HKECIA 2019-2020 Chairman’s Report

August 11 2020

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (“HKECIA”, “Association”), first incorporated in May 1990, is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. The Association currently has one hundred and fifteen company members, making it a truly representative voice for the exhibition and convention industry. Our commitment over the years has been to act as a unified voice that represents and promotes the industry and increases awareness of the contribution it has made to our wider society, as well as to support members in areas such as professional development, business networking and information exchange.

As the unified voice of our industry the Association’s role has never been more important than now, when we are facing the biggest challenge in our 30-year history posed by Covid-19. The global pandemic comes hot on the heels of a difficult period for Hong Kong caused by the social unrest and the Sino-US trade war.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government escalated the situation of the preparedness and response plan for Covid-19 to “emergency” level – the highest warning tier – on 25 January 2020. The city’s amusement parks, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, were immediately closed and 3 days later the high-speed trains and cross-border busses and ferries stopped running. The exhibition and convention industry followed suit and events large and small were promptly postponed or cancelled for what we hoped would only be a short period until the outbreak was brought under control. Initially, the outbreak was well contained with few local transmission cases in April to mid-June. By late June Hong Kong had experienced a 21-day-long streak of no confirmed local cases. Four public exhibitions were held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from late May to early July. Preparations had begun for mega public exhibitions to resume starting with the Book Fair in mid-July. These preparations, however, were abruptly halted when the third wave of Covid-19 came in early July and the government’s preventive measures including social distancing, group gathering, and compulsory quarantine measures were tightened again. There followed the postponement of all exhibitions originally scheduled for July and August.

Since February, almost all exhibitions and conventions scheduled to take place have not been held, except the four mentioned above. No events being held means that there has been zero cash generated by organisers, venues, and suppliers to the industry. For many of these companies their only source of income is derived from live events and they have no other means of generating cash to stay in business. This situation prevails, and at the time of writing, overshadows all of the other matters which I will come on to reference. Later in my report, I will also detail all of the important advocacy work that has been undertaken during this period.

The Association continued one of the important tasks and conducted the annual exhibition survey, a valuable tool that is widely used by members, the government, the media, the business sector and the wider community to understand trends and developments in the exhibition industry. By benchmarking the survey findings with similar surveys conducted by other Asian cities, we can obtain a valuable ‘big picture’ of where Hong Kong stands in the region.

In 2019, a total of 132 exhibitions (over 2,000 sqm) were held in Hong Kong. Among which, 80 were “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions. 2019 was a challenging year for the exhibition industry. The US-China trade war started in early 2018 and much of the escalation in tariffs occurred in the second and third quarters of 2019. The exhibition industry faced further challenges in the second half of the year due to city-wide public activities, posing a certain degree of uncertainty when international business travellers were planning their trips to attend trade exhibitions in Hong Kong. The numbers of exhibiting companies and visitors of these 80 exhibitions experienced an inevitable drop of 6% and 21% respectively. Nearly 65,000 exhibiting companies and more than 1.8 million visitors participated in the 80 trade and trade & consumer exhibitions last year. The final report will be available in the next few weeks. I would like to thank the Communications Sub-Committee for making this important survey possible, along with all those of our members who contributed data.

Sub-Committee Reports

China Sub-Committee

The huge infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and High-Speed Rail (Hong Kong section) has encouraged closer ties between Hong Kong and Mainland China, especially the Greater Bay Area. However, due to the city-wide public activities, most of the Mainland delegations have either been cancelled or postponed; the Association has not received any significant delegations from China since June 2019.

The China Sub-Committee will continue to follow up closely the venue development in China, and also looks to form closer ties with other leading associations in the region for the benefit of the members, to encourage collaboration and form mutually beneficial partnerships.

Communications Sub-Committee

The Communications Sub-Committee continued to produce the Annual Exhibition Survey 2019, while at the same time maintaining a busy schedule of day to day activities. The Communications Sub-Committee has also provided the Association with regular valuable support in areas such as the handling of media releases and press interview line-ups.

The Sub-Committee issued media releases “2018 HKECIA exhibition survey reflects strong foundation of Hong Kong’s exhibition industry despite US-China trade war” in July 2019, and in August 2019 “Hong Kong trade exhibitions and conferences held as planned despite public processions”. In early February 2020, the Sub-Committee assisted in producing a document “HKECIA’s updates on Novel Coronavirus” which was posted on UFI Blog and shared with HKECIA members. The Sub-Committee also provided editorial assistance to Chairman for preparing papers to lobby HKSAR Government (CEDB) for the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund. HK$1.02 billion was allocated to subsidise participants and organisers of exhibition and convention activities.

