Hangzhou is famous around the world for the West Lake, while the exposition which was named after the West Lake caught the attention of Zhejiang province and China and attracted the eyes of the whole world as soon as it was launched in 1929.
Regarded as one of the most important international events along with the 1893 Chicago Exposition, the 1900 Paris Exposition, and the 1927 Philadelphia Exposition, the West Lake Expo pioneered the development of Chinese exhibition industry. However, for various historical reasons, the West Lake Expo was suspended for 70 years and it was not until the second half of 1999 that the Hangzhou Municipal government began to prepare for the 2000 West Lake Expo and announced the theme "Guests gather at the grand gathering, top-quality products assemble at the West Lake Expo". Through a decade of development, the West Lake Expo has grown into an international event and become a golden brand for Hangzhou.
Three Foundations For Incentive Travel
With the development of incentive travel in recent years, Hangzhou has shifted from being a traditional sightseeing city to a city that offers sightseeing, exhibitions, and leisure services, and since 2006 incentive travel has been listed as one of the backbone industries for the city's development and is integrated into its general development plan. Based on its infrastructure, industrial base and reception capacity, Hangzhou has a number of advantages for incentive travel.
First the regular holding of the West Lake Expo has made Hangzhou well known. Hangzhou has become a popular inbound travel destination with an advantageous market, industry and tourism, and it can be positioned as an international incentive travel city.
Second located at the southern tip the Yangtze River Delta, to the west of Hanghzou Bay, on the lower reach of the Qiantang River, and by the south end of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grant Canal, Hangzhou is one of the most important cities in the Yangtze River Delta Region and a traffic hub in southeast China. Thanks to the acceleration of the transportation speed, Hangzhou now pairs with Shanghai and can be regarded as an extension of Shanghai for exhibitions and as an important exhibition city in the coastal area of China.
Third due to the limited hardware facilities in Hangzhou and the fact that its large meeting and exhibition halls won't be completed for five years, Hangzhou can focus on developing medium and small scale exhibitions to enhance its exhibition brand with service quality. In addition, with the rapid development of its hospitality industry in recent years, it can now offer a range of excellent services for business people who come to the city for work, meeting, or leisure.
Industry Advantage Decides Exhibition Types
Overall Hangzhou ranks among the second tier cites in China in terms of exhibition competitiveness compared with Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou each of which has absolute advantage or early adopter advantages in developing exhibition services. During the development of its exhibition service, Hangzhou aims to be a hot meeting and travel destination with its own characteristics.
To bring its advantages as an incentive travel destination into full play, Hangzhou needs to lay particular stress on meetings, incentive travel, and lifestyle exhibitions and position itself as a service-oriented international conference base focusing on medium and small exhibitions with two to three international exhibition brands.
A city's incentive travel development is closely affiliated to its industry base. Hangzhou is a pilot city for China's computerization, e-commerce, e-political affairs, digital television, and is a national software base and integrate circuit design base. In recent years, Hangzhou has committed to building itself into a Silicon Valley on Heaven. The city has already gained ground and advantage in developing high-tech industries represented by information, new medicine, environment, and new materials. Meanwhile, the six industry groupss of communications, software, IC, digital TV, animated cartoons, and computer games are also growing vigorously in the city, which has laid down a strong foundation for the development of the city's medium and small exhibitions and has attracted a large group of companies, including Sony Ericsson and Nokia, to hold events in the city.
Incorporating Local Culture Into Themed Activities
Hangzhou has abundant tourism resources and a long history and culture. With the well-known West Lake scenery, The Famous Long Jing Green Tea, Xixi Marshland, the Impression West Lake performance, the Romance of the Song Dynasty and many others, Hanghzou is a suitable destination for incentive travel clients.
Hangzhou is a beautiful tourist city with rich culture. Through the development over the past years, Hangzhou is no longer famous for the West Lake alone and the West Lake is no longer the only symbol of the city. Many other venues of the city can be used for sightseeing and leisure. For example, the West Lake Expo, Sanjiang Food Festival, Lognjiang New Tea Season, Qiantang River Tide Festival, China International Cartoon & Animation Festival, and traditional Chinese festivals such as the Spring Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival will also attract guests from home and abroad. Of these the most unique one is the Romance of the Song Dynasty themed performance. Lasting for an hour, the performance gives its audience an unforgettable visual and audio experience. Just as it calls "return you one thousand years for each day spent by you", incentive travel clients will be deeply impressed if the performance is arranged as part of their journey.
Hangzhou Bears High Degree Of Acceptance
Sony Ericsson is a world leading mobile phone producer. The company operates in more than 80 countries with production bases and R&D centers in China, Europe, India, Japan, and North America. Wang Yaxin, a senior strategic buyer from Sony Ericsson Global Outsourcing Department (China) shared with China Hospitality News details of some of the company's events.
