HKECIA 2023-2024 Chairman’s Report

May 31 2024
The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (“HKECIA”, “Association”), first incorporated in May 1990, is celebrating its 34th Anniversary. The Association currently has one hundred corporate members, including all of the leading organisations in the sector, 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 the economy and the wider society. The HKECIA also strives to promote sustainability and safety as well as support members with professional development, business networking, information exchange and promoting careers in our industry to emerging talents.

Over the past 12 months, the exhibition and convention industry in Hong Kong has been gaining momentum. While we have not yet reached the size and scale of events seen before the pandemic, the industry has worked diligently to reposition Hong Kong as the premier city for meetings, conventions, and exhibitions in the Asia-Pacific region. Momentum is building, and although there are still challenges ahead, we should be proud of the progress and resilience demonstrated over the past year.

The annual exhibition survey, which serves as an important barometer of the industry’s performance, indicates that Hong Kong exhibition activities showed a strong rebound in 2023 after the reopening of boundaries, bringing back international business travellers to Hong Kong.

In 2023, Hong Kong hosted 125 large-scale exhibitions (over 2,000 sq meters). This represents a 30% increase from the number of such exhibitions in 2022. Of the 125 exhibitions, 73 were “Trade” or “Trade and Consumer” events, while the remaining 52 were “Consumer” exhibitions.

Some trade exhibitions which were suspended or temporarily staged outside Hong Kong during COVID returned to Hong Kong. As mentioned, there were 73 “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions, up from 40 in 2022. Based on the data collected from respondents of the “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions, the number of exhibiting companies grew by over 400% from nearly 9,000 to over 45,000, while the number of visitors jumped by over 560% to over 1.4 million. The space rented by exhibitors increased by nearly 280% to nearly 890,000 sqm.

Yet, since the flight capacity has not fully resumed to pre-COVID levels, among other factors affecting global and regional economic recovery, Hong Kong’s exhibition industry has not fully recovered. When compared with 2019 pre-COVID, the number of “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions in 2023 dropped by 9% and the total space rented by exhibitors decreased by 5%.

The numbers of exhibiting companies and visitors in 2023 reached 70% and 76% respectively of those in 2019. Among all categories, the number of visitors from the Mainland to “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions performed the best in terms of recovery pace as the number reached 91% of 2019.

The number of regional and international exhibiting companies in 2023 is half of those in 2019, while the number of visitors from regional and international origins reached slightly over 50% of the figures in 2019.

The new $1.4 billion scheme “Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions” (“ISRE Scheme”) launched by the Government in July 2023 to support the recovery of the convention and exhibition industry helps attract and retain recurrent exhibitions. The Scheme is a practical incentive to attract the organisers to stage their recurrent exhibitions in Hong Kong, helping release the financial burden of the exhibition organisers who were unable to stage international trade fairs during the pandemic. We strongly urge the government to honour its commitment to fully fund this important scheme until June 2026.

We expect the volume of international exhibitors and visitors in 2024 will gradually increase from 2023 provided that the flight capacity will return to normality. Hong Kong’s unique competitive advantages as a leading city for hosting trade exhibitions and international conventions remain unchanged. Hong Kong is still a top choice for holding international trade exhibitions in Asia for its world-class service and superb infrastructure and facilities.

AFECA Sub-Committee

The Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations (AFECA) is a leading association to promote the growth and development of the exhibition and convention industry in Asia. The HKECIA is a key association and board member of the AFECA. Executive Vice Chairman and AFECA Sub-Committee Chair Ms Wendy Lai is the Secretary General of the AFECA Board.

Over the past year, the AFECA has implemented many programmes and initiatives to support the resumption of the Asian exhibition and convention industry. Over 200 MICE industry leaders attended the AFECA AGM 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand, from 20 to 23 November 2023. Ms Wendy Lai participated in the AGM, Asia Business Events Forum, AFECA Awards & Gala Dinner 2023.

The AFECA Youth MICE Challenge 2023 was also held in Bangkok, Thailand. Thanks to our sponsors who contributed to the HKECIA Education Fund which allows the association to cover the cost of participating teams.  Our student teams from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) were nominated to participate in the competition and present their exhibition projects. Both teams performed impressively. We are very proud that despite fierce competition, the CUHK student team was awarded the second runner-up and one of the students Arnav Sethi won The Best Presenter Award.

