Overview and challenges of trade shows in Hong Kong

By Julien Rio

Hong Kong is famous for its crowded streets, its great transportation network, and its incredibly expensive apartments. But those aren't the only things Hong Kong is famous for: it is also at the very heart of Asia Business Events industry.

The city counts over a hundred trade shows per year, some of which are worldwide largest in their specific fields. With a yearly visitor growth of 10 percent, Hong Kong remains the most attractive city for exhibitions. Two major players, HKTDC and Global Sources, organise most of the international events happening in Hong Kong and share the US$4.6 billion of transaction value generated by local trade shows.

But while the market grows, traditions hardly match technological developments. Hong Kong events remain largely impacted by low quality Wi-Fi. Exhibitors tend to use more and more technologies that require an internet connection and often face the obstacle of finding a reliable network. Like it took time for hotels to accept quality free Wi-Fi as a standard amenity, trade shows organisers have difficulties offering the right tools for their clients.

In Europe, exhibitions like "Future of Events" show the path with free internet access, enabling their clients to consult and send emails, capture leads digitally, be active on Social Media, or even install live streams on their booth.

Companies use more and more marketing and tracking tools (Hubspot, Google Analytics, Hootsuite, etc.) to quantify their results and monitor their success, showing and increasing need for data-driven decision. B2B companies spend an average of 39.2 percent of their annual marketing budget on trade shows participation: with such a large budget you would expect even larger Return on Investment.

But the fact is that without tools for monitoring results of a show, it becomes almost impossible for exhibitors to analyse their success and therefore to justify the investment. The old saying "we have always done things that way" no longer applies and companies feel the need to justify their decisions.

Even though the Hong Kong government actively invests in startups and tech programs (ITC, ITV, ITF, CyberPort, Science Park, etc.) to keep the city at the cutting edge of technology, more efforts must be made. If Europe continues to improve its service offer while Hong Kong refuses to adapt, local exhibitions might suffer and lose their prime position, resulting in a larger economic impact for the city.

The old days of pen-and-paper notes on booths and buyers transporting tons of brochures and flyers are almost gone, and the first player to meet companies’ expectations might very well win the game.

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