On a scale from one to 10, business events and incentives travel professionals give Hong Kong a rating of eight – a high mark for a city that never grows old.
“It is a cosmopolitan city that changes so quickly. Visitors find something exciting is going on all the time and there is always new things for them to do and discover,” says Adrianne Lynch, conference and incentive travel manager of THE Destination Management Company (DMC), which brings multinational groups from the UK, Australia and New Zealand among others.
Antony Spanbrook, managing director of Luminous Asia, agrees: “A day in Hong Kong is not like a day in any other city because there is so much that you can cram in.”
DYNAMIC MELTING POT
It sounds like a tired cliché, nevertheless, the city’s main attraction to outsiders has always been the blending of Chinese Cantonese and British cultures. When this Eastern-Western fusion hits the streets of modern Hong Kong, it gives a sense of vibrancy – a city that loves to live on the edge.
“If I were to bring 1,000 people from abroad. I will have to choose my options very carefully. If I want to give a taste of China to a group that hasn’t been to Asia before, Hong Kong is a good starting point for them,” says Robert Rogers, founder of Events Management and Production.
He points out Hong Kong has all the advantages of a major international destination – good airline connections, efficient and convenient inland transportation, good hotels and a service-oriented attitude that gives a premium to quality.
“These are the things you look for when you do not want to overwhelm first-time visitors to Asia. Hong Kong gives them a trouble-free and relaxed introduction to Chinese culture.”
ALL ABOUT VENUES
There is a wide choice of venues in the territory for any type of business event or gathering. Still, the perennial challenge for event organisers is finding a venue that can take a large numbers of people.
Industry insiders are one in saying that outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre or AsiaWorld Expo, the choice of venue is limited once group size reaches above 400 to 500 guests.
“We are not talking about conferences and meetings here because the convention centre and the superb hotels in the city have the capacity. But for dinners and special functions, we have to really think outside the box. We have been looking further afield and are being more creative about what to offer to clients,” says Claire Saunders, managing director of Eventclicks-MCI Hong Kong.
She adds: “In the last 18 months, more clients are asking for unique venues. There is a move a way from the tried and tested, cookie-cutter approach for doing events.
On the bright side, new venues have opened in the city and a growing number of restaurants are renting out their premises for exclusive corporate functions.
“I think venues like the Star Ferry are answering the market demand and the government seems to be addressing the need to open some of the public spaces for corporate functions,” says Saunders, whose main challenge at the moment is finding enough unique venues with capacity for the Swift-hosted Sibos event in September. Around 4,000 delegates are expected.
Spanbrook observes that outdoor venues seem to be the rage in Hong Kong right now. “In particular, luxury brands like Coach and Louis Vuitton are commissioning interesting locations like the West Kowloon Heliport and the top of the Ocean Terminal.”
Being the regional headquarters of many MNCs in Asia. The city is no stranger to hosting business events. Far from growing jaded, Hong Kong still has the touch for packaging and branding events.
For Adrianne Lynch of THE DMC, most memorable was an adrenalin-packed dragonboat-racing event that was created for a client’s teambuilding programme.
“We virtually had every aspect of that race branded with corporate logos down to the paddles that were used,” Lynch recalls.
Robert Rogers of Events and Production points out that all events basically have the same components, it is the “styling, presentation and marketing” that set them apart from each other.
“You are crafting an environment that the people are going to walk into. Creating the mood from the moment your guests leave their homes. You are setting the mood with the look and feel of the invitations.”
Luminous Asia puts a lot of thought into designing a creative programme for its clients. When Louis Vuitton (LV)opened its Canton Road store in Hong Kong, it organised a luxury treasure hunt for journalists who were invited to attend the opening. The group was also taken for a foot massage on a junk boat, visited the first LV shop at The Peninsula Hong Kong and learn how to pack for a holiday, visited a temple where a meditation expert taught relaxation techniques and went to Crown Wine Cellar where a sommelier gave wine-tasting tips.
Spanbrook says they always try to balance the look of an event programme to meet client’s expectations while remaining true to the client’s branding image and corporate identity. Some of Luminous clients include CLSA, Pfizer Australia, Pacnet, JP Morgan and RBS.
“We look at all the senses – taste, look, sound and smell. We look at all touchpoints of guest interaction. We look at the flow of the programme to ensure that guests have a breather in between all the networking.”
This is where entertainment plays a significant role, Spanbrook says.
“If budget is tight, clients would go for off-the-shelf entertainment pieces. But if time and budget permit, we create bespoke performances. For instance, when Terminal 2 opened at the airport, we created a piece of original music for a performance inspired by Chinese long-sleeved dancers, but with a contemporary look.”
Luminous took the same concept for Hang Seng’s 75th birthday and took it to a next level by adding over 24 drummers to the choreography. The performance was also connected to a mounted screen, creating visuals with a technological edge to the event.”
