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HKECIA 2021-2022 Chairman's Report

The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (“HKECIA”, “Association”), first incorporated in May 1990, is celebrating its 32nd Anniversary.  The Association currently has one hundred 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 the economy and to wider society. The HKECIA also works hard to promote sustainability and safety as well as supporting members with professional development, business networking and information exchange and promoting careers in our industry to emerging talents.  

The past twelve months have continued to be challenging for our members. Last summer the conditions in Hong Kong allowed for major consumer shows to return after a one-year hiatus. This fuelled the misapprehension in some circles that the exhibition sector had fully recovered and was once again in rude health, a misapprehension that the Executive Committee members and myself went to great lengths to explain was not the case. The border restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirements which have remained in place throughout the past two years have meant that international trade exhibitions, the most important driver of the exhibition economy and related trades, have been unable to take place in Hong Kong. The small number of trade shows that were held last autumn did so without any overseas visitors and exhibitors and were, therefore, a shadow of their former size and scale. The annual exhibition survey, the association's important annual barometer of industry performance, shows us that overseas attendance, space rented by exhibitors and stand rental revenues all dropped by over 90% against the benchmark year of 2019.

In December last year, the Omicron cluster arrived in Hong Kong, bringing an end to the long streak of zero locally transmitted cases. By January the highly-transmissible variant took hold and under the policy of ‘dynamic covid zero’ once again the operation of exhibition venues was ordered to suspend as citizens were warned to stay at home and avoid contact with other households. No events were held during the months that followed and it was not until the second half of April that case numbers had stabilised and the restrictions began to be relaxed. In late May we saw the return of some of the city's art fairs and auctions, with many other exhibitions scheduled to go ahead during the summer months albeit with local companies only, due to the mandatory 7-day hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals.

In 2021, a total of 91 exhibitions (over 2,000 sqm) were held in Hong Kong. Of which, 21 were “Trade”, 15 were “Trade and consumer” exhibitions and 55 were “Consumer” exhibitions. This dramatic swing in favour of consumer-oriented exhibitions whilst understandable given the conditions have damaged the exhibition eco-system and will require further support to aid recovery.

 

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 and convention industry associations in the Mainland and has not received any delegations from the Mainland.

The China Sub-Committee will continue to follow up closely with the events 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 2021 and prepared materials for Chairman to respond to media enquiries or conduct interviews.

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 “HKECIA welcomes the appointment of Michael Duck as UFI’s incoming president” in June 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Road map for reopening international exhibitions and conventions – Releasing quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated business travellers” to CEDB in July 2020
  • Issued the Media Release “HKSAR government urged to provide immediate assistance to help Hong Kong convention and exhibition industry struggling to survive on zero international trade events” in September 2021 to present the results of the member survey “Impact of Covid-19 to Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry 2021” (“Survey”) to CEDB, and urged the authority to repurpose the fund of the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme and to provide a roadmap of relaxing compulsory quarantine requirements for qualified business travellers
  • Issued the Media Release “HKECIA welcomes further relief measures for the exhibition industry in 2021 Policy Address” in October 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Key Findings of HKECIA Members Survey 2021 and Appeals for Roadmap of International Travel Resumptions and Immediate Assistance to the C&E Industry” Road map for reopening international exhibitions and conventions – Releasing quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated business travellers” to CEDB in September 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Support to the C&E industry in the Anti-epidemic Fund 5.0 and Road map for reopening of Hong Kong” in January 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Support to the convention and exhibition industry in 2022-23 Budget” to Financial Secretary in February 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Pressing issues and recommendations for your election platform of CE election by Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association” to the Chief Executive election candidate in April 2021
  • Drafted the letter “Pressing issues and recommendations for sustaining the exhibition industry in Hong Kong” to the Chief Executive-elect in May 2021


Education and Training Sub-Committee

With the stabilisation of COVID-19 in Hong Kong last year, the Association was able to resume its two signature events, the HKECIA Conference in June and the HKECIA Annual Seminar in December.

The Annual Conference held at HKCEC in June 2021 covered hot industry topics such as talent attraction and retention; building digital communities to complement trade exhibitions; tourism recovery and insights into economic development in Hong Kong. We were pleased to have over 100 members and guests who participated in this conference – the first physical HKECIA event held since Dec 2019.

