Room for plenty

AsiaWorld-Expo is attracting a bevy of trade events and public shows of all sizes, and CEO Irene Chan welcomes them all, saying that they are all important for both the venue and the destination

Hong Kong Tourism Board and the government have been extra generous with subvention support this year. How do you see that impacting AsiaWorld-Expo’s (AWE) ability to sign on new events?
We’re very grateful that the Hong Kong government is giving full support by launching in July this year another HK$1.4 billion (US$179.6 million) worth of incentive to support recurring exhibitions. This scheme is already in effect, and will run until June 30, 2026. It is expected to support about 200 exhibitions, and grants qualified ones 100 per cent rental subsidy. It really helps a lot, particularly for the rebound of our exhibition industry.

The scheme truly helps when we market overseas to attract new organisers to try out new event themes in Hong Kong. Right now, most event themes in Hong Kong are around electronics, fashion and jewellery. With such support, organisers are more willing to explore new exhibitions here since staging their events will come with reduced financial requirements.

Furthermore, the scheme is designed to encourage recurring exhibitions. The first event edition will gain 75 per cent of rental coverage funding, and the remaining 25 per cent will be given during the second event edition.

This has already brought good results. Super Terminal Expo, which will take place in November 2024, is one outcome. It is exciting because it is an inaugural show for the transportation and logistics industries in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia. Our business development team has been working on this event topic for quite a few years, even before the pandemic.

There is a Passenger Terminal Expo in Europe that is focused on aviation and airport terminals. Super Terminal Expo in Hong Kong will be organised by Informa Markets, a big player, and will cover airport terminal, cargo terminal, logistics railway terminal, and more. It will be groundbreaking.

Does AWE establish and organise its own events?
Our business development team of 20-something staff is tasked with finding new events. That’s their KPI. They conduct a lot of research to see what topics are really interesting for Hong Kong and Asia, and to determine if events specialising in such topics would be successful for a long time. Then, they will go out and find if such events already exist. They will talk to the organiser about bringing the event to Hong Kong.

We are doing this extensively, and more of such developed events will be announced soon.

What is AWE doing to also sweeten the deal for event organisers?
We do a lot of facilitation for our event organisers. We do not just rent halls. We walk the extra mile for them and act as their partners. We want to make sure that all our event organisers and their visitors are completely satisfied with their visit.

One of the things we have done is to offer on-site baggage check-in services for event attendees. We started doing this three years ago. With this service, event attendees will not need to rush from the venue to the airport on the last day of their event. They can check their luggage in for their flight home at counters set up on site. AWE is part of Airport Authority Hong Kong, so we are able to get such support from the airport team.

AWE bears the cost of this service, which would be in the zone of five figures. That’s ok though, because we know this will enhance the experience of event attendees. However, we do this only for mega events, like Jewellery & Gem WORLD Hong Kong.

What does AWE observe as being the most critical for event organisers who are considering Hong Kong for their upcoming events? Are these conditions any different from pre-pandemic times?
Event organisers consider global connectivity, tax rates, customs, legal and judiciary systems when selecting destinations for their events. Hong Kong checks all these boxes and is still an attractive destination for most events.

These factors are still important post-lockdown, but Hong Kong’s close proximity to the Greater Bay Area is now also an attractive factor for event organisers considering Asia. Because of the well-established infrastructure network connecting Hong Kong with the Greater Bay Area, many regard Hong Kong as the base from which they can connect with the China market.

It is also a fact that travel is more expensive these days, so people prefer to cover many cities for business at one go. Starting from Hong Kong, they can easily extend into other Chinese cities.

This connection advantage, along with the incentive scheme mentioned earlier, allows AWE to be more empowered to bring new events to Hong Kong.

Does your team also help with delegate boosting efforts?
We do. We very recently signed an Agreement On Strategic Partnership And Cooperation with KINTEX (Korea International Exhibition Centre), which will see us both working together to promote the development of the MICE industry in the Asia-Pacific region.

If we can join forces to attract more events and delegates over to Asia-Pacific, we will do it. The event could rotate in the region or lead to spin-offs in several cities.

What would you say is the most important newly acquired event for AWE in 2024 and 2025?
Well, Super Terminal Expo in 2024 is one. In 2025, we will have UFI Global Congress. Held annually in renowned tradeshow destinations, the last global edition hosted in Asia-Pacific region was in 2019.

UFI represents an industry that involves all the significant and influential event organisers, stakeholders, partners, production houses, etc, so it will give us a great chance to showcase Hong Kong’s ability to connect events with the Greater Bay Area.

Event delegates are increasingly mixing business with leisure. Is AWE able to bring leisure elements into the event programme?
Oh, of course! We have what we call the EXPOtainment CUBE where we customise an array of visitor engagement programmes based on the nature of the show. One example is to offer local foodstuff like craft beers, siew mai, and gai zai cookies for international event delegates to pick up and enjoy. These are very local snacks that are loved by Hong Kong people. Event attendees need only to show the free-to-download AsiaWorld-Expo app to get these snacks and they can hang around and enjoy them.

Last September, we organised a jazz performance for event attendees. It took place around the end of the event show day, just in time for relaxed networking. We also offered some street food along with the jazz performance.

We make all these complimentary for event organisers, in the hope of providing a more unique experience for clients and their attendees.

Once our Phase 2 expansion is completed in 2027/2028 and we get our 20,000-pax arena, we will try to co-locate some of the live entertainment events hosted there with exhibitions. This will allow exhibition attendees to adjourn for some entertainment.

You know, we are world famous for hosting international concerts – K-pop, Western pop, J-pop, and even Thai-pop! After travelling all the way to Hong Kong for business, why not stay for some performances too?

We have also spoken to 11 SKIES, which is just adjacent to our complex, about sponsoring one free trial of one of its many fun activities for event attendees.

We aim for total experience at all events.‌

AWE does both business events and concerts. Is there an ideal proportion of event types for the venue, or does it not matter at all?
I do not think it matters at all. The trend now is integrated shows. We have conferences that combine exhibitions and entertainment – like the three-day ComplexCon (March 22-24, 2024), which will be a pop culture festival featuring street style, trainers, art, food, music and forums. How am I going to split that up?

It is far more important to look at the number of show days we can do, and the number of visitors we can bring to Hong Kong. Events bring economic contribution to Hong Kong because attendees spend on so many things for so many days.

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