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HKECIA 2020-2021 Chairman's Report

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (“HKECIA”, “Association”), first incorporated in May 1990, is celebrating its 31st Anniversary.  The Association currently has one hundred and three company members, including all of the leading organisations, 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.     

It has been another difficult year for members of the HKECIA, Hong Kong has experienced four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020. Exhibition and convention activities were completely suspended from February to April last year. A few local consumer exhibitions resumed in May 2020 but then all exhibitions and conventions scheduled for last summer were cancelled when the city was hit by the third wave of pandemic and the government’s preventive measures including social distancing, group gathering, and compulsory quarantine measures were tightened again. Like many other sectors globally, our industry has been hard hit by the pandemic. Given these factors, it was inevitable that the numbers of exhibitions able to be held and the number of and participants therein would drop significantly.

However, the Association continued one of the important tasks and conducted the annual exhibition survey. The results are a valuable tool for us to have a big picture view of the situation and where Hong Kong stands in the region. They help us to clearly explain the situation and impact of the pandemic to the government, especially when lobbying for support and assistance.

In 2020, a total of 25 exhibitions (over 2,000 sqm) were held in Hong Kong. Among which, 11 were “Trade” and “Trade and consumer” exhibitions and the remaining 14 were “Consumer” exhibitions. These exhibitions attracted over 5,000 exhibiting companies and more than 340,000 visitors. The vast majority of the exhibitors and visitors were local Hong Kong participants (61% and 84% respectively). The overseas participants were exhibitors and buyers of the trade exhibitions held in January 2020 before the HKSAR Government escalated the situation of the preparedness and response plan for Covid-19 to the “emergency” level – the highest warning tier.

 

Sub-Committee Reports

China Sub-Committee

Under the impact of COVID-19 which restricted travel between Hong Kong and Mainland China, the Association was not able to join the activities organised by other exhibition & convention industry associations in China and has not received any delegations from China.

The China Sub-Committee will continue to follow up closely with the event and venue development in China, and will also look 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 once the border is reopened.

Communications Sub-Committee

The Communications Sub-Committee continued to produce the Annual Exhibition Survey 2020.

The main task of the Sub-Committee this year is to support the Association’s dialogue with the government. Throughout this year, the Sub-Committee has prepared different materials:

  • Issued the Media Release “Hong Kong government urged to provide more support to help Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry ride out COVID-19 storm” in August 2020 based on the HKECIA Member Survey on the Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Industry
  • Prepared the summary of the HKECIA Member Survey on the Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong C&E Industry in August 2020
  • Drafted the letter “Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme and Financial Relief to Suppliers and Convention and Exhibition Industry” to CEDB in December 2020
  • Issued the media release in response to Chief Executive’s Policy Address – “HKECIA welcomes reconfirmation of additional convention and exhibition space announced in the 2020 policy address” in December 2020

The Sub-Committee also worked with the consultant Oxford Economics to conduct the biennial Economic Impact Study.  Oxford Economics was engaged to benchmark with UFI global report with consistent methodology.  The Sub-committee presented the Study results to the Chairman in April 2021.  The total economic impact of exhibitions in Hong Kong in 2018 was HK$58.6 billion and 77,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Education and Training Sub-Committee  

Under the impact of COVID-19, the Association suspended the organisation of its two signature events, the HKECIA Conference in June and the HKECIA Annual Seminar in December last year.

Instead, the Association switched training activities to digital in August 2021 when the Education & Training Sub-Committee co-organised the webinar – Pivoting to Virtual Events together with PCMA. We were pleased to have this worthwhile collaboration with PCMA and the webinar was well attended by over 280 HKECIA members

The Sub-Committee will resume the organisation of the HKECIA Conference at Hong Kong Convention and  Exhibition Centre today, 11th June 2021, and will continue to plan for in-person seminars and education programmes catering to members’ needs in a safe and secure manner.

One of the missions of the HKECIA is to raise the level of professionalism in the exhibition and convention industry. The Association is pleased to endorse the Hong Kong Government-funded research project titled “Exploring the process of creating value propositions for exhibition service innovation” carried out by The School of Hotel & Tourism of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (SHTM PolyU). To support the research project, the Association has successfully assisted the Research Team to line up interviews with key organisers and service providers in Hong Kong.

The Education and Training Sub-Committee has also represented the 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.

