The Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (“HKECIA”, “Association”), first incorporated in May 1990, is celebrating its 33rd Anniversary. The Association currently has around 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 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.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the exhibition and convention sector has been significant and far-reaching. Despite initial hopes for a swift recovery, the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic continue to plague our industries throughout 2022-23.
In Hong Kong, the SAR government implemented strict restrictions during the fifth wave of COVID-19, resulting in the suspension of all event premises from the 10th of February to the 20th of April 2022. As a result of these measures, all exhibition and convention activities had to be stopped, cancelled, or postponed during this period. Following the reopening of exhibition facilities in late April it took time for events to gradually return with restrictions on attendee numbers and other measures in place. While some relaxation of the compulsory quarantine requirements occurred, until August 2022 international trade exhibitions were unable to return to Hong Kong, while some other parts of the world had already reopened to international visitors. This played a part in several long-standing international exhibitions leaving Hong Kong to be held in other cities in the region temporarily where anti-pandemic measures were less restrictive.
The trade shows that took place in Hong Kong from May to December 2022 were limited in size and scale, as they were held without overseas visitors and exhibitors. This was a stark contrast to past events, which were often large-scale fairs that attracted exhibitors and attendees from around the world. The impact of the pandemic on the business-to-business exhibition and convention industries has been particularly hard-felt due to their reliance on international travel and attendance.
The annual exhibition survey, which serves as an important barometer of the industry’s performance, indicates that overseas attendance and stand rental revenues dropped by 85%-90% compared to the benchmark year of 2019. Additionally, the space rented by exhibitors dropped by 75% in 2022. These figures paint a bleak picture of the industry situation in 2022, with many exhibitors and organisers struggling to stay afloat amidst ongoing uncertainty and disruption.
Despite these challenges, the industry players in the exhibition and convention sector have worked hard to adapt and innovate to continue to bring value to stakeholders in the face of the pandemic. We will recognise many of these contributions tonight at the HKECIA Industry Awards of Excellence during our annual dinner.
In 2022, a total of 96 exhibitions (over 2,000 sqm) were held in Hong Kong. Of which, 21 were “Trade”, 19 were “Trade and consumer” exhibitions and 56 were “Consumer” exhibitions.
The Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Association (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 Wendy Lai was elected as Secretary General of the AFECA Board.
Over the past year, the AFECA has implemented many programmes and initiatives to support the resumption of the Asia exhibition and convention industry, including building an online knowledge hub, organising educational webinars, publishing periodic industry newsletters, etc. The AFECA Youth MICE Challenge 2022 was held in virtual format. One student team of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University received the Most Knowledgeable Award among 19 teams from 10 countries/regions in Asia. We are very proud that despite fierce competition, the HK PolyU team won the prize.
The AFECA Youth MICE Challenge 2023 would be back as in-person format, to be held in Bangkok, Thailand. It is now open for applications. There will be a total of 14 Awards to be given out this year, giving more opportunities for participants to excel and showcase their talents. HKECIA will continue to support and sponsor a student team to join the Challenge.
The pandemic restricted travel between Hong Kong and Mainland China during the past three years. With the removal of travel barriers this year, the Association has resumed exchanges with our close affiliations in Mainland China, and some of them will join us today at the Annual Conference and Dinner. The Association will sign the reciprocity agreement with Shanghai Convention and Exhibition Industries Association in Shanghai this month. We have also recently received a delegation from the Shenzhen Conference and Exhibition Association and continue to work closely with these sister associations to provide the latest information and mutual benefits for our members.
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 recognise the immense potential that this important economic zone holds for our industry and our members. Accordingly, we will continue to deepen our 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.
The Communications Sub-Committee continued to produce materials for the Chairman to respond to media enquiries or conduct interviews. The Committee has also supported the Association’s dialogue with the government. This included the preparation of letters to the new Secretary of CEDB, Mr Algernon Yau, on the timeline and roadmap for the reopening of borders.
Throughout this year, the Sub-Committee has prepared different materials:
Some of our Executive Committee members conducted interviews with various media:
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 2022. The conference covered a range of hot industry topics, including opportunities for the Hong Kong Exhibition Industry, the potential applications of Web3 to the industry, plans for tourism recovery plus strategies and insights on deeper integration with Mainland China, and how Hong Kong’s exhibition industry could tap into opportunities in the Greater Bay Area. We are delighted to report that over 130 members and guests participated in this physical conference.