More information about the AFECA Youth MICE Challenge 2024 will be announced soon. HKECIA will continue to support and sponsor students to join the Challenge. Our HKECIA Education Fund is now open for sponsorship and relies on your support. By supporting the Fund, you will help students realise their potential and motivate and nurture them to pursue their careers in the MICE industry.

China Sub-Committee

The Association commits to a more proactive role in collaborating and forging new ties with organisations in China.   We believe it is crucial to effectively “tell good stories of Hong Kong” in the region.

  • HKECIA Chairman Mr Stuart Bailey, Vice-chairman Mr Adolph Chan and Honorary Secretary Ms Brenda Yau attended the summit at the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center on 13 January 2024. At the Summit, Mr Stuart Bailey and Mr Mike Jiang, Chairman of the Shenzhen Conference Exhibition Association signed a cooperation agreement in the presence of Mr Jim Zeng, Director of Shenzhen, Hong Kong Trade Development Council and Mr Zhengchao Wang, Division Chief of Trade in Services Division (Convention and Exhibition Management Division), Commerce Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality.

HKECIA and SZCEA will jointly promote the development of the exhibition industry of the two cities, including strengthening project cooperation and co-organising events to raise the industry’s awareness and encourage participation. Both parties agreed to build ‘bridges” for the development of talents through connection and collaboration.

  • On 14 September 2023, the Chairman was invited to the Business Conference on Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao-Greater Bay Area (GBA) Development as a panellist at The Venetian Macao. The event was co-organised by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the People’s Government of the Guangdong Province and the HKSAR Government. Chairman shared his insights on the MICE environment and features of Hong Kong, innovative cooperation with other cities in the GBA in recent years, and the role of GBA through the development of the MICE industry in developing international supply chain cooperation for local and foreign companies.
  • On 18 June 2023, the Chairman was invited to speak as a panellist at The Global Exhibition CEO Shanghai Summit 2023 at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. Chairman shared his views in the panel “Characteristics of and Challenges for the Recovery of Global Exhibition Markets”

The China Sub-Committee remains committed to closely monitoring the developments in Mainland China’s events and venue landscape, with a particular focus on the Greater Bay Area. We had exchanges with many affiliates in China and Macao:

  • Recently, Vice Chairman Adolph Chan and China Sub-Committee Chairperson Ms Brenda Yau received the delegation from CCPIT Wuxi to discuss the cooperation in the exhibitions field between Wuxi, China and Hong Kong.
  • Chairman and Ms Brenda Yau recorded a congratulatory video for the establishment of the Hengqin Convention and Exhibition Association and its Inauguration Ceremony, which was held on 11 April 2024 in Hengqin.
  • During 10-12 January 2024, several Executive Committee Members attended the 19th China Expo Forum for International Cooperation (CEFCO 2024) in Nanchang.
  • On 13 December 2023, we received delegations from the Zhejiang International Convention & Exhibition Industry Association to discuss the industry development and opportunities.
  • In mid-October 2023, fifteen HKECIA delegations went to the 28th Macao International Trade and Investment Fair tour and Hengqin to visit MICE venues and facilities in the two places. Vice-Chairman Mr. Adolph Chan, Honorary Secretary and China Sub-Committee Chairperson Ms. Brenda Yau, and other members met Mr. Sam Lei, Executive Director, Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute to exchange and share the latest developments of the Hong Kong and Macao MICE industry.
  • On 26 July 2023, Vice Chairman Adolph Chan and Ms Brenda Yau met the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Dongguan Committee on behalf of HKECIA.

The China Sub-Committee would continue to deepen the regional cooperation and exchange with our sister associations to provide the latest information and mutual benefits for our members.

Recently, the Central Government announced the expansion of Hong Kong’s and Macao’s Individual Visit Scheme in covering more Mainland cities. We believe it would create new business opportunities for Hong Kong’s tourism and economic development. As Hong Kong strives to maintain its role as a global “superconnector”, the Association will explore the potential that this holds for our industry and our members. Accordingly, we will intensify cooperation with leading associations in the region to advance the industry’s development and provide our members with the best possible opportunities for growth and success.

Communications Sub-Committee

The Communications Sub-Committee continued to produce materials for the Chairman to respond to media enquiries or conduct interviews.

