are not removed by the end-2021.
- 45 per cent of all respondents can only survive for 12 months or less, if the current travel restrictions remain till the end-2021, or if no further financial assistance is received by end-2021.
Government’s assistance is insufficient
- 55 per cent of event organiser respondents claim that they did not benefit from the Subsidy Scheme as they were not able to run international trade fairs or conferences.
- 66 per cent of non-event organisers claim that the two rounds of the government’s Anti-Epidemic Fund in 2020 did not provide sufficient assistance as there was no direct funding for contractors, logistics and service providers. For instance, operating costs and warehouse rental are high and not covered by the Anti-Epidemic Fund.
HKECIA chairman Mr Stuart Bailey stated: “The convention and exhibition industry, which contributed over HK$58 billion to Hong Kong’s economy in 2018, has been in deep water since February 2020 as no international event was able to be held in Hong Kong due to travel restrictions and preventive measures. Only small-scale consumer exhibitions have resumed.
“The Subsidy Scheme, however, is only able to assist the convention and exhibition sector once it is practicable for events to resume, a point which trade fair organisers have yet to reach. We urge the government to repurpose the Subsidy Scheme and provide immediate and additional financial assistance for event-related service providers. Our industry also needs a roadmap to prepare for a strong revival.”