As part of the revival campaign initiated by the Association, the Sub-committee produced three video clips to capture positive comments from international exhibitors and buyers who have successfully established new business connections in Hong Kong’s busy trade fair season in the second half of the year. The purpose was to assure overseas participants’ confidence in attending Hong Kong trade fairs despite social unrest. The video clips were shared on social media by the Association, the HKCEC, the HKTB and trade fair organisers to maximise international exposure.

The Sub-committee prepared presentation materials for HKECIA Chairman to share at a networking session “UFI XChange” during the UFI Annual Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand on 6 November 2019. The presentation highlighted Hong Kong’s advantages as an ideal destination for hosting international exhibitions, current situation, videos with testimonials, and new business opportunities in Greater Bay Area.

The Association continued to actively participate in the Global Exhibitions Day 2020, organised by UFI by promoting the contribution of the exhibition industry in different platforms. The Sub-committee assisted in proofreading the scripts for the GED video.

The Sub-Committee is now working with Oxford Economics on the biennial Economic Impact Study. UFI has secured an arrangement with Oxford Economics that allows industry associations who are UFI members to have specific profiles for their home markets added to the report. The Association’s Executive Committee has decided to engage Oxford Economics to conduct the Study so as to benchmark with UFI global report with consistent methodology.

Education and Training Sub-Committee

The Education and Training Sub-Committee organised a conference in June held alongside the Annual Dinner and one seminar in late November with the Christmas Cocktail.

The Annual Conference held at HKCEC in June 2019 covered hot topics of the industry such as technology and the festivalisation of events. We were pleased to have a full house of over 170 members and guests who participated in the conference.

Held at the HKCEC, the Annual Seminar in November 2019 focused on how to deal with crisis and change in uncertain times. The seminar has been well received and was attended by over 130 members and guests.

The Sub-Committee will carry on planning seminars and educational programmes catering to the members’ needs.

The Education and Training Sub-Committee has also represented HKECIA to join the 2020-2022 Tourism & Hotel consultancy network of the Employees Retraining Board (ERB). The main duties include assisting the ERB to understand the industry trend, training demand and skills required as well as to provide feedback and input on their training programme.

In 2019, the Education Sub-Com has assisted to line-up two guest lectures by industry key stakeholders at School of Hotel & Tourism Management of Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Global Centre for Tourism Education & Training at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies.

The Sub-Committee will continue to look for different opportunities to nurture young talents.

Exhibition Operations Sub-Committee

As stated in previous years, the Operations Sub-Committee remains focused on sustainability at Hong Kong events in two key areas:

  • Reducing the environmental impact (waste to landfill) of HK events
  • The health and safety of everyone involved in events

Environmentally we have seen some improvement in the past year in terms of stand height reductions, and a move away from wooden-build stand construction to more responsible options, such as “frame and fabric” stands. There is also an increase in reusable items for signage, offices, feature areas etc. But there is still a great deal to be done if the Hong Kong exhibition and events industry is to move away from the current waste to landfill model.

Reducing stand heights and reducing wooden construction onsite also improve health and safety at events, and we encourage everyone in our industry to consider the benefits of making these changes.

The past year has of course been overshadowed by firstly the social unrest in Hong Kong, and then the impact of Covid-19. The city-wide public activities made many aspects of exhibition operations very challenging, particularly the move-in and move-out phases. It was greatly encouraging to see all parties involved – venues, contractors, forwarders, suppliers; organisers cooperate to ensure that events could take place as scheduled, despite some significant logistical and timing issues. Hong Kong’s “can do” spirit was once again in evidence.

In recent months the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on Hong Kong and our industry is well known, and we wait to see the effect on HK companies in all areas of our business, as they weather this global storm. Looking ahead, we have worked with other parties in the industry to circulate through HKECIA the “Allsecure” industry biosafety standard, so that we might all be better prepared to run events in a healthy and safe manner, once they recommence in the “new normal”.

Membership Sub-Committee

The Membership Sub-Committee continued to work on creating networking opportunities for members and supporting Association events such as the annual dinner, annual conference, seminars and cocktails.

