Hong Kong Event Venue Booking Trends in 2016 – An Analysis

January 18, 2016

Given that we’ve just entered a new calendar year, it would seem the perfect time to analysis and assess some of the more interesting venue booking trends that are coming through VenueHub’s concierge and automated enquiry channels...

The Rooftop Garden @ The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman Hotel

1. The popularity of unique venues continues to grow and grow

For both private and corporate events, we have noticed an increasingly healthy appetite for booking spaces that are in some way unusual, quirky or generally remarkable. This can be a subtle physical feature, a surprising location, a venue with a unique overall concept - anything that is some way different to your “typical” event venue.

Example: Tikitiki Bowling Bar

Venues with a notable outdoor space such as a terrace or rooftop tend to receive a lot of booking interest, despite potential susceptibility to Hong Kong’s generally wet and uncomfortably humid climate.

Examples: The Terrace @Tai Koo, The Verandah & The Front Lawn @ The Repulse Bay, Rooftop Garden @ D2 Place ONE, Rooftop Garden @ The Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel (above image)

We often find that venues that have a historical or quintessentially “Hong Kong” aspect to them tend to be highly attractive to multinational organisations holding an event in HK for overseas guests. Given the city’s frankly woeful track record of architectural conversation, venues that enjoy this status really tend to stand out (supply of these venues is exceptionally low).

Examples: Hong Kong Maritime Museum (below image), Watermark, Central Pier, Soho Printing Press, The Qube, AMMO

Hong Kong Maritime Museum

2. Location prejudice has somewhat softened but for many bookers - the more Central the venue, the better

Southside in particular is growing in popularity as an events epicentre, a trend that will no doubt continue with the relatively imminent extension of the MTR to this part of HK Island in mid-2016. Ovolo Southside and The Butchers Club in Wong Chuk Hang are two high-profile venues that are very much event-focused in how they use their space. A number of private venues and other multipurpose spaces have also established themselves in Aberdeen/Wong Chuk Hang within the past year.

Examples: The White Loft, air|space, M Cuisine, The Wine Lab, Culinart Dining Room

We’ve also listed a lot of venues in Kwun Tong/Kowloon Bay, particularly corporate meeting spaces and party rooms. Unsurprisingly, these tend to be more affordable than their Island equivalents (although good deals can still be found on The Island).

Examples: BOUNCE HK, Centre de Vin, Coop Studio, A Plus Business Centre, Player 11

For many corporates though, there remains a reluctance to hold events outside of the sacred Central bubble. Even the immediately adjacent, more diverse and more atmospheric districts of Sheung Wan and Wan Chai can be viewed as too peripheral for some company events. Proximity to an MTR station is also still an important consideration for many bookers (despite HK’s excellent bus system).

Central is also relatively lacking in large, flexible multipurpose event spaces. Unsurprisingly, The Qube, Loft 22, KONG Art Space (below image) and impressive newcomer The Annex receive a high volume of enquiries given that they can accommodate a wide range of large-guestlist events in this ever-popular part of town.

KONG Art Space

3. The demand for popup spaces continues to grow

The fast-growing trend of retailers creating short-term “popup” stores has inevitably led to an increasing demand for spaces that are suited to holding these events (usually “blank canvas” multipurpose spaces or art galleries). Given the high-visibility nature/requirement of these stores, venues that are at street level in high-footfall locations tend to attract the most enquiries and bookings.

Examples: LIGHTSTAGE Arts & Events Space, The Space, KONG Art Space (above image), ethos, Connecting Space

4. Hotels are still in high demand, despite high pricing and relative lack of “uniqueness”

Although it was noted in point #1 that bookers are tending to seek out the unique and quirky, the comfortable environment, professional service, high quality F&B and state-of-the-art technical facilities that an upmarket hotel can provide is still very alluring to many private and corporate bookers with beefier budgets. Of course all of these benefits will likely come at a price.

Examples: Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman Hotel, The Langham, Hong Kong

The Digs on Hollywood

5. The “Airbnb Effect” has transferred across into the Hong Kong events industry

Airbnb has revolutionised the way that people manage underutilised space, essentially educating them to the possibility of selling that space for extra cash at times when they don’t need it for their own use. As I predicted here at the same time last year, the more entrepreneurially-minded owners of private spaces have cottoned-on to the opportunity of hiring out their spaces for small-scale yet exclusive private events.

As such, we now list a number of private residences on VenueHub, all of which are remarkable in some way. In line with point #1 in this article, these spaces receive a healthy volume of high-budget enquiries.

Examples: Secret Venues portfolio, The Digs on Hollywood (above image)

We’ve also seen a number of commercial organisations list with us whose core business isn’t necessarily in managing events. These venues can be booked outwith normal working hours, enabling them to maximise revenue from non-peak times. With the city’s exorbitant rental prices, this can be a vital additional source of revenue (and a useful alternative promotion channel).

Examples: BoConcept, Ginsberg+Chan, The Flying Winemaker, Chateau Zoobeetle, WDSG Speakeasy, Woodland Pre-Schools

6. Quality sales staff are worth their weight in gold

Our team at VenueHub are acutely aware of the difference in enquiry:booking conversion rates experienced between different venues. All other factors aside, it is no accident that venues employing ultra-responsive, flexible, entrepreneurially-minded sales staff (who actually absorb and respond to the enquirer’s specific set of requirements) enjoy a much higher conversion rate than venues with sloppy, slow or inflexible sales staff.

Honourable Mentions: The Factory, The Qube, LIGHTSTAGE Arts & Events Space, Ovolo Southside, Chalk Party

7. The rise of the party/games room

When we say “party room”, we’re not talking about party rooms that are designed exclusively for kids (although those also tend to be popular). Some of the most popular venues on VenueHub are rooms that feature a number of games including pool soccer, table tennis, American pool, darts, shuffle board and a variety of board and console games in a comfortable lounge-style environment. These tend to be very reasonably priced and act as a comparatively roomy substitute to the tiny living rooms that are found in the vast majority of Hong Kong residences.

Examples: Blackroom, BALL ROOM (below image), Backspace, COMBO

BALL ROOM, Kwun Tong

8. The limited availability of performance venues is still a serious problem

As evidenced by a number of press articles released around the Clockenflap festival in November, there is still a severe supply/demand imbalance when it comes to performance venues (which simplistically-speaking includes theatres and live music venues). This is a problem experienced by not only grass-roots performance groups but also world-class acts such as Madonna. Factors involved include a lack of development space, disinterest from the HK Government and archaic booking systems employed by the single organisation with the biggest inventory of these venues – LCSD. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent privately-managed performance venues that are out there, such as the magnificent new Life Auditorium at St. Andrew's Church in Tsim Sha Tsui (below image).

In the coming weeks, VenueHub will be exploring ways in which we can address this imbalance - watch this space for more details.

St. Andrews Church Auditorium

Article contributed by Malcolm Loudon, Co-Founder and Sales Director

If you have any questions or comments about any of the above points, comment below or email us at [email protected]

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