Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Jonathan Ramael
IT&CM CHINA 2012
Shanghai Revisited

 

By Jonathan Ramael

 

When BBT Online took off to attend the sixth edition of IT&CM China in Shanghai, we already knew a lot of things would be different compared to last year. China’s leading MICE event found itself a brand new venue, an important new organizing partner and many new exhibitors. More than enough for another detailed coverage.  Let’s take a look at the changes first.

 

Shanghai Shanghai

 

Well, tell me what’s new then?

The most obvious novelty was of course the new venue, but we’ll get to that later. Even more fundamental was the addition of CITS (China International Travel Service) to the organizing table – together with traditional partners TTG Asia and MP International. CITS is by far the biggest travel agency in the country. They are one of China’s top 100 companies and their knowledge of the domestic market and vast professional network will almost certainly raise the participation of Chinese buyers, exhibitors and media. By sealing the CITS deal, new doors will open for the fair, strengthening the quality and reputation of the event both on the international and domestic market. Of an equally high standard was the reputation of keynote speaker Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, speaking about the role China could play as a Mega Meeting Destination.

 

Fair Fair Fair

 

Compared to last year IT&CM China showed significant growth. Although still somewhat modest in size compared to the industry giants, the number of participants rose with almost 40%. 850 exhibitors were present and from over 1,000 buyer applications, 380 were selected to be hosted. Like every year, a fine balance was kept between the number of foreign and Chinese delegates. According to Darren Ng, Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, an extra 800 professionals were expected to attend the event without being hosted. Half of the hosted buyers were first time participants.

Fair Fair Fair

 

This larger number of participants was perfectly countered by moving to the new venue. IT&CM China said goodbye to the Hongqiao district and its Shanghaimart Expo and hello to the massive Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & ExpoCEnterConvention Centre (www.shexpocenter.com): a state-of-the-art venue in the middle of the 2010 World Expo site. If you’re up for some truly crazy buildings, take a little walk through the neighbourhood next year.

Also new were the delegate hotels: four of them, to be precise. We stayed in the Intercontinental Shanghai Expo (http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental/en/gb/locations/shanghai-expo): a great looking, contemporary hotel sporting all the facilities we could wish for: a marvellous ballroom, a rooftop garden and a varied and refined kitchen. There were even some personal villas for hire (apparently they come with a Ferrari). Personally, I was very pleased with the built-in television-set in the bathroom. No more watching TV from the bed like a chump for me!

 

Thoughts about the Event

ceremony ceremony ceremony ceremony

The first thing we noticed the day after the official opening ceremony in the Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park Hotel  (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/shabz-renaissance-shanghai-zhongshan-park-hotel/) were two European exhibitors: Switzerland and Turkey. While two is already a vast improvement compared to last year’s zero, it’s still not overwhelming. It made us wonder. With the Chinese economy booming as it is and especially with the recent interest of Chinese companies invested into Brussels as a business gateway to the rest of the EU in mind: why wasn’t the European capital represented in any way? Maybe a stand just for Brussels would be asking too much, but a joint effort in presenting the European Union to the Chinese market can never be a bad idea. Europe wasn’t the most obvious absentee though. While a lot of Chinese cities had their own, well documented stands, Beijing was nowhere to be seen. An ancient rivalry gone too far? We wouldn’t know, but the capital should be well represented on the country’s biggest MICE event.

Beijing might not have been present, but most of the other important Asian MICE destinations were: Dubai, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. Japan was present as well, with a big and busy stand: a positive signal after the disastrous events facing the country last year. They were joined by a wide selection of Press Conferencethe biggest hotel chains. A press conference of the Intercontinental Group was very interesting. Plans were laid out to open an entire new chain of hotels called Hua Luxe: specifically catering to the domestic Chinese costumer who has a different set of values and expectations than western travellers.  Another important point made was a calculation: by 2025 China will have a bigger hotel industry than the US!

Singapore (still one of Asia’s most important business hubs) and Dubai (rapidly growing with an 86,2% occupancy level for its 74,613 rooms in January) gave press conferences as well, while Seoul and Hong Kong presented their destinations during their traditionally delicious hosted dinners.

 

The Pre-Show City Tour

As is custom, foreign delegates were invited to a city tour before the actual event. This year, it took us to the outskirts of the city. First stop: the brand new Shanghai Chensan Botanical Garden (www.csnbgsh.cn). Located in the Songjiang district, it consists of 4 function areas and 26 special gardens. It was not only designed to look pretty, but also aims to become one of the leading centres of botanical research worldwide. It has only been open to the public for a year now, and like almost everything else in Shanghai: it’s huge! 207 hectare to be precise. It holds Asia’s largest greenhouse, protecting a whopping 12,000m2 of tropical greenery. The park has several small and large meeting rooms and auditoria for over 200 people. The gardens and greenhouses themselves can be used for receptions, cocktail parties and fashion shows. There’s one thing we especially liked: they’ve built a garden for blind people, with a strong accent on scents.

