Several large-scale tradeshows exit Hong Kong for less restrictive pastures

The city's business events future remains uncertain; Hong Kong's skyline pictured

As Hong Kong grapples with its largest Covid-19 outbreak to date and increasingly stringent travel restrictions, organisers are finding overseas alternatives to hold their global trade fairs this year.

Several large-scale tradeshows that have already made their move out of Hong Kong for 2022 include the Asia Fruit Logistica to Bangkok (November 2-4); APLF-Leather and Materials+ 2022 to Dubai (March 30 to April 1); Cosmoprof Asia to Singapore (November 16-18); and Jewellery & Gem World (September 27-30).

The city’s business events future remains uncertain; Hong Kong’s skyline pictured

Tradeshow organisers have dubbed some of the moves as special editions, but whether the move will be permanent remains to be seen.

Business Strategies Group’s managing director and UFI regional manager Asia Pacific, Mark Cochrane, stated that Hong Kong’s quarantine restrictions and zero-Covid policy are damaging the city’s future as a regional tradeshow hub.

Although some shows are likely to remain, such as the Art Basel Hong Kong, Cochrane opined that “B2B sourcing shows may not return” as “the outlook for business events in Hong Kong is bleak”.

“Until Covid restrictions are removed, Hong Kong has no chance of hosting significant business events,” Cochrane stated.

Informa Group’s executive vice president commercial development, Michael Duck, agreed: “The quarantine restrictions are very harsh for inbound travellers to Hong Kong. Even when Hong Kong didn’t have that many cases, borders remained closed. Now the city has over 50,000 cases a day, similar to Singapore, but Singapore is more relaxed. If the situation doesn’t improve, business will continue to decline.”

Duck indicated that the year ahead seems “tough” to hold tradeshows in Hong Kong, but it is a different story in the rest of Asia. There are positive signs of business events returning in cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta, in countries that have decided to live with the virus.

“The outlook for business events in Asia is largely in the hands of the government. Countries like Thailand and Singapore that are striving to lure business events back will benefit. Overly-cautious, timid governments, will pay a price for their approach,” Cochrane stated.

Hong Kong-based International Conference Consultants’ director, Katerina Tam, shared with TTGmice that the World Sterilization Congress was planned for Hong Kong this year, but organisers have moved the conference to Chile due to the city’s “stringent travelling measures”.

As such, Tam opined that the company does not expect many international travellers heading to Hong Kong this year. As for local events, they have been postponed to 2H2022.

“We are still working on a few international conferences for next year, in the hope that the situation will improve,” she said.

When asked about the tradeshow situation, a spokesperson for Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) Limited (HML), told TTGmice that only a “small number of trade exhibition organisers have decided to hold one-off editions outside of Hong Kong” because of the stringent travel restrictions.

“A majority of recurrent events are staying with Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. For example, the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong, Art Basel Hong Kong 2022 and Art Central have been postponed to later this year. Retail Asia Conference and Expo 2022, Vegetarian Food Asia 2022, Lohas Expo 2022, Natural & Organic Asia 2022 and Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong will also be held in May to September 2022 as scheduled,” she stated.

The spokesperson added that HML remains confident in Hong Kong, and that “international shows and conferences will return when travel restrictions are relaxed”.

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