Planners ‘incredibly cautious’ amid Hong Kong disruption

Despite the Hong Kong government giving in to protestors’ demands to withdraw the extradition bill, disruption continues in the South-east Asian territory.

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters planning to disrupt transport links to the airport.

Organisers are nervous of events taking place in Hong Kong – both now and in the future.

Sasha Loo of Brighton-based S Events said: “It’s a very unfortunate situation and not great for business or tourists.

“It’s spiralling out of control. I would advise clients not to travel to Hong Kong. I have cancelled events there and it’s on hold indefinitely. Knowingly booking there is only asking for trouble.”

An agency spokesperson who preferred to remain anonymous said they were “incredibly cautious and unwilling to stick their head above the parapet, so to speak.”

Some DMCs contacted by M&IT declined to comment, except to say that they had received no queries about organising events in Hong Kong recently.

Leigh Jagger, former CEO of global events company Banks Sadler and current CEO of EVCOM thought that Hong Kong was generally a very safe city with low crime rates and a great destination for events.

Stay vigilant
“That said, with the risk of ongoing protests and demonstrations as well as the flight and transport disruptions, our members should clearly all be taking a close look at any programme they have in place and assessing any potential impact and monitoring the situation closely,” she told M&IT.

“It is always important to be pragmatic in our response to situations like these.  Our members should maintain open ongoing dialogue with clients and their risk teams regarding any forth coming events planned in Hong Kong.  They should work with their clients to assess the programmes they have planned and evaluate any safety concerns and assess the impact of disruption that the ongoing protests will cause.

“This could be very much be programme dependant based on whether the delegates are out exploring the area or are hotel based for much of the event.  Safety is always the number one priority and delegates themselves may well be nervous to travel.”

The UK Foreign Office issued this advice: “Reports indicate that the protests are likely to continue.

“You should be prepared that the situation could change quickly in areas where protests and public gatherings are taking place. If you are in and around areas where demonstrations are, you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and move away quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.”

Glenn Brunelli, market & product development director of Assist America, a provider of global emergency medical services, advised on taking precautionary measures and avoiding areas where there are protests/demonstrations.

“The biggest issue we are seeing is flight delays and cancellations,” he said.

Assist America reports that international flight reservations to Hong Kong have fallen by 33 per cent between mid-July to early August following the anti-government protests. Many travellers and travel agencies are increasingly opting to book flights to Shenzhen International Airport that borders the city of Hong Kong.

Hotels suffering
Stuart Bailey, chair of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), told M&IT: “The hotel occupancies have been down and hotel prices have decreased accordingly, but this is not expected to continue for long.”

He added: “The city remains safe and welcoming to travellers business or leisure… the news media have focused on small groups of violent protesters while ignoring the fact that life in the city continues as normal.”

The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) were keen to allay fears of those travelling to the city. “The HKCEC has been operating as normal over the past few months and events are running without interruption.  Although there have been road closures nearby during several incidents, the HKCEC remained accessible by foot, private cars, freight trucks and public transportation,” Monica Lee-Müller, HKCEC’s managing director said.

“In fact, it is business as usual here.  We look forward to the upcoming fairs when exhibitors and buyers from all over the world will continue to make fruitful business connections.”

A UK buyer to the Asia Adult Expo, Thomas Henry Chadwick, director of Dotty After Midnight, said: “Hong Kong is the perfect destination for business under its visa-free regime. The city is safe for travellers and tourists – it is exactly the same as it was for my last visit.  Public transport including the MTR (subway in Hong Kong) is running as normal, and I have not observed or experienced any disruption.”

Amy Walker, brand & communications manager at Allianz Partners UK said it was business as usual.

She said: “The FCO have simply advised to check any potential travel disruptions with their carrier. For Allianz Partners customers who have pre-booked travel itineraries or have a single trip policy covering specific dates and the dates are affected, then Allianz Partners may transfer the policy to cover any revised dates.”