EXHIBITION organisers in Hong Kong struggling with “crippling losses” from cancelled events are urging the city’s government to extend a US$131 million subsidy beyond the scheme’s 12 month deadline.
The Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme was originally announced in February as part of the government’s Anti-Epidemic Fund, but its rollout was suspended in July when a “third wave” of Covid-19 outbreaks hit the city and triggered postponements of events planned for mid-July to September.
The scheme is set to restart on October 3, but organisers are concerned that a backlog of postponements will mean rescheduled events will not meet the October 2021 deadline for the subsidy.
Event organisers staging exhibitions and international conferences at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) or AsiaWorld-Expo during the 12-month period of the scheme can apply for a full reimbursement on renting either venue.
Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association, said though the scheme was designed to help companies in the exhibition supply chain by allowing larger events to take place sooner, a more flexible solution was needed.
“Several large exhibitions that happen in later in the year following the Canton Fair schedule will not be able to go ahead in 2020,” Bailey told MIX, referring to the world’s largest trade show held twice a year in Guangzhou. The autumn edition is due to take place in October.
Bailey said that under the scheme’s current terms, exhibitions taking place at Hong Kong’s two major venues after the one-year deadline would not be able to benefit from the subsidy “despite facing crippling losses from the cancellations”.
“Given this and several other factors, we are in the process of petitioning the government to extend the scheme so that all recurring exhibitions in Hong Kong can benefit and help to revitalise Hong Kong’s badly damaged economy,” he said.
Among the big exhibition names that would be affected by the deadline issue are Global Sources and Mega Expo. But the “trickle-down effect” would also hit many event suppliers who are among the worst hit by the Covid downturn.
HML – Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (Management) – welcomed the restart but said the scheme’s October 2021 deadline would prove challenging as relaunching large exhibitions required longer lead times.
“We believe that once the pandemic is under control, exhibition and convention organisers will waste no time bringing exhibitions back onto their event calendars,” said Monica Lee-Müller, HML managing director.
“To ensure that mega exhibitions and international conventions return to Hong Kong after the pandemic, the industry will continue to communicate closely with the government so that timely actions can be taken to maximise the impact of the subsidy scheme.”