The Education Sub-Committee also joined two lectures as guest lecturers at the School of Hotel & Tourism Management of Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Global Centre for Tourism Education & Training at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies.  

The Sub-Committee will continue to look for opportunities to nurture young talents and raise the level of professionalism in the industry.

Exhibition Operations Sub-Committee

Since the onset of Covid-19 last year, very few events have taken place in Hong Kong. Those that did, implemented additional safety measures in line with Hong Kong government requirements, to ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved.  There was also discussion with other industry groups, overseas organisers etc. to ascertain what was being done in other locations, and how measures surrounding  Hong Kong events could be improved or enhanced.

At some of the events that did take place, there were sustainability improvements such as a reusable “frame and fabric” system and reusable carpet tiles in specific areas; progress we hope can be built upon.  Indeed, when we consider the environmental impact of all the additional Covid-related materials that are now required (facemasks, plastic shields, disposable F&B containers, cutlery, additional signage, etc), there is an even greater need to look at ways to improve the sustainability of our Hong Kong events. 

The pandemic situation has of course been devastating for our industry, including the many Hong Kong stand contractors, freight forwarders, suppliers, sub-contractors and full time or casual workers who are integral and important elements of every show that takes place here. Companies and workers have now been lost to our industry.  We can only hope that once Covid-19 is behind us and events in Hong Kong resume, our essential business infrastructure can be rebuilt, and we look forward to working towards this.

Membership Sub-Committee

As of today, the Association had 59 full members, 32 associate members and 12 overseas members, making a total of 103 members.

Due to the difficult operating conditions brought by the pandemic, the HKECIA Executive Committee, at the last AGM, voted to provide relief to members in the financial year 2020-2021 by offering a 25% reduction on the annual subscription fee and by postponing the subscription payment for 3 months.

With no in-person events possible and virtual member events put on at no charge, Membership fees were the Association’s only source of income in the previous financial year.

Last year saw the resignation of 15 members, with 3 new members joining the Association, a year-on-year membership decrease of 12%.  We understand that this is a reflection of the tough times our industry faces as companies look to cut their expenses in an effort to survive.

New members in 2020-2021 included Visual Power Limited, Concept Creation (Asia Pacific) Limited and the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi). We welcome them to the HKECIA family.

The Membership Sub-committee will work closely with the secretariat over the coming year to invite new and lapsed members to join or re-join the Association and have their voice heard.

Venue Development Sub-Committee

There has been little to report regarding the expansion and development of Hong Kong’s Exhibition and Convention facilities. We have however continued to seek assurances from the government that the previously announced plans to create more convention and exhibition space are still firmly in place, these assurances we have been given. The plan includes the redevelopment of the three government towers in Wan Chai North and the Kong Wan Fire Station into convention and exhibition facilities, hotel and Grade A offices, and the Airport Authority’s plan to invest in the construction of phase two of the AsiaWorld-Expo as part of the Sky-City project. These two projects in total will increase convention and exhibition space by more than 40%.

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.

Under the impact of COVID-19, the AFECA was unable to organise its annualevents including the AFECA Awards and AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge last year.

Instead, the AFECA launched a series of webinars on how the industry has been impacted, responses to the various Asian Governments’s guidelines for resuming events. Another webinar was organised together with industry tech experts who shared their insights on how the MICE industry would go through transformation by digitalisation and their experiences in technology implementations which could lead to more business opportunities created for the MICE industry players.

The AFECA is hoping to resume the organisation of the two signature events, the AFECA Awards and AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge in 2021.  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 the 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 a significant amount of time and effort into meetings, briefings and lobbying activity. There has been consistent dialogue with the government to provide updates on the situation and impact of the pandemic on the exhibition and convention industries and urge them to provide more support.  

Since the start of the year, the Association has met on numerous occasions with several government departments to explain how the global pandemic was affecting our industry and made suggestions of what needed to be done to avoid irreparable damage to the sector.

Throughout the past year, the Chairman has participated in the Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force convened by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and has represented the industry at physical and virtual meetings. Several members of the Executive Committee were asked by UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, to contribute their knowledge and expertise to update the structured framework for the reopening of exhibitions and share case studies with industry colleagues from around the world. 

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, her replacement Ms Maggie Wong and the Principal Assistant Secretary, Harry Lin. The dialogue and correspondence have 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.

