The Hong Kong Book Fair – one of the world’s largest – is set to be held from December 16 to 22, its organiser said on Tuesday, after the annual event was postponed amid the city’s third wave of coronavirus outbreak.
The date was still tentative, however, as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which puts on the exhibition, said they would need to reassess health risks closer to the fair’s opening date.
Originally scheduled for the summer, the fair was one of the many conventions postponed due to social-distancing measures as Hong Kong saw record numbers of untraceable cases in the community.
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The fair drew more than 680 exhibitors and just shy of a million visitors last year.
The new date was decided upon after half the exhibitors who responded to a poll said that they wanted the fair to be held before the end of the year, instead of being postponed till July 2021, a spokesman from the council said.
The council said it would monitor the city’s outbreak and make a final decision on December 9, a week before the scheduled opening, as to whether the fair would go ahead.
Exhibitor Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, head of publisher Subculture, said he expected a 40 to 50 per cent drop in sales compared to last year given that the planned date in December was not a holiday for schoolchildren. He also called on the government to do everything in its power to prevent the book fair from being postponed again.
“We’ve already made a loss in July. If we have another postponement in December, it’s going to be a double blow,” Pang said.
He also took issue with what he said was the council’s “false choice” in its survey for exhibitors, saying the alternative to holding the fair in December was effectively cancelling it.
“But if we don’t participate in December, we’ll need to pay for storage and continue to suffer. Now, we will have a chance of getting some income,” Pang said.
The council did not directly respond to the concerns, but said it was in discussions with stakeholders regarding the rescheduling arrangements.
Dennis Yung Wai-kwok, who works in the exhibition production industry, said it was too early to say if the book fair would improve the gloomy state of his sector, as the city has gone for months without large exhibitions, especially lucrative international conventions.
“Many companies are still surviving, but some people have gone on to doing other things like cleaning, food delivery and construction work,” Yung said.
About 20 to 30 per cent of exhibition production houses in Hong Kong had already collapsed, he said, and the book fair was unlikely to generate substantial revenue as exhibitors were expected to rent standard booths with minimal decoration.
The Hong Kong government will subsidise each exhibitor by paying as much as half of their participation fees – up to HK$10,000 (US$1,290) per standard booth, for as many as 10 booths – as part of its pandemic relief funds.
The trade development council said exhibitors confirmed for the book fair in July would be guaranteed a place at the December fair.
Publisher Pang, meanwhile, said he hoped the book fair would show that society was recovering.
“If the book fair goes on as normal and life becomes normal, then I think it’s a good message.”