The removal of travel barriers between China and Hong Kong has brought event planners in the latter destination a welcome change of pace.
Event planners in Hong Kong tell TTGmice that they are flooded with enquiries and bookings since travel restrictions were lifted, and most of the business is coming from the mainland.
Business is returning so swiftly that CTSHK Metropole International Travel Services, deputy general manager, George Kai, expects performance to reach 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by this May.
He said: “(The reopening has) triggered numerous enquiries and bookings. Most are firmed up within a short time, such as a week before departure. These have kept us very busy.”
Kai said the majority of events are led by government bodies, and can range from meetings and incentive programmes to product launches and roadshows aimed at promoting provincial business. Each event runs for four days on average.
The optimism is shared by Frankie Lam, director of Kam Wai Travel. Events have streamed in since February, and most of them are from China organisations eager to catch up on business, investments and promotions in Hong Kong.
“The pace of recovery is fast and we expect to hit 40 per cent of pre-Covid business by May 1 and 50 per cent by summer,” said Lam.
Momentous Asia Travel & Events, general manager, Doris Lam, noted that the Chinese used to make up 50 per cent of attendees at conferences held in Hong Kong, and she hopes the same representation will return now that the ease of cross-border travel has returned.
Returning Chinese planners have come with higher expectations, observed Kai.
They now expect fresh destination experiences, Michelin-star meals and quality service. And their desires are being met, according to Kai, thanks to Hong Kong’s dedication to reinventing itself as a destination and creating new tourism experiences during the pandemic years.
“The quality of service at restaurants and provided by guides has also improved,” he added.
However, one stumbling block to Hong Kong’s business events recovery remains – the intense manpower shortage.
Lam said: “Prior to the pandemic, it was typical for us to handle groups with attendees ranging from thousands to 10,000. Now, with my team strength down by 50 per cent, we have to restrict group sizes to 1,000 pax.”
Kai pointed to a shortage of tour guides and hotel staff to support event groups.
With coach drivers and tour guides in high demand, prices for land tours have also gone up by 30 per cent, noted Lam.