The events arm of the Hong Kong Tourism Board hosted over 70 travel agents from around Asia at an awards ceremony at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park yesterday to recognise their work bringing MICE groups to the city.
The annual event, organised by Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK), was part of a five-day trip designed both to reward the agents, all top performers in their markets, and to show off Hong Kong’s latest MICE-friendly attractions, including the recently-opened Murray Hotel and Ocean Park’s new Lakeside Chill bar, where cocktails were held after the awards show.
Attendees came from four markets whose MICE business MEHK sees as critical: Mainland China, South Korea, India and Indonesia.
MEHK recorded 14.3% year on year growth in the meeting and incentive segment from Mainland China last year, reported Kenneth Wong, general manager of the MICE and cruise division of HKTB, and host of the event.
The China market is now doing “fine”, Wong said in an interview after the ceremony. “Sentiment problems” between the mainland and Hong Kong are clearing up following a couple of years of effort to reposition the city in visitors’ eyes and expand promotion from Shanghai and Beijing to Chengdu and other cities, he explained.
“Two, three years ago we received feedback that there is not much novelty in Hong Kong,” said Wong. “People could always come to Hong Kong by themselves. My team members have tried hard to work with the attractions here to develop some new experiences.
"Say for example Disneyland, where they have introduced the Iron Man experience [a Marvel-themed ride] and Star Wars [the ‘Tomorrowland Takeover started in 2016]. They have also got more flexibility in terms of making use of the venue.”
Other new MICE venues in Hong Kong include the Kerry Hotel in Hung Hom, which opened in April last year, and Tai Kwun, the former police station and prison, newly restored as a centre for heritage and arts.
“The good news is everything has settled in,” Wong continued. “The sentiment I think is getting better. I think Mainland visitors have the feeling that Hong Kong is a very welcoming city to them.”
Wong said that the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, which opens later this year, and the new Express Rail Link between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, will further up the convenience of choosing Hong Kong as a MICE destination for groups from Mainland China and will also help facilitate “excursion trips” that feature more than one destination.
MICE business is also healthy from Southeast Asia, Wong stated, with Hong Kong seeing single digit growth from these markets over 2017. Thailand will be a key focus for 2018, he continued: delegates from this market will join the MICE agents award ceremony and trip next year alongside guests from the other four regions.