Moving forward, Spanbrook expects some of its clients – especially in the financial sector – to scale back on the size of their events. But it is not an excuse to put creativity on hold.“They will not want to appear to be doing something lavish during an economic crisis. But we are very proactive in helping clients with solutions on how they can downsize and scale back but still come up with a creative and compelling event.”
THE DESTINATION MANAGEMENT COMPANY
EVENTS MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTION LIMITED
LUMINOUS EMC LTD
MEETINGS & EXHIBITIONS HONG KONG (Mehk)
Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island is a major hub. Major international airlines have direct and connecting flights to the city. The airport is connected to the main centres of Kowloon and Hong Kong via an efficient train network.
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Mid-December to February are winter months with temperatures between 14ºC and 20ºC. But the mercury can drop to 10ºC on some days. Cool evenings mark the arrival of spring that lasts from March to mid-May with temperatures ranging from 18ºC to 27ºC. The humid summer season is from late May to mid-September with temperatures from 26ºC to 33ºC. Clear sunny days are typical during the autumn months from late September to early December with temperatures ranging between 18ºC and 28ºC.
Most visitors can enter the territory without a visa for a period between 14 days and 90 days. For more information, visit the Hong Kong Immigration Department website at www.immd.gov.hk.
The Cantonese dialect is spoken by the local residents. But English is widely used in business. Standard Chinese, or putonghua, is also growing in use in the territory.
Beyond the Fringe
Hong Kong has wide-open spaces and pockets of nature for companies to discover and explore. Peter Rajendran looks around the outlying areas for teambuilding activities that event organisers can add to their itinerary.
This scenic island is dotted with hiking trails and beaches that are ideal backdrops for teambuilding events.
For four years now, Corporate Adventures has been offering teambuilding programmes and offsite meetings.Its past clients includes Knorr, Unilever, HSBC, IDT Asia, Morgan Stanley and Tandberg Asia, to name a few.
The San Shek Wan Gorge Challenge demands careful maneouvring through hilly ridges and boulders. The objective of this activity is to develop teamwork and to build trust among colleagues.
There is also the Guillin Expedition, which teaches a group how to read a map and navigate through a terrain. By pitting their wits against this nature challenge, a group can learn decision-making and effective communication.
For groups that prefer less strenuous activity, Beach Olympics will do perfectly to build teamwork in small groups. New staff can integrate and mix with inter-department colleagues.
The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club boasts a spectacular golf course. It has a state-of-the-art indoor teambuilding facility that includes swinging ropes and a rock wall. Most of the equipment are imported from Germany.
But Team Building Asia used the country club's wide outdoor space to stage its ”Flat-out Formula 1 Challenge” for one client. It involves building an ”F1 car” from scratch and using it in a race against rival teams at the Marina Lawn.
Effective time management skills, not to mention close team collaboration and resourcefulness, are essential in creating the model car from cardboards. Furthermore, players of each team are forced to use a lot of creative thinking as they have to build a racecar model complete with brand logos and advertising.
The day ends with a mock car race where each team has to go through qualifying rounds. During the race, each team use leg power to push their car to the finish line.
“Our programmes are not dependent on the location which allows us to meet the needs and budget of our clients. It enables us to run our programmes all around the region. In Hong Kong, we’ve done programmes at the Aberdeen Marina Club and Country Club, Gold Coast Hotel and the Harbour Plaza Resort City,” says Caroline Chan, account executive at Team Building Asia.
The Hong Kong Gold Coast Hotel at the tip of the New Territories has been the venue for one of Team Building Asia’s high-energy games. This time, it’s one of spies and espionage.
Straight out of a Hollywood movie, the programme called “Mission Possible" has team members playing secret agents on classified assignment.
Divided into groups, their first task is to crack the combination code of a briefcase that contains a DVD encoded with all facts about their assignments.
Participants will have to solve problems and make sure important company information does not fall into the hands of opponents.
They will then use cameras, maps, compasses, binoculars, SMS and SIM card technology to navigate around the hotel and its surroundings.
This exercise develops team collaboration, a highly-prized capability for companies that want seamless integration in their organisation.
The mission is designed to be completed in four hours and is a fun way to inculcate team spirit among staff.
The Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, situated on top of a steep mountain in Tai Po, offers a unique teambuilding event.
The farm management believes that opening its doors to the public – through educational tours and activities – is a good way to advance the cause of environmental protection. The148-hectare farm has a good variety of flora and fauna.
Companies can take a group of up to 40 people on this eco tour, where participants will learn about habitat restoration and the impact of illegal trading of plants and wildlife.
As an initiative to corporate social responsibility, tree planting and habitat rehabilitation can be added activities in the itinerary.
A group can also play a game of treasure hunt where teams race against time to uncover 12 checkpoints, while carrying out various tasks and at the same time expanding their knowledge of nature.
HONG KONG SAMPLE ITINERARY
Arrive at Hong Kong International Airport.