Held at Tai Kwun for the first time, the Annual Seminar in December 2021 covered hot button topics such as the SKYCITY Development of Hong Kong International Airport and Asia World-Expo, The Qianhai Economic Cooperation Zone, the rise of the hybrid-event business model in the exhibition industry, and The National Security Law. The seminar was well received and attended by over 100 members and industry colleagues.

The Sub-Committee will continue to plan for in-person seminars and education programmes catering to members’ needs in a safe and secure manner in the coming year beginning with the conference later today, part of the Global Exhibitions Day celebrations.

The Education and Training Sub-Committee has also represented the HKECIA to join the 2022-2024 Tourism & Hotel consultancy network of the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) to facilitate the ERB to understand the industry trends, training demands and skills required as well as to provide feedback and input on their training programmes.

The Education Sub-Committee also served on the Judging Panel of the HK Preliminary Competition of AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge 2021.

 

 Exhibition Operations Sub-Committee                                                                                        

It has been another challenging year for everyone involved in the operations side of the industry.  We have seen further consolidation in the number of contractors, sub-contractors, and suppliers, with many closing down, or leaving the industry for other fields.  The same holds true for the temporary labour pool that supports events and is essential in the smooth set-up and breakdown of exhibitions in Hong Kong.

During this difficult period, with no exhibitions to construct, the Sub-Committee has used the downtime wisely by working on new plans for the industry to use these unique circumstances to “reset” local industry norms, and emerge with a better and more sustainable mode of operations.

In the past years, the Sub-Committee has highlighted the environmental impact of events; everyone involved, be it organisers, venues, contractors, forwarders, suppliers etc is keenly aware of what happens at the close of any large event, the amount of single-use materials, carpeting, furniture and fittings that go directly to the landfills. We have a duty of care to look after each other, our customers, and their customers. 

Therefore the Sub-Committee in the coming term will focus on how to make our industry more sustainable and lessen the environmental impact, which may well need to dramatically revise what has become accepted standards over the past many years.  We will address principally:

  • Single-use materials (raw space stands, signage, feature areas, offices/lounges etc)
  • Carpeting waste
  • Furniture waste
  • Vehicle impact (pollution/congestion)

With the support of all HKECIA members, we have an opportunity to be proactive and emerge from the pandemic situation as one of the leading examples of an industry that has embraced change to become more sustainable and environmentally responsible.

Membership Sub-Committee

The Membership Sub-Committee continued to work on creating networking opportunities for members such as the annual conference and seminar.

As of today, the Association had 57 full members, 31 associate members and 12 overseas members, making a total of 100 members.

New Members in 2021-2022 included BannerSHOP Hong Kong Limited, EnviroEvents (ReThink) Limited and Vootprint Limited. We welcome them to the HKECIA family.

Last year we saw the resignation of 12 members. We understand that this reflects the tough times that our industry faces as companies look to cut their expenses in an effort to survive the lean period.

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

Venue Development Sub-Committee

Over the past 12 months, we have seen more details emerge of the planned developments at Asia-World Expo as part of the SKYCITY project. This combined exhibition and arena space connected directly with retail, hospitality and entertainment options will create a unique and unrivalled destination for event attendees to enjoy. Last month saw the opening of the new Exhibition Centre Station on the MTR’s East Rail Line Cross-Harbour Extension. This will improve the connectivity for exhibitors and visitors to the HKCEC travelling from Shenzhen and the Kowloon peninsula. It will also increase hotel options for overseas participants who want to be within easy reach of the HKCEC.

It is almost a year since the consortium led by Billion Development bought the Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Kitec). There has been scarce detail about the multibillion-dollar project to erect new office towers in Hong Kong's up-and-coming commercial area, but we remain concerned about the knock-on effect that the removal of this 25-year old exhibition facility might have on venue availability at the two other centres.

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.

Over the past year, the AFECA has implemented many programmes and initiatives to support the resumption of the Asian exhibition and convention industry. Including, Bi-monthly newsletters featuring news and the latest industry trends; the AFECA Asian MICE Industry Survey 2022 which forecasts the business outlook for the region; Regular educational webinars which address hot topics in the industry.

The AFECA has also resumed its signature event, AFECA Asia MICE Youth Challenge in 2021, in a virtual format. The HKECIA has organised the online preliminary competition and selected two teams of students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University to compete with 13 teams from 7 countries/regions in Asia. We are very proud that despite fierce competition, one of the HK PolyU teams won the 2021 Championship.

 

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 activities.

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.