The Annual Seminar, held at theDesk, Leighton Centre in December 2022, covered several important topics, including updates to operation models in the post-COVID era, emerging trends in digital transformation and metaverse, insights into local media and how organisers can generate increased exposure, and long-term opportunities for the Hong Kong exhibition industry. This seminar was well-received and attended by over 100 members and industry players.
Last year, the Education & Training Sub-Committee represented 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 plan in-person seminars and education programmes to highlight new industry trends for recovery, insights to create business opportunities and attract more guests from Mainland China and the Asia Pacific region to join our events. The Sub-Committee hopes that our members will enjoy the conference today, connect with thought leaders, gain insights from our subject-matter experts, and celebrate Global Exhibitions Day.
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 10 overseas members, totalling 98 members.
New Members in 2022-2023 included Exhibition Group Ltd, Aplus Exhibition (HK) Ltd., Dicon Creation Hong Kong Limited, Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre Limited, Hong Kong Fur Federation, Kai Tak Sports Park Limited, WeMeet Holding Limited, REVIVE TECH ASIA Ltd, What If Limited and WiseSpot Company Limited.
Despite the addition of these new members, the Association also experienced a few resignations over the year. It is 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 in the coming year to invite new members and reach out to lapsed members for reinstatement of their membership.
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. The Sub-Committee is co-chaired by Mr Chris Brown of EnviroEvents (ReThink) Limited and Mr Cramond Wong of AMC (Exhibits) Ltd. The team is finalizing the Net Zero Carbon Event Roadmap, which will outline the milestones towards the decarbonization of events and the MICE industry to achieve sustainability.
The Sub-Committee recognises that effective collaboration is crucial to promote sustainable development. It will 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.
The Sub-Committee has drafted a “Ten-Point Sustainability Charter” with guiding principles and has sent the it to all HKECIA members for their review. By signing the Charter, members can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and inspire other businesses to follow their lead. The Charter can also foster a culture of sustainability within the exhibition industry in Hong Kong, ultimately leading to a more sustainable future for all.
At the Annual Dinner tonight, members will be invited to sign the Sustainability Charter, we have prepared a signatory wall for members to sign and pledge their company’s support for the sustainable practices in our industry.
Wan Chai North redevelopment project near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre is progressing according to its planned timeline. It has been noted that this is a complex project due to the site’s location at the heart of a bustling urban environment. Construction has yet to commence and the project’s completion date is expected to be 2034 at the earliest.
While the second phase of development at the Asia World-Expo has successfully obtained full approval to proceed once the site becomes available. The project is projected to conclude before 2027, providing a promising outlook for Hong Kong’s long-term growth plans.
The Kai Tak Sports Park is presently under construction and is slated to open by the close of 2024 in anticipation of the City of Hong Kong co-hosting the 2025 National Games with Guangdong and Macao. The Sports Park is a vast complex encompassing a main stadium with a seating capacity of 50,000, featuring a retractable roof, a 10,000-seat indoor sports centre, and a 5,000-seat public sports ground. Recently, Kai Tak Sports Park Limited has become a member of the HKECIA, the Association has arranged a visit to the Sports Park for its members later this month. During the visit, members will have the opportunity to visit an experience centre and participate in a networking session.
Furthermore, the redevelopment of Hong Kong’s Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre (KITEC) has been approved by the authorities this year. The move aligns with the government’s plan to establish Kowloon East as a second central business district and complement the larger East Kowloon Area’s revitalisation. The redevelopment of KITEC will involve the construction of three office towers and an 11,285m2 exhibition hall. The renewed KITEC is expected to alleviate Hong Kong’s shortage of indoor exhibition space for small to medium-scale events during peak times. The success of this redevelopment, however, hinges on the developer’s approach to integrating the facility with the rest of the development and the surrounding transport infrastructure in Kwun Tong. The Association is keen to participate in a dialogue with the developer and its members to ensure that the facility is designed with the end-users needs in mind.
One of the primary responsibilities assumed by the Hong Kong Exhibition & 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.
In the last three years, the global outbreak of the pandemic has created significant challenges for the convention and exhibition (C&E) industries worldwide. Through our Executive Committee and affiliated working groups, the Association has engaged in numerous discussions with various government departments to explain the pandemic’s detrimental effects on the industry and to recommend actions that can alleviate quarantine requirements and facilitate the recovery of the MICE industry and the economy at large.