As of today, the Association had 64 full members, 39 associate members and 12 overseas members, making a total of 115 members.

New members in 2019-2020 included Art & Antique International Fair Ltd, To Be Concepts Ltd, MCH Group Asia Ltd, Sunwising Insurance Brokers (Hong Kong) Ltd, Comba Telecom Limited, Steed Exhibition Ltd, Chunky Onion Limited, Hannover Fairs International Ltd, Eventist Hong Kong Limited, Cred Communications Ltd, PRYSM Group Ltd, The Real Production. Member joining this year (2020-2021) include Visual Power Limited and Conceptual Limited. We welcome all of them to the HKECIA family.

In June 2019, the Sub-Committee organised the HKECIA Conference and the 29th Annual Dinner at HKCEC. The dinner was attended by over 300 members and guests including senior government officials, local consulates and close working partners.

In November 2019, the Sub-Committee organised the HKECIA Annual Seminar cum Christmas Cocktail at HKCEC with over 100 members and guests in attendance.

The Sub-Committee would like to thank all sponsors for their support in the past year.

The Membership Sub-Committee will continue to work on member recruitment, to explore and to create networking opportunities, and to enhance membership benefits.

Venue Development Sub-Committee

The development of Hong Kong’s Exhibition and Convention facilities continues to be an important agenda item for the Association in 2019/2020. We remain committed to seeing an expansion of the city’s exhibition space at both major venues, a position which has been made clear to representatives from the Commerce & Economic Development Bureau (CEDB), the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and other important stakeholders.

As was mentioned by the Chief Executive in her 2018 policy address the three government buildings in Wan Chai are expected to be fully vacated, at the earliest by 2026, following which it is proposed that there will be room for more exhibit space in the facility which replaces them and is connected with the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Airport Authority is also planning for the ongoing development of the AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE) as part of the SkyCity project.

AFECA Sub-Committee

The Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) is a leading association for the Asian exhibition and meeting market. The federation has now over 155 members, covering 19 nations/regions in Asia. HKECIA has been a board member of AFECA since 2016.

In 2019, HKECIA, with its Education Fund, supported two student teams from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, to participate in the AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge held in Manila, the Philippines and competed with 18 other teams from Asia. This event is a platform for the future Asian MICE talents to test their skills against other participants by presenting their unique and creative MICE event ideas. The CUHK team has won “Special Recognition Award” in the overall competition and one of their team members Chan Tsz Hin has won the “Most Knowledgeable Award”.

A highlight of AFECA’s annual activities is the AFECA Awards. The AFECA Awards is an annual regional competition to recognize members in their pursuit of excellence in events and professional services. In 2019, three HKECIA members have won distinctive recognition and awards. Bailey Communications won 1st place in Outstanding Trade Exhibition under 5,000 sqm; HKTDC won 3rd place of Outstanding Trade Exhibition over 5,001 sqm; Milton Exhibits Group won 1st place in Outstanding Technology Solutions and Services.

This year, Chairman of HKECIA, Mr. Stuart Bailey has taken part in the AFECA Webinar in early July to present the latest MICE updates in Hong Kong to the audience from 12 Asian countries/ regions in Asia. Whereas our Executive Vice Chairman Ms. Wendy Lai has led the Young Professional Subcommittee to host an AFECA webinar with the popular topic “Event technologies to inspire your next events” in June.

The HKECIA will continue to take part in these regional events to promote Hong Kong as the world’s meeting place, and to help our members build strong networks with Asian counterparts.

Advocacy Work by HKECIA during the Challenging Time

One of the most important tasks for the HKECIA is to represent the interests of our members in exhibition and convention related industries by providing a unified voice in dealing with the government, legislative and statutory bodies, media and public organisations. During the past 12 months, this work has occupied more of our time than ever with myself and the Executive Committee putting in a significant amount of time and efforts into meetings, briefings and lobbying work.

Since the start of the year, the Association has met on numerous occasions with several government departments to explain how the global pandemic is affecting our industry and make suggestions of what needs to be done to avoid irreparable damage to the sector. In March the Chairman was invited to join the Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force convened by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and has represented the industry at physical and virtual meetings in the past months. In April several members of the Executive Committee were asked by UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, to contribute their knowledge and expertise to produce a structured framework for the reopening of exhibitions, this document was subsequently shared with all members.

