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  • Antony Reeve-Crook

Location, Location, Location: Jewellery show departure from HK demonstrates importance of host city

The departure of Asia’s largest B2B jewellery show from Hong Kong to Singapore underscored two things: destination is key and international trade shows are there for the taking.

The photo accompanying this blog is of a double-page spread that opened a 2012 feature I wrote in Exhibition World magazine on the reasons Hong Kong was Asia's foremost destination for international exhibitions.

Fast-forward a decade and we’re now into the third year of events not taking place in Hong Kong. A sobering fact, the result of a zero-tolerance COVID-19 strategy, and the reason why the audience for the giant Jewellery & Gem World could wait no longer.

Leave a trade audience for long enough and they will find other ways to scratch their itch to network and generate leads.

Or as Paul Woodward, chairman of Paul Woodward Advisory, told the audience at the ETT Club conference this year: “[The JGW audience] must have been exploring and using alternative ways to develop new business, and I wonder how well we understand the alternatives that our customers have been exploring.”

Informa Markets’ official line is that there will be a ‘special edition’ in Singapore this year, giving Hong Kong’s tight lockdown restrictions and Singapore’s more relaxed borders as the basis for the decision.

Direct entry to Hong Kong from all places other than mainland China, Macao and Taiwan is only possible for fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents who will need to undergo 14 days quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel.

However, Informa's decision follows another it made with Italy's BolognaFiere Group to move Cosmoprof Asia to Singapore from Hong Kong in the name of 'convenience'.

If the disruption brought about by the pandemic has given organisers cause to rethink their event model (see previous blog) then it has also given them cause to reconsider the locations hosting their events.

What if Singapore introduces a package that entices Informa to make these changes permanent, subvention, promotion, profile protection or other such means at the disposal of the venue and host destination.

“Industry stakeholders overwhelmingly told us they wanted safe and secure physical fairs that they could participate in,” explained David Bondi, senior vice-president of Informa Markets in Asia. “The last two years have been extremely challenging for everybody, and we, as an industry, have been doing our utmost to not only keep businesses running, but moving forward.”

It now falls to destinations to demonstrate their value, to prove to event organisers that a show in their city is a show that has ‘moved forward’.

Because if the disruption brought about by the pandemic has given organisers cause to rethink their event model (see previous blog) then it has also given them cause to reconsider the locations hosting their events.

Some would say that Hong Kong’s heyday as a mecca for event organisers is behind it, subsumed by China and denied the independence that made it an ideal window into industry on the mainland.

A connection of mine once boasted that business flocked to Hong Kong on the boast a company could be established in one day, for one dollar and with one form. The predominance of English - still the international business language - and rule of law instilled confidence in boardrooms and buyer alike.

But months of intense protest and political instability that preceded the pandemic had already raised serious concerns for organisers considering it for their existing and prospective events. An organiser might be just as wise to cross the border and stage their event in Shenzhen, or any of China’s other 65 cities with more than a million inhabitants.

Hong Kong is an extreme example, but all around the world there are event organisers wondering just how sure they are of the homes they have selected for their events.

The time is right for destinations to shout about their credentials, to promote themselves as being in the ascendance while their competitors rely on past success.

International trade event organisers exist to connect buyers and sellers in buoyant markets and markets are subject to continuous change.

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