What does it take for Hong Kong to be Asia’s Mega Events Capital?

By Robert Rogers, CSEP on 25/04/2017

We need to talk…

We are in a bad relationship. I know it is probably my fault, I just expect you to know what I want, what I need. I never speak about my hopes or plans. I complain when things go wrong. I make fun of you when you mess up. I always tell my friends what you are doing wrong but I never tell you, I just expect you to know.

I know when you created the Mega Events Fund you were trying to do something new and exciting. I know it was meant to help us grow. Had I known what I know now I would have helped you to work out the wrinkles to make the MEF work. I would have supported you when the public turned against you over Harbour Fest…

Hong Kong Government, I want to start again. If you want to make Hong Kong a Mega Events Capital, I am with you but this time we need open communication, we need dialogue, we need to talk to each other to determine how we can both support each other to create a stronger events industry for Hong Kong.

What the live event industry lacks

The live events industry in Hong Kong is gigantic. It is a super-subsector consisting of numerous multidisciplinary professionals ranging from large agencies and marketers to entertainers and florist. Thousands of SMEs rely on live events for their livelihood, yet Hong Kong has no official channel of communication for the industry.

On the government side we have market departments for meetings and events (MEHK), we have the Tourism Commission for general policy but I have not yet found any department or group serving the event community by creating dialogue with practitioners or commissioning studies to determine the exact breadth of the industry in Hong Kong.

When I speak to live event professionals (usually at the bar) and get them talking about the industry, it will not take long before they start complaining about the government. Getting permits for using public space, lack of venues and lack of “real” support are just some of the gripes I hear.

However, few are taking any action to support or are stepping up to lead the live event industry. Other sectors like exhibitions and conventions do get more support, much of this is due to the fact they are more centralised, more vocal, more engaging with the government and more supportive of their sector in the event industry. 

We need a collaborative voice

The main reoccurring conversation I have is about risk management in Hong Kong. Many event professionals have said, “It is just a matter of time, so far Hong Kong has been very lucky.”

Although we had the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy, as it wasn’t an “organised event”, the industry wasn’t blamed, and the recent Taiwan Color Party fire had some repercussions here but they were limited. Hong Kong’s rules and regulations regarding events are very limited.

The crowd control measures are outdated, there are very few health and safety rules and most events have no insurance.

My fear is when something does happen, suddenly the government will jump into action and start legislating willy-nilly, creating major stumbling blocks for the live event industry.

Doing an event will become like opening a Hong Kong restaurant where it is cheaper to pay the fine than it is to wait for the permit.

The industry’s only hope is to self-regulate and start creating a dialogue with policy makers, so when something does happen we have strong channels of communication and can help to guide the government to make sensible decisions.

The policy makers in government understand the process of governing. We often forget they are trying their best to come up with ideas and initiatives that help the general community.

Event professionals know the impact that live events have, and we know what it takes to produce spectacular live events. We can no longer just keep our heads down and work around problems as they arise. We, as event professionals, need to work together to create good channels of communication with the government.

A greater voice and a few strong leaders will help to create a dialogue with government and policy makers that could strengthen and truly make Hong Kong a “Mega Events Capital” for Asia.

Robert Rogers CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional), live event designer and consultant for Events Man.

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