Shenzhen: Marketing Conventions And Exhibitions In Southern China

An exhibition economy is a sign of a mature high-end service industry, and an accelerator for the development of a modern city and regional economy. Shenzhen, as the fourth convention and exhibition center in China after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, is a good example.


With a portfolio of brand name exhibitions such as the China High-tech Fair, China (Shenzhen) International Cultural Industries Fair, and China International Optoelectronic Expo, conventions and exhibitions have already become a draw-card for Shenzhen. According to the schedule for the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center, in the first half of 2009, about 30 exhibitions will be held, covering sectors such as building and construction, textiles, gold and jewelry, medicine, electronics, and machinery. Currently Shenzhen has dozens of large-scale exhibitions such as CHTF, ICIF, Shenzhen International Furniture Expo, China Shenzhen International Machinery Manufacturing Exhibition, CIOE, and the Shenzhen International Jewellery Fair.

Its economic strength, facilities, transportation, and the opening up of the city will be the criteria for measuring its potential in the convention and exhibition sector.

Economic Strengths
Shenzhen holds an important position both in China's economy and in its geography. It is the hub for overseas markets and inland China. The comprehensive economic strength of Shenzhen is among the top cities, with the total sum of foreign trade imports and exports ranking in first place for 12 years. High technology, modern logistics, and financial services are the three main industries of Shenzhen, making the city one of the most developed cities in China.

Currently more than 100 multinational corporations have set up production bases in Shenzhen, including IBM, Compaq, Epson, Olympus, Sanyo, Lucent, Oracle, and DuPont; and more and more domestic corporations are also moving their R & D and production centers to the city. Shenzhen is not only China's largest information technology industrialization base, but also the base for medical equipment, biotechnology, and new materials. Nine high-tech districts are in planning and construction and these will make a new industrial zone with high-tech industrialization, R & D, and higher education. All these will make Shenzhen a better convention and exhibition center.

Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center is an extremely large public building with the multiple functions of hosting exhibitions and conventions, business activities, restaurants, and entertainment events, and the best facility guarantee for various exhibitions. Shenzhen municipal government has made an investment of CNY3.2 billion in the center.

The Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center is located in the downtown area of the city. Covering an area of about 220,000 square meters, it extends 540 meters from east to west and282 meters wide from north to south. The 60 meters high building has six floors above the ground level and two basement floors. The total construction area tis over280,000 square meters, enough for a large exhibition with 5,000 international standard booths. The largest hall is around 30,000 square meters, and the largest meeting room can accommodate 3,000 people. With eight exhibition halls, 25 meeting rooms, three dining areas and outstanding auxiliary services, the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center can meet the diverse needs of various exhibitions and events.

Location And Transportation Advantages
The advanced location and transportation advantages are important factors in the development of an international exhibition market. Shenzhen is the hub for inland China and Hong Kong and Macau.

As the first special economic zone and a major trade port, Shenzhen is an important origin and destination for China's domestic aviation, with the necessary access to Hong Kong and the inland. Shenzhen Airport is one of China's four major airports; and every five minutes trains depart for the forty minute journey to Hong Kong's Hung Hom station.

Due to its special location, Shenzhen's visitor travel pattern is quite different from other Chinese cities. As an important tourism destination, the annual revenue of Shenzhen's tourism and related sectors accounts for over 10% of the city's total financial revenue; some major tourism corporations such as OCT and GZL International Travel Service are located here.

Moreover, Shenzhen is China's third largest financial center–excluding of Hong Kong. Besides of local events, its neighbor Guangzhou, which is one-hour drive by expressway from Shenzhen, also attracts a lot of business travelers who attend exhibitions in Guangzhou and do business in Shenzhen. As a hub, Shenzhen is the best in the Chinese aviation sector; the three types of guest resources are never exhausted.

Win-Win For Exhibitions And Corporations
Guo Yiping, is the executive assistant of KTB Investments Beijing office and her main duties include coordinating the general manager's daily work, organizing conferences and events and assisting other colleagues' work to schedule. Each year staff of the company go to Shenzhen for various financial meetings and forums. In 2008, Guo attended the China Venture Capital & Private Equity Summit 2008 in Shenzhen. She thinks that VC and PE are rapidly changing fields, which means that first-hand information is important to when making accurate judgments. Besides getting in touch with more professionals in the investment field at such meetings and forums, it is also a good opportunity to showcase the company and expand its scope of business.

As to the exhibition services, Guo thinks that the organizers are professionals in the area who act correctly from the pre-exhibition contact to logistic sand meeting arrangements. But when talking about the VIP guests and exhibitors, Chinese exhibitions fall somewhat behind foreign exhibitions in quality.

Guo chose a five-star hotel in Shenzhen in consideration of the distance between the hotel and the venue or the airport, and the hotel's surroundings. Guo also highly praised the dedicated services of the hotel.

Hotel Facilities
Currently Shenzhen has a total of about 500 hotels; by 2010, the number of four and five-star hotels will more than double.