There have been numerous one-to-one meetings and calls with the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau including the Secretary Mr Edward Yau, the under-secretary Dr Bernard Chan, the Deputy Secretary, Ms Vivian Sum, and the Principal Assistant Secretary, Harry Lin. The dialogue and correspondence has been continuous and through careful explanation has given the government a clearer understanding of the position of the industry which has helped to secure some important concessions for our members.

The first round of Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund which was announced on February 21st was welcomed by the industry as an important step towards restarting the exhibition and convention industry. The Scheme aims to allow larger events to take place sooner with more exhibitors and participants, hence a trickle-down effect the benefit of which would be felt by all companies in the exhibition supply-chain. Under the terms of the Scheme private event organisers staging exhibitions and major international major conferences at either the HKCEC or AWE would be able to have the venue rental reimbursed to them for a period lasting 12 months. In the months following the announcement, the Association has worked with the CEDB to clarify and refine the terms and the application process to better fit the needs of the independent exhibition organisers. Some significant progress was made to provide more flexibility on the start-finish date of the one-year term of the scheme. We also gained some concession on the requirement for organisers with a significant track record of running shows in Hong Kong not to have to fully fund the cost of the venue in advance which would have had the effect of limiting the available cash for other uses. The Association also fought hard to ensure that conferences and exhibitions were not treated as ‘mass-gatherings’ in the same way that public festivals and music concerts would be. This ensures that business events would not be subject to all CHP rules on gatherings and so they are able to resume once it is safe to do so inside a secure and safe environment.

The first-round of anti-epidemic relief measures, however, are only able to assist the C&E sector once it is practicable for events to resume, a point which we have yet to reach. In the meantime, it has become clear that more needs to be done to safeguard jobs within the industry until we can resume. The longer the suspension of events continues the more difficult it becomes for reputable companies to stay afloat. We will continue to press the case for more targeted government assistance aimed at helping our sector to survive this period.

Here are some key milestones:

5-Jun 2020 Call meeting with HKSAR’s Government Commerce & Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) on event resumption and subsidy scheme and progress of travel bubbles
5-Jun 2020 2nd Meeting of Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board
5-Jun 2020 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
25-Jun 2020 Participation in AEO International Webinar on Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong
3-Jul 2020 Participation in the AFECA Board Meeting Webinar
9-Jul 2020 Meeting with UFI Asia, Hong Kong Tourism Board to discuss hosting the UFI Global Congress in Hong Kong
10-Jul 2020 Industry meeting with CEDB – on implementation procedure of the venue subsidy scheme
17-Jul 2020 HKECIA ExCo Meeting to discuss further actions to be taken in light of the third wave of Covid-19 in HK
23-Jul 2020 HKECIA conducted a member survey on the Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong C&E Industry
7-Aug 2020 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
11-Aug 2020 Zoom meeting with CEDB to present the HKECIA member survey on Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong C&E Industry, as well as to discuss on travel restriction, extension of the venue subsidy scheme and other possible extra support to the C&E industry
3-Sep 2020 3rd Meeting of Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board
8-Sep 2020 Consultation Meeting with HKSAR Government’s Tourism Commission on potential multi-purpose venue in Hong Kong
25-Sep 2020 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
5-Oct 2021 Call Meeting with the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) about the use of the 500,000 flight tickets AA purchased from the four home-based airlines
14-Oct 2020 Letter to Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development on the extension of the Venue Subsidy Scheme
23-Oct 2020 Meeting with CEDB to discuss on the extension of the venue subsidy scheme, extra support to the C&E industry, guideline to reopen business event, travel restriction and venue development
5-Nov 2020 Operations Sub-Committee Meeting to discuss the current situation of contractors and sub-contractors in Hong Kong
5-Nov 2020 Meeting with Cathay Pacific to discuss possible on possible support to the C&E industry when business events can resume
15-Nov 2020 Venue Subsidy Scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund by HKSAR Government has confirmed to extend to 31 December, 2021.
17-Nov 2020 Participation in 87th UFI Congress’s Panel Discussion on Effective Government Responses to COVID-19
4-Dec 2020 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
16-Dec 2020 Letter to Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development on the further extension of the Venue Subsidy Scheme to end of 2022 and financial relief to suppliers of the C&E Industry
30-Dec 2020 Participation in briefing on Rapid Covid-19 testing
1-Feb 2021 4th Meeting of Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board
5-Feb 2021 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
11-Feb 2021 Call meeting with CEDB to discuss on the requirements for the reopening of C&E activities and further extension of the venue subsidy scheme
25-Feb 2021 Zoom meeting with Hong Kong Tourism Board on possible assistance to organisers during recovery stage
29-Mar 2021 HKECIA ExCo Meeting
15-Apr 2021 Zoom Meeting with CEDB on vaccination & testing; reopening of border; extension of venue subsidy scheme and update on the enhancement of SME Export Marketing Fund
30-Apr 2021 Funding scope of the SME Export Marketing Fund has been expanded to cover large-scale exhibitions targeting the local market as well as online exhibitions, and the eligibility criteria has been relaxed to cover non-SMEs, for a period of two years
7-May 2021 5th Meeting of Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board
8-Jun 2021 Meeting with CEDB

