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Mice Asia Net : January 2009
news hong kong - a new focus on H MICE In the wake of the BeIjIng olympIcs and the global financial crisis, the recent launch of meetings & exhibitions hong kong renews the city’s focus on mIce business and profiles hong kong’s strategic location as the gateway to mainland china. Story by Alexis RoitmAn eadlining the assembled who’s who of Hong Kong tourism at the bohemian Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre last November, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Chairman James Tien announced the creation of the new Meetings & Exhibitions Hong Kong (MEHK) office, the first phase in a series of measures to ensure Hong Kong remains competitive in the global MICE sector. As a new division of the HKTB, MEHK will field three teams in the meetings and incentives, conventions and exhibitions segments respectively, acting as a central point to stimulate and manage both the demand and supply sides of Hong Kong’s business events equation. The launch of MEHK is clear recognition of the importance of business tourism to Hong Kong. It follows an additional funding allocation of HK$150 million to the sector over the next five years by the Hong Kong Government in February 2008. One in 10 visitors to Hong Kong come for MICE-related business: around half for exhibitions and conventions and half for meetings and incentives. In total, 1.7 million MICE visitors bring HK$11 billion in revenue to the Special Administrative Region each year. Quite deliberately, the timing of the November launch capitalises on the post-Olympic fervour for all things Chinese. Through MEHK, says HKTB Executive Director Anthony Lau, Hong Kong is billing itself as “a neutral platform for multicultural business exchange, where the world can do business with China, India and the big emerging markets with ease.” Quite coincidentally, the work of MEHK will benefit from the Chinese Government’s four trillion Yuan stimulus package, announced just days before in response to the global financial crisis. Mainland China already represents a third of Hong Kong’s MICE business (and 50 per cent of total tourism business), so MEHK marketing campaigns will aim both to protect and grow this important market in the present volatile economic conditions. The launch of MEHK is also a response to stiff competition in the region. The most recent statistics report from the International Congress & Convention Association places Hong Kong third among its Asian rivals, after Singapore and Beijing, and in 12th place internationally (up from 16th place in 2006). Aggressive strategy The new MEHK will market aggressively to corporates and incentive houses and, Lau confirms, “will use any tools required to win big bids, including offering hospitality and other incentives.” At the time of writing, the second phase of the MEHK initiative is underway, with the recruitment of market specialists to fill its three teams, and the development of marketing campaigns and materials, including a dedicated website (www.mehongkong.com/eng/mice/). With no leadership role created to head up the new MEHK team and HKTB executives noting that “we already have 15 HKTB staff working on MICE projects”, the additional funding will likely be spent on three fronts: on focused marketing campaigns to build Hong Kong’s MICE brand, on tailored services for event planners and corporates to convert interest in Hong Kong and on ‘one stop shop’ bid and marketing support to Hong Kong MICE operators. Under the “Hong Kong – Converging Possibilities” marketing platform MEHK will field representatives in markets identified as high-potential: Mainland China, India, Korea, Japan, the UK and the US. As a third phase of the MEHK initiative, global launch events (including at February’s AIME) will roll-out new brand materials. ABOVE: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. miceAsia.net 7