Hong Kong exhibition industry reports strong recovery on the back of soaring visitor numbers

The newly released Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA) annual exhibition survey points to a strong rebound in the region’s exhibition activities. The survey, which acts as an important barometer of the performance of the industry, covered the exhibition calendar year 2023. The 125 large-scale exhibitions (i.e. those occupying over 2,000sqm of floor space) hosted in Hong Kong in 2023 represented a 30% increase over the number in 2022, bringing with them significant rises in exhibiting companies and visitor numbers. In terms of bringing back premium high-value visitors to Hong Kong, the city’s exhibition industry has made excellent progress, the study noted. 

Of the 125 large-scale exhibitions, the 73 falling into the ‘trade’ and ‘trade and consumer’ category represented the main focus of the survey. That number is up from 40 in late 2022, reflecting the return to Hong Kong of a number of exhibitions that had been suspended or temporarily staged outside Hong Kong during Covid. Attendee numbers at these exhibitions soared significantly year-on-year, with the number of exhibiting companies rising by over 400%, from under 9,000 to over 45,000. The increase in the number of exhibition visitors was even more dramatic, as numbers rose by nearly 560% to break the 1.4 million mark. Similarly impressive was the expansion in floor space occupied by ‘trade’ and ‘trade and consumer’ exhibitions: the space rented by exhibitors increased by nearly 280% to almost 890,000sqm. 

Commenting on the survey results, chairman of the HKECIA Stuart Bailey said: “This is a rebound we have been expecting, and which our exhibition venues and organisers in Hong Kong have worked hard to make happen. We have been greatly helped by the government’s $1.4bn Incentive Scheme for Recurrent Exhibitions (“ISRE Scheme”) launched in July 2023, designed to support the recovery of the exhibition industry by incentivising organisers to stage their recurrent exhibitions in Hong Kong. The survey shows that the government’s investment is already reaping very valuable returns as organisers and visitors flock back to Hong Kong in numbers. Given the clear benefits it is bringing to Hong Kong’s wider economy, we do urge that the scheme continues to be funded until June 2026, as originally announced.” 

The survey results have also proved a useful yardstick for assessing how quickly the exhibition industry is recovering to pre-Covid levels. A gap remains, partly as a result of a shortfall in flight capacity to Hong Kong which has made it harder for international visitors to travel to the city.

When the 2023 survey figures are placed against the pre-Covid figures for 2019, they show a 9% drop in the number of ‘trade’ and ‘trade and consumer’ exhibitions, although only a 5% fall in the total space rented by exhibitors.

The numbers of exhibiting companies and of visitors stand at roughly three quarters of pre-Covid levels, with exhibiting companies numbering 70% and visitors 76% of 2019 levels. The most robust recovery has been in the number of visitors from Mainland China attending these exhibitions. By the end of 2023, their numbers stood at 91% of the equivalent figure in 2019. 

Most scope for growth remains in bringing back international and regional exhibiting companies and visitors, the numbers of which both remain at around half of pre-Covid levels.

Bailey insists that momentum is building. “As long as flight capacity to Hong Kong continues to grow, we expect that the volume of international exhibitors and visitors in 2024 will gradually increase from 2023,” he said.

The HKECIA has also announced the results of its 2024 Annual General Meeting and elections. Stuart Bailey, CEO, Bailey Communications Hong Kong Ltd, was re-elected as chairman of the HKECIA for a fifth term at the Annual General Meeting and the HKECIA elected a total of 18 members to fill the Executive Committee.


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