Unwind in Hong Kong Disneyland, Asia’s only Disney theme park outside Japan. There’s a special Chinese magic in this setting, augmenting the classic fun, thrills and flavours of Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA.
Savour why Hong Kong is the “Culinary Capital of Asia”. Dine in a luxurious hotel, an upscale trendy restaurant or a popular local eatery to appreciate the skills of Hong Kong’s Chinese and Western chefs.
Visit the newly refurbished Peak Tower, the sky-high architectural landmark providing magnificent panoramic views of the dazzling city and Victoria Harbour. Inside, the re-launched Madame Tussauds boasts more than 100 life-like wax replicas of the rich
Then head south and hop into a sampan (small boat) to tour nearby Aberdeen harbour and spy the lifestyles of local fisherfolk. Step aboard the Jumbo Kingdom for lunch and dim sum treats on one of the world’s biggest floating restaurants. Feel Imperial amid the lavish interior.
Explore the seaside village of Stanley, famed – like Hong Kong itself – for its diverse attractions: shopping (its famous covered street market), culture (colonial-era Murray House) and heritage (Maritime Museum).
Afterward, a short scenic drive ends with afternoon tea at the lovingly rebuilt Repulse Bay complex.
Aboard a chartered boat in the middle of Victoria Harbour, you can enjoy dinner onboard and have a front row seat for “A Symphony of Lights”, a magical sound and light show with a Guinness World Record. More than 30 buildings on both sides of the harbour dazzle one’s senses with their cascades of colour and sound.
Participate in the fun-filled “Lion Dance Team-Building” game and learn 1,000-year-old traditions and techniques from masters. You’ll take on different roles: either half of the mythical costumed lion, the Happy Buddha orchestrating the dance, or one of the traditional musicians.
Alternatively, join the “Discover Kowloon Tour” for another great cultural experience. Learn the secrets of buying jade (Jade Market); view a famous Qing Dynasty walled city that has been transformed into a lovely park (Kowloon Walled City Park); visit one of Hong Kong’s most popular temples where you can have your fortune told (Wong Tai Sin Temple); and visit a splendid Tang Dynasty-style Buddhist temple (Chi
For lunch, a Best of the Best Culinary Award-winning restaurant provides a true culinary experience.
Do some last-minute shopping in this shopper’s paradise.
Source: Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK)
One of Hong Kong’s best-kept secret venues, Bethanie House is located on the green hills of Pok Fu Lam – a French-style building whose architecture looks like it belongs in the South of France rather than the west of Hong Kong. The chapel in the main building has been beautifully preserved, while the remaining space has been transformed into classrooms and studios. Two old octagonal cowsheds now hold a theatre and exhibition space. Built in 1875 by the French Mission, it has hosted weddings, concerts, and even a party for luxury fashion label Chloé.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a unique place for corporate events. The ample space and racetrack view, combined with the high level of privacy, offer guests a special meeting experience. HKJC facilities both in Happy Valley and in Shatin give event organisers the flexibility to arrange any type of theme parties and events such as fashion shows. It can cater up to 1,000 guests in a banquet setting. Clients have included fashion brand Hugo Boss and car giant Mercedes-Benz among others.
An iconic Hong Kong landmark, Top Deck sits on top of Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen’s Marina Bay. The venue offers both alfresco and indoor dining in a blended setting of Eastern and Western furnishings. Companies can lease the entire venue for a cocktail reception for 700 people or a gala dinner for 300 guests. For smaller groups, private function rooms are available.
Top Deck has been a venue for companies like Prada, Lovel, KPMG, Adidas, Coca-Cola and the Schoeni Art Gallery.
Located at Central’s Star Ferry, Watermark offers unparalleled 270-degree view of the Victoria Harbour. The three-sided water view of the open-plan space can be used to full capacity, or partitioned to create an intimate dining experience. A translucent sky-light ceiling gives the restaurant luminous, natural daylight, while the surrounding open-air deck offers the perfect view of Kowloon peninsula and ferries commuting on the water. This trendy dining outlet is one of the most popular venues for corporate events in Hong Kong today. Clients in the past several months include Agnes b, Chivas Regal and Knight Frank International Expo.
This part of Hong Kong is undergoing a massive facelift and now houses some of Hong Kong’s well-prized venues. The new West Kowloon Heliport’s 7,432sqm facility is an ideal site for VIP entertainment while the Pop TV Arena’s 55,742sqm is great as a live venue for top entertainment and lifestyle events.
Located at the 25th floor of the Prince’s Building, this ultra-chic dining outlet has a 360-degree balcony with stunning views of Hong Kong Island, the harbour and the Kowloon skyline. SEVVA presents four distinct areas within its penthouse location: Harbour Side, Bank Side, Taste Bar, and a vast terrace – as well as a Cake Corner for takeaway treats. Known for its stylish and elegant interiors that are definitely high-end, it is an ideal place for sunset drinks and intimate private parties with clients and partners. Multinational companies from the banking, legal and luxury sectors have held events there.