While Hong Kong is Asia’s most established destination for meetings and incentives, it continues to hold surprises for even those who have been coming back for years. That’s because Hong Kong is always in the midst of an infrastructure boom where new high-end hotels, office towers, cultural attractions and venues continually add more adrenaline to this most high-energy of urban hubs.
Groups coming to Hong Kong are finding much more to see and do than in years past, which is a good thing since the length of incentive programs has grown from an average of three nights to five in recent years, according to James LaValle, manager of conventions, exhibitions and corporate events for the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB).
“In the old days, incentive groups coming to Hong Kong were interested in two things: eating and shopping,” he said. “Now it’s also about culture and wellness. So we’re constantly developing new things for people to experience.”
While incentive business has bounced back since the recession, it still reflects a pattern established during those lean years, he added.
“During the recession we saw many groups that once did programs with two or more Asian destinations scale back to just doing Hong Kong,” he said. “The overall program grew shorter, but the time in Hong Kong grew longer. Even though the recession is over and business is up, we’re still seeing that trend for a single-city incentive.”
While the program may be based in Hong Kong, taking a ferry to Macau for a day of exploring the colonial Portuguese old town as well as the Vegas-style casinos is a standard practice, LaValle noted. Currently under construction, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is expected to open in 2018, cutting travel time between the destinations.
“The two destinations really complement each other—Macau is more of an enhancement to us, not a competitor,” he said.
To further boost meetings business from North America, the HKTB recently upgraded its Hong Kong Rewards program. Among the new benefits is a complimentary cocktail reception for groups of 50 or more staying at least three nights in one of 45 partner hotels through March 31, 2017. Others include privileges at participating attractions, such as Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and Jumbo Kingdom, as well as shopping and dining discounts at over 400 outlets at Hong Kong International Airport.
“Hong Kong is not a cheap destination, but this is a way to offer value in one of the world’s great cities,” LaValle said. “The airport shopping is a really nice aspect to the rewards—you can pick up whatever you forgot to buy.”
While Hong Kong hotels command high rates, LaValle suggests that meeting planners searching for optimal value schedule dates outside of the prime tradeshow periods, which run from March through mid-May and mid-September through mid-November.
For planners looking for new ways to round out itineraries, there’s no shortage of new cultural developments on the horizon. While the Central and Wan Chai districts on Hong Kong Island and the Tsim Sha Tsui district on the Kowloon peninsula remain the main commercial hubs, areas such as Lantau Island and West Kowloon are hot spots for new visitor attractions.
Scheduled to open in phases beginning next year, the West Kowloon Cultural District is taking shape on reclaimed land west of the Yau Ma Tei district. Among its major components will be the M+ museum, which will be a showcase for contemporary visual art in a spectacular landmark building when it opens in 2019. Others will include performing arts theaters, a waterfront park with a sculpture garden and event plazas capable of hosting up to 10,000 people.
“This cultural district will really allow artists to come together and build upon an area that is already starting to boom,” LaValle said. “It’s near the Ritz-Carlton and W hotels, which opened a few years ago, so it will really strengthen that area as a visitor destination.”