Conference & Meetings World Issue 102 - Page 10

News Protests take a toll on Hong Kong events industry he protests that have been hitting the streets of Hong Kong over the past 12 weeks have taken a toll on the SAR’s conference and events industry. Although some major tradefairs have weathered the political protest storm, such as the 30th Food Expo, 11th Hong Kong International Tea Fair, 4th Beauty & Wellness Expo and the 6th Home Delights Expo, all organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), and which passed off successfully, attracting over 440,000 visitors and 2,000 exhibitors for the 2019 editions, there have been conference cancellations. Global investment corporation BlackRock moved its September Asia Media Forum forward to February 2020, and the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) moved its 13th conference to Singapore, to be held on the same planned dates of 15-17 October. Susie Ellis, Chairman and CEO of GWS, told The Straits Times: “The decision was made because the unrest in Hong Kong has increased”. Japanese video game developer Capcom cancelled its CPT Premier Event at Esports Festival in Hong Kong citing “civic unrest”. A spokesman said: “We have decided to remove Esports Festival Hong Kong from this year’s Capcom Pro Tour. This decision in no way reflects upon the tournament organiser, Cyber Games Arena, and has been done solely to help keep our community and players out of potential harm.” A number of consumer expositions and concerts have also been cancelled as protests have disrupted transit, blocked roads and caused flight cancellations. Scottish pop ban Chvrches cancelled their planned show at AsiaWorld Expo on 10 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD Above: The word on the street is spelling difficult times for Hong Kong’s meetings industry 20 August, as the venue was forced to suspend its operation on several days. Flight cancellations have not helped, with 5 August seeing 200 flights cancelled in Hong Kong as protesters took over the airport. Cathay Pacific has said it has seen a double-digit drop in advance sales for travel to Hong Kong in the coming months because of the social unrest. Intercontinental Hotels Group reported its revenue per available room in Hong Kong was down in the second quarter because of the political dispute. The Hong Kong government’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan accused some of trying to ruin Hong Kong, “and completely destroy the livelihood of seven million citizens.” He also warned that the city risks a recession if protests continue. Several lines of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) also experienced periods of suspension, and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel has been blocked. The Hong Kong government has regularly issued calls to “restore social order” amid fears that riot police and / ISSUE 102 soldiers were massing in Shenzhen on the China mainland. Organisers are advised to follow the news closely. Ms Panadda Kongma, Head of Competence Center Agribusiness & Operations at VNU Exhibition Asia Pacific Co. Ltd, told CMW: “The situation in Hong Kong is more or less the same as Thailand a few years ago. It will affect, in the short term, events business as you could not travel easily to Hong Kong since the politic is unstable. “However, the protest is more peaceful and nowadays digital world also becomes more important. In the longer term, I believe people still continue their normal business, especially exhibitions and conferences in Hong Kong.” MICE community leaders continue to put on a brave face, with Monica Lee-Müller, HML’s Managing Director, telling CMW in an update on 6 August: “Since a week ago, another large scale annual public fair International Baby/ Children Products Expo has concluded with no major incidents.” Hong Kong is one of the world’s most visited cities, but experts say the disruption is hurting its hospitality sector and the Hong Kong Tourism Board admitted a “double-digit decline” in the number of visitor arrivals in the second half of July. “The travel trade has reported that the number of forward bookings in August and September dropped significantly,” a Board spokesperson added. Tourism industry contributes around 5% of Hong Kong’s GDP. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) reports some good news, that, under its Five Year Advancement Project, renovation of Hall 3FG has been completed on time.