Over the previous year, the Chairman has taken part in meetings of the Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force, which were organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. During these meetings, the Chairman has served as a representative for the industry, both in person and virtually. In addition, several Executive Committee members, have participated in the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, which serves to express enthusiasm for the return of business visitors and the potential for expanding business opportunities in the future. The Association is pleased to note that with the launch of the campaign in February 2023, Hong Kong is once again welcoming events back to the city, including some of the world’s largest shows.
There have been numerous meetings and telephone conversations with the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, through which a continuous exchange of dialogue and correspondence has taken place. Through careful explanation, the industry’s position on the reopening of borders has been conveyed more clearly to the government. The Association has welcomed the reopening of all of Hong Kong’s borders in February 2023, coinciding with the relaxation of most pandemic-related restrictions for cross-border travellers. With the gradual lifting of international travel restrictions in Hong Kong over the past few months, we have observed a gradual return of overseas participants and international shows to Hong Kong.
We are pleased to announce our support for the Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions (ICRE) following several rounds of lobbying. On 10th May 2023, the Financial Secretary of the HKSAR Government unveiled a three-year programme worth HK$1.4bn to support the exhibition industry. Over 200 exhibitions are expected to receive sponsorship, providing a much-needed boost to the exhibition sector. The initiative aims to bring back major events and re-establish Hong Kong as the premier convention and exhibition destination in the region.
The Association has worked closely with the CEDB to draft and refine the ICRE and guidelines. The scheme has been passed by the LegCo Finance Committee and is expected to be promulgated in the coming days. It effectively replaces the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme (CEISS) and will take effect on 1st July 2023.
The Association welcomes the Government’s support for the convention and exhibition industry, which helps alleviate the financial burden on organisers and supports the industry’s revival. The scheme and commitment to development plans demonstrate a strong recognition of HKECIA’s efforts. The HKECIA will continue to maintain a close dialogue with the CEDB to explain the needs of the industry and how funding should be allocated to support private sector trade show organisers, international trade, and trade exhibitions.
The Association has engaged in discussions with the CEDB regarding the manpower shortage issue in Hong Kong, particularly concerning stand-building workers for large-scale events. The pandemic has led to a depletion of skilled and experienced workers in the industry, and it is imperative that efforts are made to attract fresh talents and encourage the return of skilled labour to the industry. In addition, given the current global economic climate, airline operating capacity, and other factors, it may take some time for the tourism industry to fully recover. We, along with other chambers of commerce, have advised the government on necessary measures to safeguard the 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 interests.
The Chairman has also accepted an invitation to join the Vocational Training Council (VTC) Hotel, Catering, and Tourism Training Board. 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.
After three challenging years, the Hong Kong exhibition and convention industry has weathered the pandemic and is delighted to see the city reopen. The HKECIA has demonstrated its commitment to addressing industry concerns through active communication with government bodies, as well as local and overseas events. With financial contributions from the government, international mega shows are returning to Hong Kong, and recurring exhibitions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo can benefit from a three-year scheme starting from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2026, with an incentive equivalent to 100% of the venue rental.
Many of Hong Kong’s largest and most economically significant exhibitions were forced to relocate temporarily during the pandemic due to quarantine requirements and other social distancing measures, but with the reopening of barriers, these international exhibitions are returning. The Jewellery & Gem Asia, Jewellery & Gem World, and Asia Food Logistica events have already confirmed and announced their return, and the Wow Summit, the first large-scale Web3 event, was hosted in Hong Kong in March 2023. More than 100 international business events are scheduled to take place in Hong Kong this year, and the number of business visitors has been steadily increasing since quarantine restrictions were lifted. This all goes to prove that Hong Kong remains a very attractive city in the global convention and exhibition sector.
The establishment of the Sustainability and Operations Sub-Committee has enabled the Association to make significant progress in sustainable development, and members are invited to sign up to support the Sustainable Charter at the Annual Dinner tonight and pledge their company’s support to the ten-point principles. By signing the Charter, members can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, contributing to a greener environment and eco-friendly industry.
Hong Kong continues to be well-represented on the global exhibition stage, with Mr Michael Duck elected as the current UFI President and HKEICA Executive Vice-Chairman Ms Wendy Lai elected as AFECA Secretary General. These talented leaders advocate best practices for exhibitions worldwide, reflecting positively on Hong Kong as a thought leader.
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.