Buyers grow weary of HK quarantine rules

Despite the success of the city’s book fair, poll by events company finds most International trade show visitors deterred by Hong Kong’s mandatory isolation on arrival

INTERNATIONAL event organisers in Hong Kong are urging authorities not to take the success of the city’s largest book fair as an indicator of the city’s business events industry.

Consumer events such as the seven-day Hong Kong Book Fair and other events organised by the city’s trade development council, cannot be compared in terms of economic impact to exhibitions and conferences that bring in delegates from all over the world.

Wendy Lai, executive vice chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Conference Industry Association, also warned that international buyers who previously visited for trade shows have been “losing patience” with the city’s tough anti-Covid rules which require arrivals to spend seven days quarantined at designated hotels.

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The result is that major business events have relocated to other cities on a temporary or more permanent basis due to restrictions that prevent international delegates flying to Hong Kong.

Lai said a survey by a local events company found that two thirds of its international customers and associates were not willing to travel to Hong Kong if required to quarantine; 20 per cent said they would consider if the quarantine period was reduced to one or two days.

“You can see how the quarantine is having an impact on international trade visitors coming to Hong Kong,” Lai told local radio station RTHK.

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“It’s true that some local public events have been held in Hong Kong… however, there is a clear difference between local consumer-related shows like the book fair and food expos.’

She said international exhibitions accounted for the “vast majority” of the economic impact provided by business events with delegates booking hotels, striking business deals and spending locally.

“These international trade exhibitions have been unable to resume since January 2020, when covid regulation came into effect. There have been small shows, but it does not help Hong Kong’s image as trade fair capital of the world.”

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Lai said the SAR Government should make the easing of border restrictions and “event the elimination of quarantine a very important first step” followed by support and subsidies to attract “more international exhibitions to Hong Kong” and to help important and economically beneficial shows to remain.

Singapore has been the prime choice of organisers seeking an alternative to Hong Kong. Other destinations that have dropped or relaxed travel restrictions – such as Bangkok or Dubai – are also benefiting.

This story was updated at 7pm, July 28 for a correction. The survey was conducted by a local events company and not HKECIA as previously stated

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