During this year, the Sub-Committee has prepared the following materials:

  • press release “HKECIA welcomes measures to support C&E industry in the 2023 Policy Address” in June 2023;
  • a letter to Grand Hyatt Hong Kong re the concern about harmful impact on Hong Kong’s exhibition industry by competing exhibitions held at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong; and
  • HKECIA Annual Exhibition Survey 2023.

Some of our Executive Committees members have been interviewed by various media and organisations:

  • Written interview by the South China Morning Post on the outlook of Hong Kong’s MICE industry was conducted by the Chairman in February 2024.
  • Written interview by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce on the outlook of Hong Kong trade shows was conducted by Chairman, Communications Sub-Committee Chair Ms Monica Lee-Müller and Honorary Treasurer Mr David Bondi in February 2024
  • Written interview by MIX Magazine on views of the Policy Address was conducted by Chairman in October 2023.
  • On-camera television interview by TVB Pearl on MICE recovery outlook was conducted by Chairman in August 2023.
  • Interview by RTHK Hong Kong Connection on the recovery of the MICE industry was conducted by ExCo Member and Education & Training Committee Co-Chairman Mr K S Tong in June 2023.
  • The chairman was also invited periodically to appear on RTHK Radio 3’s “Backchat” program to comment on issues relevant to the exhibition and event sector.

The Sub-Committee also provided advice on the website revamp project. The HKECIA website was successfully launched with a brand-new layout, user friendly navigation and more useful content to provide a better user experience.

Education & Training Sub-Committee

To provide members and industry players with the latest industry information and trends, the Annual Conference was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in June 2023. The conference covered a range of hot industry topics, including opportunities for the Hong Kong Exhibition Industry, support to SMEs from technology, talent and funding, artificial intelligence developments, and sustainability and advocacy. We are delighted to report that over 130 members and guests participated in this physical conference.

The Annual Seminar, held at JC Cube at Tai Kwun in December 2023, covered several important topics, including how to enhance the “Hong Kong brand”, the future of technology and its impact on travel and retail, Greater Bay Area, venue security requirements, sustainability and ESG, and changing event format landscape. This seminar was well-received and attended by over 120 members and industry players. The event continued with the festive Christmas Cocktail with over 100 members attending and mingling at the popular year-end gathering.

The Education & Training Sub-Committee continued to present the Association to join the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) meeting of Industry Consultative Networks, Tourism and Hotel to help ERB better understand the needs and industry trends of the convention and exhibition industry.

Looking ahead to the new term, the Sub-Committee will continue to strengthen collaborations with education institutions to provide professional responses to education, publications and papers related to the industries for the betterment of MICE development in the long run. The Sub-Committee will plan in-person seminars and education programmes to highlight new industry trends for recovery and business opportunities and attract more guests from the region to join our events.

The Sub-Committee hopes that our members will enjoy the conference today. We have prepared an extensive programme with top-level speakers to discuss the hottest topics in today’s business world, which align with your company’s interests to drive impactful real-world changes. Members can connect with thought leaders, gain insights from our subject-matter experts, and celebrate an early Global Exhibitions Day.

Membership Sub-Committee

The Membership Sub-Committee has been actively working on providing networking opportunities for members through events like annual conferences and seminars.

As of today, the Association has 56 full members, 32 associate members, and 13 overseas members, totalling 101 members.

New Members in 2023-2024 included InEvexco Ltd, InfocommAsia Pte Ltd, LE Decor Venue Decoration Limited, Losberger Architecture Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd and Regal Hotels International Limited. Despite the addition of these new members, the Association also experienced a few resignations over the year. It was understandable that some companies had to cut their expenses due to the pandemic’s impact on the industry.

The Membership Sub-Committee will work closely with the Secretariat over the coming year to invite new members and reach out to lapsed members for reinstatement of their membership.

Sustainability & Operations Sub-Committee

The Sustainability and Operations Sub-Committee was established in June 2022 with the objective of identifying and measuring initiatives that promote waste reduction and material reuse within the industry. As we harness the positive impact of our members, we make direct contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”). In its efforts to achieve SDG Goal #17, the Association aims to be an “enabler” to “encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships for sustainability development”.

The Sub-Committee seek to cultivate collaborative relationships to promote sustainable development. We work closely with organisations to raise awareness of their environmental and social impact and provide guidance on how the industry can best drive sustainable development. With the successful launch of the “Ten-Point HKECIA Sustainability Charter”, the Sub-Committee aims to reinforce the role of exhibitions in driving carbon neutrality and demonstrating sustainable approaches and recovery solutions for a resilient future.