There have been numerous meetings and telephone calls with the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. The dialogue and correspondence have been continuous and through careful explanation have given the government a clearer understanding of the position as well as an expression of what needs to be done to allow us to exit from the current situation.

After rounds of lobbying, the government announced in October 2021 that the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (“Subsidy Scheme”) under the Anti-epidemic Fund would be further extended to cover all entitled exhibitions and conferences taking place until 31 December 2022. In addition, part of the Subsidy Scheme's funding was also allocated to provide a one-off immediate relief measure to private organisers of exhibitions with a clear track record of being held in Hong Kong to help them cope with the impact of the prolonged postponement or cancellation of exhibitions under the pandemic. The amount of the immediate relief was equivalent to 20% of the average annual rental of the relevant exhibitions, subject to a cap of HK$1 million per event. The extension of the Subsidy Scheme and the one-off immediate relief measures were welcomed by the industry, however, the HKECIA continues to lobby the CEDB to extend the scheme further in light of the support still needed due to the slower U-shaped recovery.

The HKECIA was also consulted by the government on the proposed ‘2022 Employment Support Scheme’. During the online meeting Chaired by Chief Executive and in subsequent information exchange with Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam and Head of The Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office Ms Doris Ho, we put forward a persuasive argument for the salary cap of HK$30,000 to be dropped and the scheme to be extended. The scheme, subsequently approved by the LegCo Finance Committee is now in place and all members of the convention and exhibition industry are eligible to enjoy relief under the scheme.

The next major hurdle is the re-opening of quarantine-free travel for vaccinated persons who wish to participate in events held in Hong Kong. Along with many other chambers of commerce, we are advising the government on the steps that need to be taken to safeguard our industry. I have written twice to the Chief Executive-elect Mr John Lee, to add our voice to the calls to remove the quarantine measures, as now almost all countries and territories in the region have done this so that economic activity can begin again.

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 interests.

Here are some key milestones in 2021-2022:

8-Jun 2021

Meeting with CEDB to discuss the extension of the subsidy scheme

14-Jun 2021

Government’s announcement on the extension of the C&E Industry Subsidy Scheme to June 2022

24-Jun 2021

Letter to Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development on urgent appeal for quarantine exemption for vaccinated travellers

20-Jul 2021

Email from CEDB about the updates on social distancing measures relating to the C&E industry that would take effect from 22 July 2021

20-23 Jul 2021

Email exchanges with CEDB regarding the updated social distancing measures

23-Jul 2021

Letter to SCED on Roadmap for reopening international exhibitions & conventions + request of meeting with the SCED

29-Jul 2021

HKECIA Extraordinary ExCo Meeting                                                                                             

2-13 Aug 2021

HKECIA conducted the second member survey on the Impact of Covid-19 on the Hong Kong C&E Industry

9-Aug 2021

Meeting with SCED Edward Yau to discuss a roadmap for re-opening, an extension of the venue subsidy scheme and other assistance to the industry

10-Aug 2021

HKECIA ExCo Meeting

1-Sep 2021

HKECIA Extraordinary ExCo Meeting

6-Sep 2021

Letter to SCED on Key findings of HKECIA Member Survey & suggestions/ appeals for roadmap pf international travel resumptions and immediate assistance to event organisers and suppliers

15-Sep 2021

Letter to Legco Members of Panel on Commerce and Industry + follow up calls and meeting by ExCo Members

21-Sep 2021

Meeting of Panel on Commerce and Industry on C&E industry at LegCo

5-Oct 2021

HKECIA ExCo Meeting

6-Oct 2021

Announcement during Policy Address 2021 by Chief Executive – Extension of C&E Industry Scheme to 31 Dec 2022 and One-off immediate relief measure to qualified private organisers

29-Oct 2021

Meeting with Hong Kong Tourism Board on the impact of Covid zero strategy on the industry/ possible assistance HKTB can provide to the industry

24-26 Nov 2021

Email exchanges with CEDB regarding border reopening with Mainland China

14-Dec 2021

HKECIA ExCo Meeting

16-Dec 2021

6th Meeting of Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board

21-Dec 2021

Follow up call with CEDB regarding quota to C&E industry on quarantine-free travel from HK to Mainland China

5-Jan 2021

The Government tightened social distancing measures because of the latest epidemic situation

12-20 Jan 2022

Letter and exchanges with CEDB to urge support to the C&E industry under the Anti-epidemic Fund 5.0 and roadmap for reopening of Hong Kong

