Over the past two weeks, protests in Hong Kong have been called “likely the largest in the city’s history” with over 2 million residents taking to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill that, if passed, would allow suspects to be transferred to mainland China for trial. Aside from tear gas and pepper spray attacks on June 12, the protest has been largely peaceful.
As the city is a hub for events in APAC, we asked those in the industry if the protests have had an effect on their business.
The management at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is “monitoring the situation closely” and event managers will keep event organisers updated of any special arrangements needed. “We will strengthen the access control and will step up security measures when necessary according to our contingency plan,” a spokesperson told CEI.
That being said, the venue has not recorded any dramatic changes so far, and is operating as per usual with public transportation still being accessible to delegates. The June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, organised by Informa Markets, opened yesterday as scheduled with more than 1,900 exhibitors from 40 countries and regions. Other events held at HKCEC last week went on smoothly.
Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), said an incident like this does damage a city’s image, especially among international markets. “I am sure that international meeting organisers who do not have contacts in Hong Kong to speak to would think twice before deciding to hold a MICE event in a city which they regard as unstable,” he said.
Bailey attended an event in Shanghai last week with delegates from the world over, and many approached him with messages of concern. “I was surprised when upon seeing a friend from Australia she greeted me warmly and asked if I was okay. This puzzled me at first but she soon explained that she had seen the ‘riots’ on television back home and had concluded from the pictures that half of the city is a war-zone!” he said.
“I reassured her that it was no such thing and that apart from a relatively small number of people the protest demonstrations had been largely peaceful. As I met more and more colleagues from Europe, US and all over, they had all got a similar impression of the protests.”
Bailey said that to comfort international markets, it’s important for the government [Hong Kong Tourism Board] to “give a very clear message that Hong Kong remains a safe and stable place” for business or leisure travel.
Meanwhile, AsiaWorld-Expo, a mega venue close to the airport, said that business is as usual with operations not being affected.