In July 2020, the Association conducted a member survey to provide a big picture view of the impact in different aspects and has presented a summary of the survey to the CEDB in August to urge the government to provide more support to Hong Kong’s convention and exhibition industry.

Due to the third wave of the pandemic in July 2020, the launch date of the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (“Subsidy Scheme”) under the Anti-epidemic Fund for non-TDC exhibitions and conventions was deferred from July 2020 to 3 October 2020.  The Subsidy Scheme was welcomed by the industry as an important step towards restarting the exhibition and convention industry. However, the scheme which was initially slated to last 12 months expiring on 2nd October 2021 was not going to provide the necessary support to the important shows take place in late 2021. The Association continued to update CEDB of the industry situation and urged the government to extend the Subsidy Scheme period. The HKECIA successfully obtained the commitment to extend the deadline until the end of December 2021, to encourage more convention and exhibition activities to be held in Hong Kong.  The HKECIA is still lobbying the CEDB to extend the scheme further in light of the support needed due to the slower U-shaped recovery and has recently received assurances that the scheme will be continued until all of the funds are exhausted.

We hope to have an update on the above points for members in the coming days.

The Association also worked closely with the CEDB and both venues in order to streamline the reimbursement process so that grants could be claimed in advance of the event taking place to aid cash flow and to ensure that the balance payments could reach their intended recipients as quickly as possible, these measures have proven to be extremely useful for our members.

The amendments to the Subsifdy Scheme hopefully mean that larger events can 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.

Our next major hurdle is the re-opening of quarantine-free travel for vaccinated persons from low-risk countries who wish to attend events in Hong Kong. Once again, we are advising the government on the steps that need to be taken to safeguard our industry. The progress in this regard is not always as quick as many of us would like, but we should take comfort from the fact that the government is willing to listen to our thoughts and take them on board as they look to balance the various competing health and economic interests.

Here are some key milestones in 2020-2021:

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

 

It has certainly been another difficult year for the convention and exhibition industry. This time last year we had managed to suppress the second wave of Covid-19 and there were high hopes that the worst was behind us. This illusion came crashing down when during the build-up of the Hong Kong Book Fair we saw the start of the third wave and in-person events were once again put on hold.

In November we had a fourth wave which again disrupted physical  events and at the time of writing this report, there is growing concern that a fifth wave might be on its way. The science surrounding this is clear unless we can significantly increase the percentage of the population who have received the vaccination then Hong Kong will remain at risk of potential waves of infection coming to the city wreaking havoc with our lives and our businesses. I would therefore suggest that not only is it our civic duty to support and encourage our colleagues, friends and family to get vaccinated, it is also the only way in which our industry can emerge from the global pandemic with any kind of future.

We will continue to urge the government to provide additional financial support to different groups involved in the exhibition and convention 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 and for fully vaccinated travellers.

Summary:

The effects of the global pandemic have hit hard and there are still many challenges to overcome. However, notwithstanding the issues already mentioned I remain optimistic that we can find solutions and that successful events will return to Hong Kong venues and will flourish with pent up demand helping to push our events past their previous record highs.

With the social unrest issues behind us, I am confident that the economy will rebound strongly and with more emphasis than ever on ensuring that the ‘Greater Bay Area economic project’ is successful, Hong Kong has much to gain by positioning itself as the international meeting place for the GBA as well as the region.

The exhibition industry’s focus will also once more swing towards Hong Kong  when at the end of the calendar year, our esteemed ExCo member Ms Monica Lee-Muller will take up the position as president of UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Monica will be the second female president in UFI’s history and will certainly act as an exemplary ambassador to promote all that is good about the dynamic and trusted brand of Hong Kong exhibitions. The successor to Monica and the incoming president of UFI, for the term 2022-2023 will, I am delighted to report, be former HKECIA Chairman Mr Michael Duck.

In UFI’s 95-year history this is the first time since 1931 when successive presidents have been elected from the same city, an indication of the important position Hong Kong continues to play in the global exhibition industry. I cannot think of two better ambassadors to carry the flag for the city and I would urge the Hong Kong Tourism Board to take advantage of this unique opportunity to provide strong support at upcoming UFI events and help to attract more ideas and investment to Hong Kong’s important MICE industry.

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 has been unwavering in its efforts to find solutions to the many problems we face.

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

Stuart Bailey
Chairman (2021)