14 Jan 2022

Announcement of measures of Anti-epidemic Fund 5.0

19-Jan 2022

Participation in HKGCC’s webinar – Rebooting Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Industry (Speaker from CEDB)

7-Feb 2022

Letter to Financial Secretary to urge support for the C&E industry in the 2022-23 Budget

10-Feb 2022

Call with CEDB regarding Anti-epidemic Fund 6.0

11-15 Feb 2022

Letters and calls to and email exchanges with selected LegCo Members by HKECIA & ExCo Members to call for support to HKECIA’s urgent appeal to the government to provide immediate assistance to the C&E industry

15-Feb 2022

Special Finance Meeting at LegCo to discuss Anti-epidemic Fund 6.0

16-Feb 2022

Follow-up call with CEDB regarding Anti-epidemic Fund 6.0

22-Feb 2022

HKECIA ExCo Meeting

2-Mar 2022

Special ExCo Meeting on subsidies to the exhibition industry

25-Mar 2022

Online consultation session on Government’s newly proposed 2022 Employment Support Scheme hosted by Chief Executive

28-Mar 2022

Letter to Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office regarding HKECIA’s suggestions for the 2022 Employment Support Scheme

7-Apr-2022

HKECIA ExCo Meeting

22-Apr 2022

Letter to the then Candidate of Chief Executive Election 2022 Mr John Lee to provide recommendations on exhibition-related issues

25-Apr 2022

Announcement of details of the 2022 Employment Support Scheme

May 2022

Letter to Chief Executive-elect Mr John Lee to congratulate him on his successful election and to provide recommendations on exhibition-related issues


Summary:

The Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry has survived another challenging year, the fact that there are still a hundred companies represented by HKECIA is a testament to the resilience and belief that Hong Kong will continue to play an important role as the super-connector between China and the rest of the world.

The last international trade fair in Hong Kong was held in January 2020. Since then there have been some local shows, like the Book Fair, the Food Expo, and the Wedding Fair but we know that even these large scale consumer events are much less impactful to the city’s economy than the international exhibitions and conventions that draw millions of business people from around the world to Hong Kong.

We have also seen many of Hong Kong’s biggest and most economically important exhibitions have been forced to move out of the city to our regional rivals who have opened up. The Jewellery & Gem Fair was held in Dubai last year and it will have a one-off edition in Singapore in the coming September, a special edition of Cosmoprof Asia will run in Singapore and Asia Fruit Logistica will take place in Thailand while the shows in Hong Kong are cancelled again for 2022, to name just a few examples. Organisers of these mega fairs are already looking at the calendar for 2023 and with still no concrete plans for when quarantine-free travel will return they have more difficult planning decisions to make imminently.

The big question is whether it’s already too late and they will not return. I don’t believe it is too late and when I speak with these organisers they are quick to acknowledge Hong Kong’s unique advantages which are still a strong pull, however, the longer the quarantine requirements remain the more damage it does to Hong Kong’s reputation and to the speed for the city’s economy to recover

There is a huge appetite for largescale international events to resume but we need to have a plan that, with reasonable certainty, shows the international business community that they can travel without restriction or disruption. Almost every other city in the region has already done away with mandatory quarantine periods, while Hong Kong, which now has achieved high immunity rates through vaccination and natural immunity, is still effectively isolated. We will continue to join other business associations and chambers of commerce to lobby the new administration to lift these travel barriers.

Another change which is important to us all is the move to become a more sustainable industry. We are proposing today a renaming of the ‘Operations Subcommittee’ to become the ‘Sustainability and Operations Subcommittee’.  This new committee will be tasked with identifying and measuring initiatives which target the reduction of waste and the reusing of materials in booth construction. We are aiming within the next year to have an “HKECIA Sustainable Charter” which we will invite members to sign as part of their commitment to being an agent for positive change.

Hong Kong has continued to be well represented on the global exhibition stage, with the current UFI President Ms Monica Lee-Muller having been in her current role since November and her successor Mr Michael Duck ready to take up the post later this year. We are rightly proud of the work that is being done by these talented leaders in advocating best practices for exhibitions worldwide, which also reflects well on Hong Kong as a thought leader.

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.

And finally, I would like to personally thank the Association Manager Ms Alexandra Seto, who after six and a half years of distinguished service to the HKECIA will step down this summer. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

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

Stuart Bailey

Chairman (2021-22)