The industry was initially pleased when the government responded with the Scheme to help the sector to recover from Covid-19. In late May and June, when the pandemic began to stabilise we were pleased to see the first exhibitions resume and plans put in place for more to follow. However, as the local transmission cases of Covid-19 spiked from July the 7th, our industry went back into shut-down and has continued to be adversely affected as more exhibitions and conferences have been cancelled or further postponed. It has become clear that the Scheme will not be sufficient to help the C&E industry to survive given the long period of time with no events taking place.

Recently, the Association conducted a survey among members to understand the impact of Covid-19 on the Hong Kong C&E industry. This is an important initiative and thanks to the support of our members, we can speak to the government with a high degree of authority about how our industry is faring and how more support should be forthcoming.

We will also continue to urge the government to provide additional financial assistance to different parties involved in the exhibition industry, including venues, organisers, contractors, logistics/ freight-forwarding companies, registration companies, equipment/ furniture/ AV rental and other services providers.

The Association will also continue to seek clarity on matters relating to travel restrictions, and to demand much greater transparency around the reviews of the compulsory quarantine arrangements for countries/ regions that have a good record against the pandemic.

Trade Promotion, Communication & Networking Activities

The Association has been actively involved in a number of valuable activities over the year; some of the significant ones are listed here:

  • In June 2019, the HKECIA and the HKESA celebrated the Global Exhibitions Day by jointly organising the Global Exhibitions Day Friendly Football Match.
  • In November 2019, Association’s Chairman Mr Stuart Bailey gave a speech at the UFI Congress in Bangkok to update participants that Hong Kong remains open for business.
  • In December 2019, former Chairman and Special Advisor of HKECIA – Mr Daniel Cheung has represented HKECIA to update the audience about the situation in Hong Kong at the Greater Bay Area MICE Forum organised by the Macao Convention & Exhibition Association.
  • In January 2020, the HKECIA Golf Day at Sai Kung, Kau Sai Chau was held successfully, with participants enjoying a fun day of sport and networking.
  • In January 2020, a group of HKECIA Members participated in the 16th edition of China Expo Forum for International Cooperation (CEFCO) in Nanning, Guangxi.

The effects of the global pandemic have hit hard and I know that we have all suffered greatly. I doubt if our industry has ever experienced a more difficult period and I sincerely hope that we never will again. The various government schemes that have been created to help our sector and the economy to rebound, welcome though they are, will never be enough to make up for what has been lost and many difficult decisions still lay ahead of us.

However, as I’m sure most members are aware, when written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters (危機) – one represents danger, but the other represents opportunity. I am still confident that we will beat this virus and that face-to-face exhibitions will come back stronger than ever combined with new ideas that will enhance deal-making and measurable business outcomes for all participants.

I would like to take to opportunity to thank the members for everything that has been done over the past months to support each other and help to provide a strong network to share ideas and give advice; I have been delighted to see the solidarity shown by HKECIA members recognising that we are all in this together. In particular, the Executive Committee who has been unwavering in their efforts to find solutions to the many problems we face.

I hope that later this year we will have the opportunity to come together in-person to share our experiences and celebrate the 30th Anniversary of HKECIA and a brighter new year ahead of us. With a long list of events that have been rescheduled to take place in the final quarter of 2020, I hope that we are all going to be in for a busy time, by continuing to work together I believe we can emerge stronger and better prepared to help our stakeholders and make Hong Kong once again Asia’s World City.

Thank you for your support and I wish you all a healthy and prosperous year ahead.

Stuart Bailey

Chairman (2020)