by Malcolm Loudon, VenueHub HK Sales Director & Co-Founder
It was incredibly interesting to see leading ticketing and event tech provider Ticketflap post the results of their “Event Organiser Survey” last week. Hong Kong boasts a diverse and vibrant events scene, but it’s clear if we read between the lines that there are major problems within the ecosystem that need to be addressed if life is to become easier for event planners. In recent times these issues have been covered fairly extensively in the mainstream media, but this is the first time that a systematic study from a significant sample group within the HK events industry has been collected and presented in such a manner.
Of the four major conclusions that the survey put forward, issues relating to venue hire were intrinsically linked within three of them, which is pretty telling. As Hong Kong’s leading venue-booking platform, VenueHub is in a unique position to comment on Ticketflap’s conclusions.
Above: The Podium at Cyberport - Large outdoor event spaces like this are a rarity in Hong Kong
Supply & Suitability of Venues
“49% have only one or two choices of venue – and sadly 5% can’t find even one that is ideal.”
For certain types of event, especially for events of 300 pax and above and where noise could be an issue (e.g. live music), there’s no doubt that Hong Kong suffers from a lack of venue supply in comparison to other major world cities. Given the huge pressures on land, large outdoor spaces are especially hard to find and secure. There are some hidden outdoor gems available - the likes of Whitehead BBQ offer 40,000ft² of outdoor event space - but it’s pretty slim pickings unless you have the budget for a Central Harbourfront Event Space, Cyberport Podium (see above) or booking one of the Central piers.
For larger-sized events where a hotel ballroom is either too expensive or not “edgy” enough, there are some centrally-located options such as LOFT 22 in California Tower and The Qube. Supply of large ex-industrial spaces (a request we often receive) is much higher however in Wong Chuk Hang – The Butcher’s Club and Genesis being prime examples of large yet customisable multipurpose spaces. The South Island Line MTR really has moved the goalposts the right way in terms of accessibility to this fast-growing area.
For performance events requiring an auditorium or stadium setup, then the options are usually already well-known to event planners. Although not mentioned in Ticketflap’s survey conclusions, frustration persists about LCSD’s archaic and red-tape heavy booking process, a shame given that they manage 30 performance venues - a sizeable chunk of HK’s available stock. Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts venues - some of Hong Kong’s most attractive - are in incredibly high demand and are very difficult to secure. There are some churches and other venues such as Y Square that offer auditorium-style layouts, but it is without question a seller’s market when it comes to performance spaces.
In light of these venue hire restrictions, it’s perhaps not surprising (albeit interesting to see in black and white) that a mere 32% of Arts & Theatre organisers expect to put on more events this year than last year - the lowest figure in the survey. This contrasts sharply with Business event organisers, 80% of whom expect to put on more events. Given the comparatively vast number of hotels, business centres and offices that promote function room venues to external bookers, and Hong Kong’s world-class status as a centre of commerce, this figure seems very much in line with supply.
Above: The Wave in Kwun Tong - A rare example of a converted industrial building that's available for event hire.
Large, "industrial-chic" multipurpose spaces like this are in very high demand from event bookers
“It’s 22% harder to hire a venue in Hong Kong than it is for those looking outside of Hong Kong”.
This is a concerning statistic for the ecosystem, and one that is certainly seared into our consciousness! If you're struggling to find a space, make sure you drop our Concierge team a line – if anyone is likely to find a solution, it’s us.
Ticketing Options in Relation to Venues
“80% of you either strongly agree or agree that you would like more choice in ticketing partners at the venues you hire.”
With so many competing leisure-time interests in a vibrant city of 7.3 million residents, it seems surprisingly short-sighted and self-defeating that certain venues would add friction and restriction into their event ticketing user experience by only allowing ticket purchase from a single supplier. They should surely be looking to “widen the net” for their end users, both in terms of utilising the different marketing reach that each ticketing provider can offer, but also by making it easier for customers to buy a ticket.
There’s a simple reason that when you walk into Starbucks, or 7/11, or H&M you’re able to pay using a variety of different methods - it’s easier for those companies to collect payment from their customers. This logic can also be applied to ticketing suppliers and Hong Kong venues. It’s absolutely our opinion that needlessly restricting options to a single ticketing supplier is a harmful practice and detrimental to the overall health of the HK events community.
Above: A selection of prominent e-ticketing suppliers in Hong Kong. Venues that intentionally restrict event bookers to using only one of these platforms are damaging the end user experience and overall health of the local events industry
Conclusions & Solutions
Whilst Hong Kong will never enjoy access to the wide variety of historic, unique venues as London, or the open outdoor event spaces and grand performance venues of major US or European cities, event planners have to make the most of what there is available. In a city with severely restricted space, critical housing shortages and ever-more powerful developers, event venues will always be well down the list of desired uses for land owners.
In light of this, it’s all the more important that venue-operating government departments, private venue owners and other stakeholders in the community maximize the limited assets that are available so that the HK events community can flourish. Venues and venue operators should embrace offering more and better choices of service providers to the event planners who create and ultimately deliver the content that makes the local events scene what it is and in doing so provide better user experiences to the event attendees upon which the health of the industry hangs. That’s why we formed VenueHub - we wanted to save people needlessly huge amounts of time finding a venue by offering a user-friendly solution that didn’t involve browsing hundreds of different websites with inconsistent and missing venue information.
TicketFlap are to be congratulated on taking concrete action to formalise these findings, and we hope that the conclusions from the survey will be used to tangibly improve the HK events community.
"Thank you VenueHub - as specialists in the venue hiring industry your insights are highly-valued and add to the community's knowledge. We try hard to ensure our promoters' events are as successful as possible, when promoters are finding it hard to find a venue we often refer them to the venue professionals, VenueHub".
Magnetic Asia CSO Martin Haigh
Ticketflap is 100% owned by Magnetic Asia