A partnership mentality

Hong Kong is cultivating strategic relationships with global associations to attract more congresses but a shortage of venues threatens to dull results

Hong Kong is expanding its associations circle to bring more events to the city

The year 2015 saw the establishment of numerous partnerships between Meeting and Exhibition Hong Kong (MEHK) and international associations and conference organisers, as the MICE bureau seeks to grow its presence as a congress destination in the minds of assocation executives.

Hong Kong is expanding its associations circle to bring more events to the city

According to Hong Kong Tourism Board’s executive director Anthony Lau, partnerships were forged with entities such as the American Society of Association Executives, European Society of Association Executives, International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, Global Conference Network and HelmsBriscoe.

He explained that MEHK was driven by the desire to “proactively reach out to and persuade members (of these entities) to choose Hong Kong for their large-scale conferences and smaller-scale recurring business conferences”.

MEHK’s focus is on six association sectors of science, medical science, engineering, social science, technology and commerce, and had in 2014 and 2015 played host to 63 related congresses such as the World Glaucoma Congress on June 6-9, 2015 and the International Trademark Association Annual Meeting in May 2014.

At press time in December, some 66 conferences – with a majority being professional and association events – have been confirmed in Hong Kong between 2014 and 2019, and they will attract more than 46,000 overseas visitors.

Besides cultivating strategic relationships with international associations, Lau said efforts to work with the usual travel trade partners will continue, along with participation in key MICE tradeshows such as AIME in Melbourne, IT&CM China, SATTE in New Delhi and IMEX in Frankfurt and Las Vegas.

Travel missions, seminars, workshops and networking events in Europe, the US and Asian markets are in the plans for 2016 too.

“To motivate industry agents from our key markets in China, India and Indonesia, we’ll once again welcome top performing partners to Hong Kong in February for our Top Agents Awards Program (TAAP),” Lau added.

While such efforts are in place to court association events, International Conference Consultants’ director Katerina Tam commented that there were insufficient venues in Hong Kong to serve all the business.

“Venues are not easy to secure. While Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) is a preferred choice, association meetings with 200 to 300 pax will not be able (beat a 1,000 pax group) to securing a slot. That really undermines our competitiveness and (causes us to) lose some traffic,” said Tam.

A check with HKCEC found that the venue is running out of space and booking priority is now given to recurring exhibitions. Some 30 to 40 major conferences are held at HKCEC every year, half of which are association events.

Some relief to Hong Kong’s venue shortage may, however, come from the Hong Kong Science Park Phase 3, the newest facility by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp. Built to nurture smart city related technologies, the Hong Kong Science Park Phase 3 spans 6.24 hectares and offers a total gross area of 105,000m2 of R&D offices and laboratories to technology start-ups and multinational enterprises alike.

The facility is available for private hire and offers a wide array of venues, ranging from meeting rooms and exhibition halls to scenic outdoor spaces.
Tam believes that the Hong Kong Science Park Phase 3 provides “an option” to associations looking for space to host their meetings and events.