Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Jonathan Ramael
IT&CM China 2011
Shang high in Shanghai

 

By Jonathan Ramael

 

For the fifth consecutive year, the city of Shanghai hosted the annual IT&CM China fair, a focused MICE business platform organized by TTG Asia Media and MP International to “Promote China to the World and the World to China.” BBT Online was on location to find out if the organization could deliver on this promise.

The Fair: What’s new?

sheratonFor the last time, the event’s venue was the Shanghaimart Expo (www.shanghaimart.com), located right next to the Sheraton Shanghai Hotel (www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1056) in the city’s Hongqiao Business district, where the hosted buyers stayed. The fair started on a positive vibe, because the attendance rose more than 10% from the previous year. A total of 651 exhibitors, 344 buyers, 83 media delegates and over one thousand visitors were registered to attend. Another unique highlight was the 50-50 mix of international and Chinese delegates. The Belgian delegacy was quite small though, consisting of two other media delegates and two buyers. With a three day programme filled with about 10.000 scheduled business appointments, seminar sessions, networking luncheons and a two day pre-tour, IT&CM China should be firmly positioned as a leader in nurturing business opportunities between China and the rest of the world, as well as in fostering domestic MICE growth within China.

This year IT&CM China didn’t stand alone. Appropriately themed “Leading China’s Next MICE Wave”, it was part of the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration’s inaugural Shanghai Business Events Week, held from April 11 to 15: a collaboration among leading players to take China’s MICE industry to new heights.

 

fair fair fair

 

Of course there were more than just Chinese exhibitors. There were pavilions from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Macau and even Hawaii (most of them giving media presentations as well), together with a vast number of exhibiting hotels. Two new pavilions were featured in response to buyers’ feedback. The first showcased unique and innovative convention venues, the second concentrated on medical and health suppliers offering wellness packages for incentive trips. MICE venues from the Middle East were present for the first time as well. A returning feature was the third IMEX “Future Leaders Forum”, embracing the next generation and welcoming 50 of Shanghai’s lunchmost brilliant students. It gives them the chance to learn more about their career possibilities from the current industry leaders and sharpen their strategic and leadership skills.

The grand ballroom of our Sheraton hotel was used for hosted luncheons and the venue for the opening dinner and ceremony – including a violin concert – was the impressive Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental Hotel out of town (www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-6329-sofitel-shanghai-sheshan-oriental/index.shtml).

A strange thing that occurred to us during the fair was the variable language knowledge of the exhibitors. The timing and the English of the organizers was perfect through all communication, and the press conferences were spotless too. opening ceremonyBut some of the stand holders couldn’t really bring over their message, due to language barriers. This is quite a shame, because a part of the staff in our hotel could speak English better than some of the people on the actual fair.

Piet Perneel, Imagineer for WEI bvba, shared this view. ‘It was my second time here, and I was very surprised by how much the city already changed. Two years ago, much of it still looked like a construction site. The World Expo really sped everything up. As far as the fair is concerned: I really liked the communication efforts the organization made: before, during and even after the event. Even the plan for next year’s fair was already presented! On the negative side ­– besides the inability to speak English – some of the stand holders couldn’t bring over the unique selling points of their venue. We want to know why we should book a particular hotel and travel all the way there from Belgium. Facts and figures are not enough. They really have to make clear why a venue or a destination is special.’

 

The Pre-tour: Discovering next year’s venue

expo center

Most fairs have a pre-tour for international buyers to get to know the city and some appealing venues, and IT&CM China was no different. This year’s pre-tour was particularly interesting, because it would pass through the 2010 World Expo grounds: the main reason for Shanghai’s impressive facelift. Many of the national pavilions where demolished after the Expo, but some of them remained and were given to the city. The first and most prominent building we visited was the massive Shanghai Expo Centr, a first class and impressive venue for big international fairs, congresses and other events. This is also where next year’s IT&CM China will be held. Quite a serious upgrade facility-wise.  Standing concert hallin the green entrance hall, you feel dwarfed. There’s leaves and light everywhere, trees are growing from below you, and you can look all the way up to the seventh floor. There’s a concert hall for 2600 people, a pillarless banquet hall for more than 3000, the Shanghai Hall for conferences of up to 1000 attendants and 70 smaller meeting and VIP rooms. The most interesting part for the fair was the Silver Hall though, a 7200 m2 exhibition hall which can be divided into four smaller parts. Its fifteen meter high ceiling makes it the highest indoor partitioning facility in the world.