In the first half of 2008, Shenzhen's online hotel bookings represented 4.23% of the nation's total online demand. In Sepember 2008, hotel demand of Shenzhen decreased to 2.73% of the total due to the impact of global financial crisis. Despite of the China High-tech Fair held in October, the hotel bookings were still under the average demand of 2008, being only 2.85% of the total.

Potential For Conventions And Exhibitions
How do hotel operators view the potential of the city to develop convention and exhibition in view of the unsteady market in 2008?

Local MICE Advantages
David Markham, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Shenzhen, told China Hospitality news that MICE events have become more vibrant in Shenzhen mainly due to the excellent leisure components available in the city. The Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center is capable of providing excellent facilities and services and that, coupled with leisure areas such as the OCT theme parks, East OCT and Dameisha seaside has enhanced the attraction of the are. The range of excellent luxury hotels, such as the InterContinental and Crowne Plaza which are located in the OCT area, make it ideal for MICE events that can have successful business discussions and meetings plus the theme parks that are famous for colorful cultural activities and festive events all year round right next to the hotels. Th general manager of Marco Polo Shenzhen James McStay Ong thought that accessibility is also a major Shenzhen advantage. Travelers from mainland China and around the world can get to Shenzhen by air, rail, bus, or sea. The Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center is just a short walk from the Marco Polo Shenzhen.

David Markham of Crowne Plaza Shenzhen said, MICE is an important factor boosting hotel occupancy rates in Shenzhen, with more than 100 exhibitions being held annually at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center alone. MICE groups generate high revenue for Crowne Plaza Shenzhen. The hotel has a dedicated Crowne Meetings team as event specialist sproviding one-stop services with full support from the F&B department. The team is experienced in managing events and is the one point of contact throughout the meeting process from the initial planning stage to the departure of the last guest.

Hotel Support
The Shenzhen municipal government announced a preferential policy for developing convention and exhibition sector in 2005. The hotel sector is intended to cooperate with local government for the prosperous future of the convention and exhibition sector. Shenzhen will certainly be the first choice for various conferences and exhibitions with the perfection of the infrastructure, the geographic advantage of neighboring Hong Kong and Macau, and the support from the government. Gary Warnock, the director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Shenzhen Futian Hotel, stated that hotel pays close attention to the many events which are listed on the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center calendar and provide amples meeting space and flexible accommodation packages designed for participants attending these events.

Mary Ti, the vice director of event management, the Interlaken OCT Hotel Shenzhen, thinks that a hotel is an organization which offers rooms, catering, comprehensive services and facilities to gain profit. The number of guests and period of stay are directly related to economic benefits to hotel. The hotel not only provides a five-star hotel environment and service quality, but also combines with OCT East theme parks which provide facilities including outdoor sports, leisure, healthy living, cultural experience, performances, and concert parties

Development Potential For Conventions & Exhibitions
Gary Warnock of Sheraton Shenzhen Futian Hotel says an increase in the annual number of events would not only bring a great deal of economic growth to the industries and the city of Shenzhen but also ensure its future as one of China's fastest growing MICE centers. James McStay Ong of Marco Polo Shenzhen Hotel thinks that Shenzhen's exhibition economy looks very promising, and he wishes to see more events and exhibitions related to travel, fashion, lifestyle and gourmet living. Mary Ti of the Interlaken OCT Hotel Shenzhen says that tourism and exhibitions in Shenzhen are set to become a pillar industry of the area.

With all kinds of favorable conditions, Shenzhen becomes one of the cities which have the most potential for the development of tourism and exhibition in East Asia. Both tourism and exhibitions are resource-lean industries, with less requirements for resources, low pollution, high added-value, and high-scalability, which are in line with the shortage of resources, population pressure and the social reality of Shenzhen. Besides, they also will drive the development of the transportation, financial services and other more industries and should therefore be acting the fifth mainstay industry in Shenzhen. Chen Xianjun, the general manager of Metropark Hotel Shenzhen points out that Shenzhen has great potential in developing conventions and exhibitions. He suggests that scenic spots reinforce cooperation with convention and exhibition organizers to attract the attendees of exhibitions, for example, free transportation, ticket packages, and some special activities that match the exhibition. He also hopes that the government would issue more preferential policies to MICE sector.

Gerhard Hecker, the general manager of Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen, says that Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center is a mega-size public facility located in Futian that hosts international exhibitions, conferences, events and entertainment that attract exhibitors and visitors all over the world. The government has just begun the construction of Express Rail Link to connect Guangzhou, Shenzhen (Futian) and Hong Kong. By its completion in 2014, the travel time from Guangzhou to Futian will be 40 minutes and Futian to Hong Kong will take only 15 minutes. With the strengthened cooperation between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, he believes Shenzhen will become an international centre for the meeting and exhibition industry in the near future.

Shenzhen Tourism Bureau announced at its tourism work conference 2009 that it will greatly support new type of operations for tourism including exhibition and business tourism, to build Shenzhen as China's most important tourism destination. Shenzhen is set to see a more prosperous future as a MICE destination.