Planners spoilt for choice
The MICE market for Hong Kong has never been more active and, thanks to this ever-expanding trend, the city's venues and facility providers are constantly raising their game.
Hong Kong offers an ever-increasing range of international-class venues.
These include the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai and AsiaWorld-Expo on Lantau, plus a wide range of hotels across a variety of price levels.
However, selecting the right venue often requires professional knowledge and feet on the ground to do a proper check of facilities before committing.
The city is home to a growing number of MICE planners. These firms, and the checklists they follow when securing and developing the best venues for their clients, offer an insight into how facilities are chosen.
Staff professionalism, facility security, suitability and accessibility of facilities, food and beverage services, and access to equipment for presentations are important considerations, says Maggie Chiu, senior manager at TKS Exhibition Services. There is nothing like first-hand knowledge to assist in making the right choice, so site visits to hotels and conference venues are a key part of decision-making.
"Site visits by the organiser on behalf of clients take into account the venue's track record, including past clients, the profile of previous events and, of course, checklist items such as the venue's capacity," Chiu says.
Location, quality, size and flexibility are all part of suitability, says Leo Stemp, conference director at Beacon Events, whose Mines and Money industry event will be hitting Hong Kong next March. "
These are the most important considerations, followed by price," he says.
For events with overseas participants, transport, connectivity and nearby attractions (including entertainment) are key drivers, as organisers feel it is more important to choose a venue or destination that people will want to visit than one that is easier for exhibitors to ship their stand to. It is also key to have all the conference facilities in one location, with accommodation on site or close to hand, as in the case of exhibition centres such as the HKCEC.
It doesn't help that one of Hong Kong's top conference assets, AsiaWorld-Expo, has been, to some extent, overlooked by conference-goers. "Primarily, it's about the location and ease of access for delegates," says Stuart Bailey, general manager of Diversified Events Hong Kong.
While this benefits downtown venues, such as Wan Chai's HKCEC, out-of-town facilities such as AsiaWorld-Expo are sometimes overlooked. The lack of hotels in that area, despite the ease of access from the city centre, can cause organisers to look elsewhere.
Although on paper Hong Kong is one of the most attractive destination cities for MICE travellers, it is beset with a chronic lack of affordable hotel accommodation, while the supply of hotel rooms at or near venues has become another key consideration for international events.
"The problem of finding affordable accommodation for our overseas delegates has been getting significantly worse over the past two to three years," Bailey says. "We are finding it is increasingly common for exhibiting companies and delegates to cite the rising cost of accommodation in the city as a reason not to attend."
New properties in the city centre and in areas such as east Kowloon are slated to open to lessen the burden, but ease of block bookings and flexibility with accommodation offerings, along with packages that include conference and meeting facilities, food and beverage deals and excursions, all attract MICE business.