The 14th HKTDC Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair (Special Edition) ended on January 11 after a two-day run at a much smaller scale and less fanfare, as Hong Kong struggles to attract visitors despite loosened Covid rules.
This year’s Wine & Spirits Fair is the HKTDC’s first wine event bringing tasting sessions back after a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the organizer Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the two-day physical fair is only open to industry buyers and business matching meetings and is the first to be held in January instead of its usual November timetable.
Compared with the 2019 edition which attracted 1,075 exhibitors from 30 countries and regions and over 15,000 buyers, this year’s fair featured just over 100 local and interntional exhibitors, according to HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Sophia Chong.
Despite the samller scale and limited influence, Chong says the fair sees good presence of local, international and government organizations, “Local and international trade associations and government organisations participating in our fair with their own pavilions at the fairground, include the Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Association (HKWSA), Hong Kong General Chamber of Wine & Spirits (HKGCWS), Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong (CBAHK), Beverage and Food Community (BNFC), National Tax Agency Japan and Fukuoka Prefectural Government.”
Hong Kong has scrapped quarantine requirements for inbound travellers but still requests PCR test and 5-day RAT tests. The city’s strict Covid rules in the past two years have so far pushed international events and fairs elsewhere, losing out to rivals like Singapore. Vinexpo for instance has announced that it’s relocating its Asia edition from Hong Kong to Singapore this year as we have reported.
Hong Kong’s much anticipated border re-opening with mainland China, its biggest tourist group, on January 8 only generated lukewarm response so far, adding uncertainties if deep-pocketed mainland tourists will return to spluge on wine and dine. Only about 5000 mainland visitors crossed the border to Hong Kong compared with 60,000 outbound Hong Kong travellers to the mainland.
Furthermore, Hong Kong’s demestic wine market this year contracted after a blistering growth seen in 2021. From January to October, the city imported HK$6.6 billion worth of wines, down by 25.1% compared with the same period last year, according to government data. About half of the wines are then exported, with mainland China and Macau being the top destinations.