The Sub-Committee participated in the cross-industry focus group arranged by the Business Environment Council to discuss the climate transition of the property management, MICE, events industry, stakeholders’ concerns, as well as challenges faced by practitioners. The views collected from industry experts provided insights for the Corporate Climate Action Research Report, which was recently released by NWS Holdings Limited in early May. Through a multi-dimensional analysis and industry comparison, the report identifies key actions that facilitate the formulation of effective transformational strategies, resource allocation, and the enhancement of resilience against potential risks.

The Association strives to achieve SDG goal #4 aiming to enhance sustainability knowledge in Hong Kong to promote environmental practices and performance. We actively take part in knowledge exchange to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable industry. Chairman and ExCo Members Mr Chris Brown and Ms Monica Lee-Müller were invited to the UFI Asia-Pacific Conference 2024 hosted by the Macau Fair and Trade Association to discuss how to make sustainability a reality at events. They shared case studies and real implementation successes with attendees to provide a clear view of what is achievable in driving sustainable exhibitions. Participants gained insights into harnessing transformational opportunities from the perspective of an event organiser, venue and contractor.

We contributed to “A Practical Guidebook to Circular Economy (Volume 2): Collaborating with Value Chain Partners for Organising Circular Events and Exhibitions” under the “Partnership for Sustainability Leadership in Business” (PSLB) project, initiated by HKU’s Centre for Civil Society and Governance. The Sub-Committee shared industry views and insights for formulating resource circularity principles where MICE industry practitioners could integrate them into their company’s value chain and event frameworks, ultimately putting sustainability into action.

After the Annual Dinner tonight, we will donate any unconsumed food to Food Angel to reduce food waste. The donated food will be handled as nutritious hot meals and redistributed to the underprivileged community in Hong Kong.

The Sub-Committee will continue its concerted effort to develop robust sustainability initiatives and accelerate the industry’s green transition. We believe achieving sustainability requires united efforts, and we call on our members to orchestrate our sustainable ambitions together.

Venue Development Sub-Committee

The Association welcomes the Government’s initiatives to develop the C&E industry and will expand the exsisting facilities, including the AsiaWorld-Expo phase II and construction of new facilities in Wan Chai North, raising the C&E space by 40% to 220,000 square metres in total when all works are completed.

The Kai Tak Sports Park is in its final stage of construction, aiming for a 2025 opening. The exterior building façade of its 50,000-seat Main Stadium has been completed, signifing a significant milestone.  Hong Kong will host several competitive events of the 15th National Games at the Kai Tak Sports Park. The venue will provide a comprehensive and innovative experience for community activities and mega events and contribute to developing the culture, sports, and tourism sectors in East Kowloon.

Furthermore, Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre (KITEC) will cease to operate at the end of June. With the approval of the Town Planning Board last year, the reconstruction of KITEC will turn into three prime office towers with event space included in the design.

The Association believes that there is still insufficient exhibition space in Hong Kong and with some of the previously mentioned projects not due to be completed before 2034 capacity remains a significant challenge for the industry.

Advocacy Work by HKECIA

One of the primary responsibilities assumed by the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) is to represent the interests of its members in the convention and exhibition-related sectors. This task involves providing a cohesive and unified voice when engaging with governmental, legislative, and statutory bodies, as well as media and public organisations. Over the past year, this work has demanded an unprecedented amount of our time and effort. The Executive Committee, including myself, has been heavily involved in meetings, briefings, and lobbying initiatives.

The Association is delighted to see the thriving activity in the industry. The multitude of exhibitions and events in Hong Kong highlight our sector’s resilience. However, we must acknowledge the ongoing manpower challenges that make our work more demanding.

The 2024-25 Budget emphasises the significance of mega-events in attracting tourists and enhancing our international image. The government has reported that over 200 “Mega-Events” will take place this year including Art Basel, ComplexCon and Vinexpo. Additionally, the joint hosting of the 15th National Games in 2025 presents a remarkable opportunity for us to showcase Hong Kong as an event destination.

The Government continues to implement the Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions to provide incentives for staging recurrent exhibitions in Hong Kong. The government has additionally allocated almost HK$1.1 Billion to the Tourism Commission and the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). This funding will facilitate the organisation of mega-events, thematic tours, and the development of novel experiences for visitors.