Another impressive venue on this site was the Mercedes Benz Arena Mercedes(www.mercedes-benzarena.com), where the Expo closing ceremony was held. This clam-like structure has a total capacity of 18.360 people and it became a very popular venue for concerts and other events. The South Memory restaurant inside the Arena is where we had our afternoon lunch. It was as vast as it was delicious. The Chinese way of dining (a big revolving plate in the centre of the table where all dishes can be tried freely) makes for very social dinners. Our evening meal at the Shun Feng Restaurant, next to Shanghai’s Grand Theater in the centre of town, was comparable in both size and tastiness. The evening ended with mindboggling Chinese acrobatics, visiting “Era of Kaleido” at the Shanghai Gong Stage (www.era-shanghai.com).

Next morning, right before the actual fair started, we visited Shanghai’s premier landmark, the magnificent (and freshly renovated) riverside promenade called the Bund. If you’re ever in Shanghai and you miss this walk, you haven’t been in the city at all. Our young and well spoken female guide showed us beautiful colonial buildings like the Peace Hotel and the Customs House, while we gazed at the massive World Financial Centre and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong, the business district on the other side of the river. The pre-tour was well organized, interesting and showed us the right venues to get a taste of Shanghai’s MICE possibilities, although most attention was given to the biggest, most imposing ones.

 

pudong bund

 

 

Shanghai: a multifaceted city

Shanghai is mostly an impressive city, though simple beauty can be found as well if you look for it. It is a very safe place to wander through (watch out for traffic though). You can venture into the poorest of alleyways with a camera in your hand and no one will try to take it from you, but the easy-to-use subway system isn’t free of pickpockets. All the street names are translated in English, so if you have a map and the ability to read, it’s nearly impossible to get lost in this vast metropolis. Its multitude of varied neighborhoods makes it a very interesting place to discover. The Bund area is a must both during the day as well as at night, when all the lights are turned on. People’s Square and the Shanghai Museum, surrounded by a forest of skyscrapers,  are not to be missed as well. There’s the overcrowded old town, with the famous Yuyuan Gardens, and the elegance of the French Concession district. There are the monstrously high, shiny towers of Pudong as well as the ancient Jing’an and Jade Buddha temples. You could stay here for weeks and still only see a fraction of what’s around.

 

Jin'an temple Jin'an temple Yuyuan-Gardens

 

Two smaller venues were particularly interesting for MICE purposes:

100 Century Avenue is a fancy bar/restaurant offering you one of the best views in town. Which is not hard in this case, because it’s located on the 91st floor of the World Financial Centre (the massive blue tower looking like a bottle opener). A superfast elevator brings you 450 meters closer to heaven in about 20 seconds. Drink a cocktail or have dinner while the city spreads out under you like a misty blanket, the miniature little ships sail the shiny Huangpu river and the other towers loom up through the fog. It has a capacity of around 280 people. Not for folks with fear of heights!  http://shanghai.park.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/entertainment/restaurants/index.jsp

Bar RougeBar Rouge is a fancy club on the roof of one of the colonial buildings on the Bund. People of all ages come here to feel good and have a drink, and the huge open terrace gives you a fantastic view over the river and Pudong, particularly at night. The location and the stylishness of the venue make it the perfect place to let your clients ease down after a busy day of conventions and business talks. www.bar-rouge-shanghai.com

Visiting Shanghai as a European is like fighting a much bigger guy. The city lives to impress, both in height, size and ingenuity. Walking its crowded streets makes you feel very, very small and irrelevant. It is also one of the most exciting and transforming cities of the world though. It’s leading China’s economic and cultural race to the future. It was a privilege to be able to experience it with our own eyes, and we would like to come back in a few years to see what’s new and what’s still recognizable.

China and the World Wide Web

Internet in China is generally very slow, and not only that: it is severely censored. Almost all social media are blocked by the government. There’s no Facebook, no Twitter, not even Youtube. Having to pay for aggravatingly slow internet access was the only stain on an otherwise spotless hotel service. Furthermore it’s almost certain that some kind of big brother is monitoring every site you visit. Social Media are getting increasingly important for business and promotion. If China really wants to “lead the next MICE wave” they should seriously consider making the internet more liberal. Censorship slows the country and its people down, and it shows that this economical juggernaut is still far from a democracy. Concerning the internet, China’s slogan should be: “Promoting China to the world, but censoring the world to China.”

 

What about Japan?

Before the official start of IT&CM China, a lot of questions were asked about Japan. Would Japanese exhibitors still attend the fair after the disastrous events overwhelming the country? According to Darren Ng, Managing Director of TTG Asia, they would. ‘Of course there were some cancellations, which is only understandable.’ he said ‘But more than 70% of Japanese suppliers are still attending.‘ And so they were.

 

china china china

 

Info:
IT&CMA - Bangkok, Thailand - 4 to 6 October 2011 - www.itcma.com.sg
IT&CM China - Shanghai, China - 17 to 19 April 2012 - www.itcmchina.com

 

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