Hong Kong protests deal massive blow to trade exhibitions as visitor numbers slump 20 per cent

South China Morning Post Dipublikasikan 13.11, 17/11/2019
Hong Kong protests deal massive blow to trade exhibitions as visitor numbers slump 20 per cent

Trade exhibitions in Hong Kong have taken a hit in the last month and a half, with buyer attendance slumping by 20 per cent, as visitors give the city a miss amid some of the worst unrest since protests started in June.

Total attendance for the seven shows organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in October and the first two weeks of November fell to 156,000 from 195,000 last year for the same group of exhibitions. The number of exhibitors however remained roughly the same at 9,600 versus 9,700 last year.

The HKTDC organises 42 trade shows and conferences a year.

These seven fairs, which included the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair and Eco Expo Asia, attracted nearly 95,000 buyers from mainland China and overseas compared to 123,000 a year earlier.

Clashes break out between riot police and students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Sha Tin, on November 12. Photo: Felix Wong

Exhibitors at the most recent show, the Eco Expo Asia, reported a drop in attendance, with mainland Chinese visitors especially absent.

Benjamin Chau, deputy executive director of the HKTDC, said that the safety of exhibitors and buyers was HKTDC's top priority amid the ongoing social issues in Hong Kong.

"Despite the internal and external challenges that Hong Kong has been facing, all seven fairs ran without a hitch," Chau said.

The past few days have seen some of the worst civil unrest in Hong Kong, with events being cancelled and tourist numbers down drastically. Hotels and retail outlets have suffered significant losses, with the economy entering a technical recession in the third quarter.

Using estimates by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the HKTDC said that the drop in buyer attendance saw income for tourism related industries generated during the seven fairs declining to HK$900 million (US$115 million) from HK$1.2 billion last year.

The HKTDC has another six exhibitions scheduled for this year.

Visitors at the Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Autumn Edition). Photo: Jonathan Wong

The escalating social unrest this week has seen companies cancel a slew of conferences and events.

On Friday, organisers of Clockenflap, Hong Kong's biggest annual music and arts festival, cancelled the event which was due to be held at the Central Harbourfront Event Space from November 22 to 24.

Lloyd's Register too postponed a forum to be held during the Hong Kong Maritime Week, starting on Sunday, concerning the decarbonisation of the shipping industry. Lloyd's cited "recent social issues and safety concerns in Hong Kong".

Automated Systems Holdings, a listed IT solutions provider, cancelled a press briefing on Thursday. On Wednesday, a media briefing on China's infrastructure sector hosted by rating agency Moody's Investors Service in Central was cancelled due to anticipated transport disruptions.

Asset management company Aberdeen Standard Investments postponed its 2020 Market Outlook Media Briefing originally to be held on Wednesday, citing "the uncertainty of the current situation".

Despite the pervading gloom, a survey of exhibitors and buyers during the recent Autumn Electronics Fair, the Autumn Lighting Fair and the Outdoor and Tech Light Expo showed that 43 per cent of respondents considered fluctuations in the global economy to be the top business challenge this year, followed by an increase in operating costs (36 per cent) and fluctuating raw material prices (29 per cent). Just 8 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about the unstable political environment in Hong Kong.

Additional reporting by Pearl Liu

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