The Association welcomes the Government’s support to the convention and exhibition industry. We have seen a gradual rebound in international trade fairs over the past year. The exhibition industry has already achieved 70 to 80% of pre-pandemic and welcomed back important events such as the APLF Leather Fair and Vinexpo Asia, reaffirming our status as a premier exhibition hub. The scale and attendance are expected to return to the pre-pandemic level next year, although challenges remain. The incentive offered by the Government is therefore crucial to secure recurrent trade exhibitions, which are significant to sustain Hong Kong’s status as the Trade Fair Capital in Asia.

The Association will continue to update the CEDB on the development and situation of the industry and make timely proposals of how to support our industry, and hence facilitate recovery of Hong Kong’s economy at large. As we celebrate our industry’s vibrancy, we must also acknowledge and address the manpower challenges together. By collaborating, we can overcome obstacles and continue to foster growth and prosperity.

The Chairman has also taken part in meetings of the Hotel, Catering, and Tourism Training Board, which were organised by the Vocational Training Council (VTC). We hope that by collaborating with higher education institutions that specialise in the exhibition and convention sectors, we can further promote the industry to young talent seeking career opportunities.

The Chairman was invited to the Hong Kong Tourism Board Overview 2024 in Mach 2024 to witness the emergence of positive trends, industry insights and HKTB’s business strategic directions, including staging and supporting world-class events, developing diverse and immersive experiences, stepping up promotions in visitor source markets, and enhancing service quality and supporting the trade.

The HKTB will continue to secure the staging of meetings, incentive travels, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) of different scales and types in Hong Kong through bidding for different major international MICE events and implementing different funding schemes. The HKTB will step up its promotions and marketing efforts to attract more visitors, revive tourism and uphold Hong Kong as an international tourism destination. Riding on the expansion of the Individual Visit Scheme to more Mainland China cities, the HKTB will collaborate with travel agencies, travel platforms and airlines, enticing visitors to visit Hong Kong.


Since the resumption of normal travel in early 2023, Hong Kong’s event industry has seen a strong rebound. The trade exhibitions in the last quarter of 2023 experienced a significant recovery, with exhibitor and attendee numbers rebounding to near pre-pandemic levels. This positive momentum has continued into the first half of 2024, with organisers reporting strong interest and bookings for upcoming events.

However, there are still several challenges that Hong Kong must address to fully surpass pre-pandemic levels and usher in a new era of success and rejuvenation for its exhibitions and conventions sector:

Talent Shortage: One of the key issues is a shortage of experienced event professionals in Hong Kong. The rapid resumption of events has created fierce competition between organisers, venues, and contractors as they all try to poach talented staff from one another to fulfil the increased market demand. This “zero-sum game” is not sustainable in the long run, as it leads to talent churn and an inability to build stable, experienced teams. Instead, the industry must come together to encourage more people to pursue careers in the exhibitions and conventions sector, through initiatives like training programs, apprenticeships, and better promotion of the field as a rewarding professional path.

Space Constraints: Another major challenge is the lack of sufficient event space in Hong Kong to host the growing number and scale of exhibitions the city would like to accommodate. While there are long-term plans to develop convention and exhibition facilities, such as the expansion of the Asia World Expo and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, medium-term solutions are urgently needed to meet the surging demand in the next few years. Creative use of temporary or repurposed spaces should be considered to bridge the gap.

Vision and Identity: Lastly, I believe that Hong Kong needs to better define and articulate its vision as an international city with a unique offering for exhibitions and conventions. It must leverage its key strengths – its international workforce, global mindset, world-class event hosting capabilities, and rich cultural assets – to position itself as Asia’s premier event destination, rather than be seen as just another large Chinese city. Soft-power aspects like food, language, people, and local culture as well as the fundamentals of finance, logistics, legal system, and transportation are all part of the equation, and Hong Kong must strike the right balance to fulfil its potential as the “Asia World City” for business events.

In closing the Chairman would like to thank the Executive Committee members who have invested significant time and effort in making the Association’s voice heard by both the government and the general public. The HKECIA is proud of the solidarity shown by its members and grateful for their staunch support, participation in activities, and attendance at the Annual Dinner. The Chairman wishes everyone a healthy and prosperous year ahead and thanks them for their continued support.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Bailey
Chairman (2023-24)