 

Botanical Garden Botanical Garden Botanical Garden

 

Our second stop was close-by: Shanghai Sculpture Park (http://shanghai-sculpture-park.com.cn). Another massive park (86 hectare) full of modern art spread out around Homa Moon Lake. Combining scenic drama with luxury and architectural innovation, it’s a beautiful retreat from the city. The massive Yue Hu Conference centre (we secretly believe China builds a brand new one in every park it opens) with its seven small meeting rooms, two big conference halls (one hall can seat 1,700 people) and 23 deluxe guestrooms offers great views of the hills and the lake outside.

bundIn the evening, we went back to the city centre, for some cocktails and a walking dinner at Wharf 1846. Shanghai’s old wharf is the origin of a lot of the city’s legendary stories. Wharf 1846 is a nice mixture of global bars, high-level clubs and international fashion trends. It’s one of the most important “bar towns” in the region, and became the vanguard of Shanghai fashion, all located within a mile of the core business area of the South Bund. The huge open, elevated terrace offers fantastic sights over Pudong. And guess where we were heading next?

The Shanghai World Financial Centre is the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai (for now at least, they’re building financial centeran even bigger one next to it). It looks like a massive bottle opener and it’s filled with offices, hotels, conference rooms and shopping malls. It’s home to the world’s highest hotel, the Park Hyatt Shanghai, and 3 observation decks. Of course we went for the highest one on the 100th floor, a mere 474m above the ground. We expected nothing less than an astonishing view over the city and the nearby bund. Alas, try to look at the weather forecasts before you go, because you might end up literally with your head in the clouds, seeing absolutely nothing but a grey soup. Luckily for us, the sky cleared up after a while, making it all worth the effort: it’s absolutely brilliant!

 

Developments in Shanghai

China is the oldest continuous civilization in the world with a rich and diverse cultural tradition. By contrast: Shanghai is a young city, with much of its development only occurred in the last century. There’s a saying in China: “If you want 2,000 years of history visit Beijing, if you want only a hundred, come to Shanghai.” Unlike other Chinese cities, it has absorbed many foreign influences, making it an unusually exotic metropolis in a relatively reserved country. Thanks to its international appeal it became famous for its intoxicating mix of cultures: Russian refugees, Jewish merchants, jazz clubs, British diplomats and Chinese agents. It became the prime destination for the rich and famous in the roaring 20’s.

In more recent years it’s attracting more and more visitors and MICE events on an annual basis. And the end of this growth is not yet in sight. One year after the World Expo, Shanghai has transformed into a global business and tourism Shanghaicentre. Revenue from tourism reached $48 billion, a 30% rise from the previous year. The city’s five year tourism plan (including a new Disneyland) will see an estimated 70% rise in tourism by 2015 (10 million visitors in total). A lot of money will be invested in the expansion and enhancement of five city zones as well. The World Expo site will become an exhibition zone. A complex with business, accommodation, food and beverage facilities will be built on site, including two 5-star hotels, 2 boutique hotels and a 47,000m2 shopping mall. Shanghai aims to double its current exhibition space by 2015. The Hongqiao Business Park in Puxi will boast one of the world’s largest exhibition centres: the China Expo Convention & Exhibition Complex. It will be twice the size of the current largest exhibition centre (the one where IT&CM was held this year). Shanghai aims to increase its attendance at international trade shows as well, and will also host two familiarization tours in September. Although the city has a massive supply of fine hotels, occupancy isn’t all that high. Market wide occupancy was 61% in 2011 and the average daily rate of the top tier hotels was $220.  Demand growth is expected to slightly outpace supply growth in 2012. As demand gradually catches up with supply, market occupancy and average daily rate are projected to increase gradually. With all these new projects in the pipeline, we are very curious to see what the city will look like in the years to come.

 

When to go, when to stay home
The best time to bring an event to Shanghai would be spring and autumn (March, April, May, September, October, November). The temperature usually stays between 15-20 degrees with plenty of sunshine. January, February, July, August and December should be avoided. Summer can be aggravatingly hot and winters too cold. Beware of the rainy season as well. A month before the fair, weeks of endless rains were reported. Luckily for everyone, umbrella-sellers seem to appear magically after more than three raindrops are spotted.

 

Hosted Buyer Gert Bakker – First Class Travel
Since we’re trying to bring 1,000 people to China for a big darts-event, it’s important to come here and screen possible locations. This way, you can easily exclude the ones not able to cope with this number and talk with those who are. I’m having the feeling it’s still a very Asia to Asia fair, or even Chinese to Chinese. A lot of exhibitors seem to concentrate on the local or domestic market. More European exhibitors are necessary as well, even if only for familiarization. As a Dutchman, Chinese people will more often know Johan Cruyff than Amsterdam, let alone any of the other cities. Things are changing though. In 2000, not a single person spoke English here, now there are more every year.

 

Exhibitor Anja Loetscher – Geneva Convention Bureau
We are here because as the Chinese market will be booming in the coming years, it’s important for us to show presence. We don’t expect to go home with all our hotels filled. First you have to be here and make yourself known. It’s still a people’s industry. Meet them first, see what they require, then start talking business. That being as it is, we already reported a 30% increase in Chinese costumers compared to last year.

 

For more info: http://itcmchina.com/

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