TheTicketingBusiness understands Hong Kong’s Urban Ticketing System (URBTIX) services contract has been awarded to Chinese entertainment giant Ten Cent’s subsidiary Maoyan, whose main business is cinema ticketing.

The move will see the SAR government Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) department’s consumer-facing ticketing destination – which offers entertainment and cultural programmes – as well as community recreation and sports events, move on from its current ticketing solutions provider Cityline.

Local sources told TheTicketingBusiness.com that CityLine, the incumbent service provider, did not tender and that far fewer tenders were submitted than expected, with many of the larger local and regional players not participating. However, Shenzhen-based AC Orange International was among the final four in the tender, which was launched early in 2020.

URBTIX is a ticketing system operated under the LCSD to provide ticketing services mainly for event organisers and audiences of performance venues which are owned or operated by LCSD. URBTIX was developed and owned by CityLine as the winning contractor for the previous tender which covers approximately 4-5 million tickets per annum. The contract between the LCSD and Cityline will expire at the end of 2021.

During the contract period, the contractor is responsible for system operation and maintenance as well as provision of internet, mobile application and telephone booking services, and other related services. URBTIX enjoys a de facto monopoly over all tickets sold within LCSD venues, LSCD venue hirers receive economic advantages only if they commit to using URBTIX.

The assessment criteria required the tenders to use cloud platforms for enhancement of system capability and the provision of other enhanced functions to facilitate more effective handling of the immense demand on the first day of sale of tickets for popular events, strengthening prevention against ticket scalping and purchases by bots, provision of additional support for customer relationship management and sales data analysis. The technical score under the marking scheme also took into account the proposed execution plan, technical solution, innovative suggestions, and experience and qualification of the tenderers and their implementation team.

Local entertainment businesses have questioned the decision to use Maoyan, claiming to be unsure whether the new system will provide the necessary customer-centric, mobile-first options. There are also concerns about the storage of customer data in China and the difficulty of providing a physical wide-area sales network, which was originally provided by kiosks in Hong Kong’s numerous Tom Lee music stores.

In addition, Maoyan, which includes online entertainment ticketing services, entertainment content services, advertising services and others, has faced dropping revenues in the last year. It reported a loss of RMB 430.7m ($62m/£47m/€52m) in its interim financial results for the first half of 2020, down 90 per cent from the same period last year.

The firm saw revenues plummet from RMB 1,984.6m in the first half of 2019 to RMB203.1m in 2020, largely due to the closure of cinemas in the country from late January until July due to COVID-19.

Over the past five years with Cityline, the system has been able to accommodate no less than 2,000 users across digital booking services concurrently. It has reportedly been effective in meeting the demand for ticketing services since its launch in 2014.

During Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on November 11, Secretary for Home Affairs, Caspar Tsui told the SAR government members that: “While the network traffic is usually heavy in the morning on the first day of sale for popular programmes due to the large number of patrons buying tickets online, the ticketing system maintains normal operation and there has not been any server overload caused by the surge of network traffic.”

LCSD also pointed to the measures it has in place, among several new ones, that are being used to combat ticket touting, including limiting the number of tickets that each patron can buy, as well as encouraging event organisers to increase the ratio of tickets to be sold through public sale.

Image: URBTIX