RECOVERY hopes for Hong Kong’s events industry have been dealt a setback with the postponement of the city’s “too big to fail” Book Fair as tighter pandemic restrictions return after a sudden rise in infections.
The Book Fair, organised by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), had been seen as another bellwether event as Covid outbreaks in the city came under control and consumer shows such as wedding fairs went ahead on a smaller scale.
From July 15, tougher restrictions on public gatherings and venues are to be reintroduced by the regional government to combat a spike in recorded infections in the city.
TDC also postponed three other events due to the held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. A sports and leisure expo, careers and education expo and Entrepreneur Day will be rescheduled, along with the Book Fair, which was due open July 15.
Exhibitors and publishers that had booked booths and planned events at the Book Fair started to announce their withdrawal after Hong Kong health officials found a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
“The health of Hong Kong people is a priority,” TDC said in a statement issued July 15. It said talks were held with government officials over the weekend and TDC was advised to reschedule the event.
“Given the latest epidemic situation and the government reimposing certain social distancing restrictions on public health grounds, the Book Fair, despite the precautionary measures to be put in place, should be avoided, since it would likely be difficult to perform contact tracing and imposing subsequent disease control measures for the huge number of people involved,” TDC said.
Doubts still lingered on Monday morning over whether or not the event would go ahead on Wednesday, with one planner telling MIX that their firm received a message from the TDC that afternoon stating the event was cancelled.
Medical experts had been advising after the latest Covid cases that the event should not go ahead. The planner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said their firm was only alerted about the cancellation on the afternoon of July 13.
“It was almost like the event was too big to fail, so stands were still being built, even when exhibitors and big names in local publishing were pulling out,” the event supplier said.
More than 50 exhibitors who formed a concern group were urging a cancellation of the Book Fair last week. TDC is now planning to reschedule the event to November or December.
The 2019 event saw 980,000 people attending over seven days with 686 exhibitors, according to official figures. But the number of expected exhibitors this year began to fall dramatically to 585 participants, a drop of around 15 per cent.
The South China Morning Post reported that TDC and the regional government’s commerce bureau wanted to press ahead with the event, despite mounting concerns from exhibitors and a local legislator.
A “third wave” of coronavirus cases emerged in Hong Kong last Wednesday (July 8) with 19 infections. This was followed by 34 on Thursday and 38 new cases on Friday. The Post reported today that Hong Kong has a total of 253 confirmed cases, including 182 local infections recorded over the past eight days.
Main image: The 2019 Book Fair attracted a record number of visitors