AN EASING of quarantine requirements for travellers arriving in Hong Kong has been welcomed by local business events leaders – but they warn that the decision will have no affect on the city’s struggling MICE industry.
Hong Kong chief executive John Lee recently announced a reduction in the mandatory quarantine period from seven days in a designated hotel to three followed by four days under medical surveillance at home.
Reducing the hotel-stay requirement will help ease the burden on Hong Kong residents returning to the city along with international arrivals. But those arrivals will not be allowed to attend activities such as trade fairs, exhibitions or conferences at event venues.
Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) says the move, though welcomed, will make no difference to the city’s business events industry, and called for quarantine restrictions to be lifted.
“While the HKECIA appreciates government’s direction of relaxing restrictions, our members and the exhibition and convention industry urge the Government to implement quarantine-free travel as soon as possible,” said Stuart Bailey, HKECIA chairman.
Under a health-code system being introduced tomorrow, international arrivals who have tested negative for Covid and are vaccinated will be issued with an amber QR code through contact-tracing apps issued by the Hong Kong SAR Government. This will last until they have completed their four-day medical surveillance.
HKECIA wants the government to relax restrictions to allow “overseas exhibition organisers, exhibitors and buyers with the Amber Code to run and attend exhibitions at event premises with their face masks on and appropriate social distancing and preventive measures”.
Bailey said about 140 business events were held at AsiaWorld-Expo and HKCEC – Hong Kong’s two main venues – each year prior to Covid attended by millions of trade buyers and exhibitors from all over the world.
“These high-spending business travellers generated tremendous tourism receipts for hotels, restaurants and shops, and hence created tens of thousands of jobs,” he said, adding that the exhibitions industry will be a “core engine for the economy to rebound”.
International trade show and conference organisers have already looked to other destinations to hole their events with some relocated to Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai due to restrictive Covid-prevention measures.
HKECIA has repeated its call for a roadmap to help businesses chart a recovery from the downturn as large events have a long lead time as buyers and exhibitors need to be recruited by exhibition organisers.
Without the changes, HKECIA said the city’s exhibitions industry would be “unable to bounce back and Hong Kong will lose advantages to other Asian cities”.
“The exhibition industry and business sector need to be able to freely reconnect with the world to enable the economy to recover.”