HK crisis hits wines, weddings

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Cape Mentelle
PIC : Derek Pool
Camera IconVines Cape Mentelle PIC : Derek Pool

Civil unrest and a Chinese crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong are having an unexpected ripple effect on the Margaret River region.

Wine sales in the lucrative Hong Kong market are down and the Margaret River Wedding and Events Association this week announced it would cease activities for 12 months due to major disruption in the Hong Kong wedding market.

Association chairwoman Miriam Avery said group activities would be reviewed in 2021 after the Hong Kong crisis made funding and organising wedding industry famils and hosting wedding planners too difficult.

Hong Kong was one of the region’s key destinations for weddings in Margaret River, Ms Avery said in an announcement on Tuesday.

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“The hope is that increased local government publicity with direct flights from Melbourne to Busselton airport in March, 2020 will aid in making Margaret River more accessible, certainly for the Eastern States,” she said.

Margaret River Wine Association chief executive Amanda Whiteland said Hong Kong was an $111 million national wine market and the sixth-biggest export market for Margaret River wines valued at $1.4 million.

“Despite total exports from Margaret River growing +10 per cent (mainly driven by China, USA and Singapore), there has been a -13 per cent decline in exports to Hong Kong in the latest annual export report,” Ms Whiteland said.

“We don’t currently have data to confirm this, but have been advised that businesses skewed to take-home and online sales are experiencing better performance than on-premise sales recently.”

The Times understands civic disruption has undermined mid-level Hong Kong restaurants which offer Margaret River wines.

Ms Whiteland said the news came as figures showed Margaret River was the most visited wine region in the country for Australian travellers and the third-most visited region for international tourists also visiting wineries. Shire of Augusta-Margaret River president Ian Earl said there was no discussion between councillors about the Shire’s continued support for sister city relationships with Haining in China, despite the unrest and Chinese Government posturing.

Cr Earl said the sister city relationship served the region well with multiple visits and student exchanges.

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