HK exhibitions bouncing back

Latest Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Industry Association survey shows strong rebound from pandemic with some business event visitor numbers soaring by 560%

HONG KONG’s exhibitions industry is making “excellent progress” in bringing “high-value” business visitors back as organisers recover from the Covid slowdown, according to the latest annual survey by the city’s main business events association.

Results from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Industry (HKECIA) survey of 45 organising companies that operated 125 exhibitions in the calendar year of 2023 show an encouraging rebound from the previous year when pandemic restrictions stifled business.

HKECIA chairman Stuart Bailey speaking at the association’s annual dinner

These exhibitions – which occupied more than 2,000 square metres – represented a 30 per cent increase compared to the events held in 2022 and brought with them “significant rises in exhibiting companies and visitor numbers,” HKECIA stated in a report on the survey findings.

Attendee numbers at these exhibitions soared significantly year-on-year, with the number of exhibiting companies rising by over 400 per cent, from under 9,000 to more than 45,000.

The report added that the increase in the number of exhibition visitors was “even more dramatic” – rising by nearly 560 per cent to break the 1.4 million mark.

Of the 125 large-scale exhibitions, 73 came under the “trade” and “trade and consumer” category of the survey. That number is up from 40 in late 2022, “reflecting the return to Hong Kong of a number of exhibitions that had been suspended or temporarily staged outside Hong Kong during Covid”.

Commenting on the survey results, which were released yesterday on Global Exhibitions Day, HKECIA chairman Stuart Bailey said: “This is a rebound we have been expecting, and which our exhibition venues and organisers in Hong Kong have worked hard to make happen.

We have been greatly helped by the Government’s $1.4 billion “Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions” [ISRE] launched in July 2023, designed to support the recovery of the exhibition industry by incentivising organisers to stage their recurrent exhibitions in Hong Kong.

“The survey shows that the Government’s investment is already reaping very valuable returns as organisers and visitors flock back to Hong Kong in numbers. Given the clear benefits it is bringing to Hong Kong’s wider economy, we do urge that the scheme continues to be funded until June 2026, as originally announced,” Bailey said.

The report found, however, that a “gap” in business event visitor numbers remained. This was partly attributed to a shortfall in flight capacity to Hong Kong, which made it harder for international visitors to travel to the city.

“Most scope for growth remains in bringing back international and regional exhibiting companies and visitors, the numbers of which both remain at around half of pre-Covid levels,” the report stated.

When the 2023 survey figures are placed against the pre-Covid figures for 2019, they show a 9 per cent drop in the number of ‘trade’ and ‘trade and consumer’ exhibitions, although only a 5 per cent fall in the total space rented by exhibitors.
The numbers of exhibiting companies and of visitors stand at roughly three quarters of pre-Covid levels, with exhibiting companies numbering 70 per cent and visitors 76 per cent of 2019 levels.
The most robust recovery has been in the number of visitors from mainland China attending ‘trade’ and ‘trade and consumer’ exhibitions. By the end of 2023, their numbers stood at 91 per cent of the equivalent figure in 2019.

Bailey added: “The survey shows that momentum is building. As long as flight capacity to Hong Kong continues to grow, we expect that the volume of international exhibitors and visitors in 2024 will gradually increase from 2023. This is because Hong Kong continues to offer the same unique advantages as it did before the pandemic.

“There are few other places in Asia that can match this city for its world-class service and outstanding facilities and infrastructure, making it an ideal location for hosting trade exhibitions and international conventions.”

Backgrounder… HK event leaders celebrate resilience

Bailey, who is CEO of Bailey Communications Hong Kong, was re-elected as chairman of the HKECIA for a fifth term at the association’s annual general meeting.

“I’m honoured to continue serving as chairman of the HKECIA,” Bailey said. “While we’ve made good progress in the industry’s recovery, there is still work to be done. The executive committee and I are committed to supporting our members and advocating for the continued growth of the exhibition and convention industry in Hong Kong.”

Main picture: HKECIA executive committee members are joined by Algernon Yau (centre), the Hong Kong SAR Government’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development

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