MICE destination: Fresh spaces

BBT’s sister publication, creative events magazine Mix, looks at the latest developments on the Hong Kong MICE scene

Grassroot organisers, new hotels in former warehouses and workspaces that double up as start-up bases by day and networking venues by night, form part of the changing events landscape in Hong Kong.

In a city that has faced criticism for not making space available to the public or for hire, there has been some progress with Central Harbourfront. What is happening across at Ocean Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui – where a public viewing platform with event decks has opened – also gives hope.

The city is also seeing a re-energised events community, a significant portion of which is led by the local chapter of the International Live Events Association (ILEA). Closer economic integration between Hong Kong and mainland China is being promised with the completion of the seabridge and tunnel link to Zhuhai and Macau, and the local ILEA leadership sees opportunities emerging across the Pearl Delta region.

“Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Qianhai have grown over the past 40 years to become one of the most dynamic economic regions in the world,” said Sam Shei, the boss of Showbiz Creations and the president-elect of ILEA Hong Kong, in a message to members. “The Pearl River Delta comprises only 1 per cent of the land mass of China, yet generates over 25 per cent of the country’s GDP.”

Shei said the Pearl River Delta is no longer just about the Canton Fair and industrial trade shows. Technology and innovation events such as RISE, alongside forums for influential international brands such as Forbes and the corporate world are growing.

Live events specialists in the city previously looked towards the Hong Kong government for a greater understanding of the need to accommodate creative corporate events. The feeling now, however – at least among the local ranks of the ILEA – is that prospects can be tapped in the upcoming ‘Greater Bay’ area which includes Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau, Zhuhai and other areas of the delta.     

While established agencies look to the China market, more young professionals – particularly from the corporate world – are attracting keen audiences with networking and TED-style events of their own.

One of them is WE (west meets east) Club, which recently hosted Hong Kong+, featuring more than ten speakers including Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, designer Douglas Young, and start-up entrepreneurs Jen Loong of Wandersnap and Horace Lam of UberEats.

With a new wave of young digital-savvy entrepreneurs on the rise, the venue scene is also changing as disruptors combine workspaces with networking venues. Event organisations that have used these spaces for forums and networking include MCI Hong Kong and ILEA.

Among this new crop of small-scale business event venues are The Hive, in Wan Chai and other locations; The Smithfield Collective, in Kennedy Town; and The Work Project, Causeway Bay. For instance, Metta – based in California Tower in the nightlife precinct of Lan Kwai Fong – hosts forums on topics ranging from corporate governance to developing digital products.

Retro Spot was one of the pioneers of connecting space with people and ideas when it opened in Quarry Bay in 2012. Founder Bonnie Yip said the aim wasn’t just to create co-working space, but to introduce investors to Retro’s members. 

New wave in new towns
With space at a premium in business districts along the north of Hong Kong Island, more visitors have been seeking affordable hotels in the territory’s new towns and other up-and-coming locations.

Regulations on the use of industrial buildings have been relaxed to allow the development of hotels in new areas. This has seen properties able to meet the demand from mainland China visitors while also helping to rejuvenate local districts.

Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong Sha Tin is one international brand that helped pave the way. Its opening in 2013 followed negotiations between the government and property owners Nan Fung to lift the industrial use-only limits on the area.

In Tsuen Wan, to the west of Kowloon peninsula, Panda Hotel is one of the more established properties as well as one of the largest in Hong Kong with 911 guest rooms. It has been joined in the area by the new wave of hotels that have been converted from former industrial buildings, such as the 409-room Silka Tsuen Wan, developed by Dorsett Hospitality, and the 160-room Hotel Ease, from the Tang’s Living Group.

Though surrounded by this new wave of accommodation, the Panda can lay claim to being Tsuen Wan’s MICE hotel with the Panda Grand Ballroom, and newly revamped meetings venues in the form of the Crystal and The Terrace.

To the south-west of Tsuen Wan, Sheraton will be one of the big names destined to open in 2018 in the town of Tung Chung, on Lantau island, near Hong Kong International Airport. A Four Points by Sheraton and the Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung Hotel are expected to open on 1 July.

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