Wang is mainly responsible for the global outsourcing of Sony Ericsson's business travel and related products. He explained that Sony Ericsson holds events in cities across China and outside China each year and their requirement for event venues varies according to the number of attendees and the theme of the events. For example, for a dealer meeting which usually has about 100 people, they will choose a luxury hotel that has a whole range of entertainment facilities. For the annual national distributor meeting and global outsourcing supplier meeting, each of which have more than 500 clients, they will choose venues with fine food and advanced meeting facilities. For service provider meetings with less than 50 people, they will choose venues with complete recreational facilities, unique food and local tourism characteristics.
In addition, Sony Ericsson also holds regular internal activities to mobilize its staff in China. It does this by arranging the staff in groups which range from 50 to 300 people. For this type of events, the company will choose venues that are cost-effective, have enough space for activities, and are convenient for shopping and traveling. It's worth mentioning that the company has held a themed event near the West Lake in Hangzhou and achieved their desired result by combining their event with the beautiful scenery of the West Lake. Wang said that the event was successful and Hangzhou left deep impression on the participants. As to why Hangzhou was chosen, Wang believed that it was because of Hangzhou's all-season views, the wide variety of food, and the leisure features. He said that most clients like Hangzhou and seldom feel tired of the city which has such a high degree of acceptance.
As to Hangzhou's hotel service, Wang said that Hangzhou's overall hotel service level is upper middle. As an old tourism city, it is experienced and has quite a lot of hotels, but the staff of some hotels lack enthusiasm and appear indifferent to the guests. For meetings, Wang suggested that Hangzhou hotels try to develop new products and pay more attention to their service quality and details. According to Wang, when arranging clients from other cities for a meeting, Sony Ericsson will choose a luxury hotel with complete entertainment facilities. The company has chosen Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou, Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, and Sofitel Xanadu Resort Hangzhou for its events.
Comprehensive Guarantee Provided By Hotels
One of the biggest differences between ordinary travel and incentive travel is that the latter rquires high standards. The number of hotel rooms and the number of high star-rated hotels are hard calls for the development of a city's incentive travel. What do hotel managers think of the city's appeal which is closely related to its hotels?
Hotels and Hangzhou
Anthony G Myers, the general manager of Sofitel Hangzhou Xanadu Resort, told China Hospitality News that Hangzhou is an attractive destination because of its unique culture and history. At the same time it is a modern, dynamic city, home to many national domestic and multinational Fortune 500 companies and is very progressive in many areas including: IT, software, animation services, pharmaceuticals, education, chemicals, textiles, manufacturing services, automotive, machine tooling, and many more. Hangzhou and Xiaoshan both offer excellent accommodation, meeting and related support services and infrastructure to support all types and size of MICE events. The airport provides flights to and from domestic, regional and international relevant destinations. Transport by road and rail from around the entire Yangtze River Delta area is easy and efficient. The accommodation and related products and services may offer a price point advantage over a larger metropolis without any compromise on the quality of product or service.
In the eyes of Ashley Shang, general manager of The First World Hotel, the old saying that "Just as there is paradise in heaven, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth" has been there for several hundred years, and "Go to have a meeting in Hangzhou" has been well recognized by meeting organizers and their audience. This shows that Hangzhou is a good place for business meetings. However, it is not until the last couple of years that MICE has emerged in the city, and this is closely linked to the upgrading of the overall domestic business meeting market.
Steven Xu, the general manger of New Century Grand Hotel Hangzhou, said that Hangzhou, which enjoys the name of Heaven, has been transformed from a beautiful scenery city into a leisure capital and an international tourist city that combines sightseeing, exhibitions and leisure. Xu said that Hangzhou has a great number of big hotels for meetings, and it also has hotels to cater different demands. Hangzhou's tourism is mainly about sightseeing and the city has been granted the title of China's Excellent Tourism City and International Garden City, which makes it attractive for incentive travel organizers.
Amir Hassan, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Hangzhou Grand Canal, believes that Hangzhou is a thriving destination that has been attracting both regional and international corporate events for several years. It is not only a financial hub but also a production base for many multinationals interested in Zheijiang and the Yangtze River Delta.
Hassan stated that Hangzhou is a city with both a long history and a modern touch. The Westlake Expo brings Hangzhou abundant business opportunities; the newly developed Scenic area named Xixi is a good place for leisure; and in the near future, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal next to the hotel will be a highlight of Hangzhou. Whether for business or for leisure Hangzhou is the real paradise.
Meeting Facilities Of Hotels
A beautiful environment, open vision, convenient transportation, a large banquet hall, various sizes of multifunction meeting rooms, and considerate and thoughtful service are the main factors for incentive travelers and business clients in choosing a hotel and also the basic things that hotels need to have for their meeting and exhibition functions. Hangzhou's hospitality industry specializes in the development of all these aspects and to some degree pushes forward the development of Hangzhou's exhibition business.
Sofitel Hangzhou Xanadu Resort has a total of 15 meeting rooms designed for different purposes at its conference center and VIP reception center. The impressive ballroom offers 460 square meters of event space and accommodates up to 550 guests for a cocktail reception and 350 for a classroom meeting set-up. The VIP reception centre, which is located by the lake, is an exclusive meeting and dining venue and ideal for private dinners, weddings, cocktails, and corporate meetings.
The First World Hotel is a venue that combines large hotel rooms, a 200,000 square meter recreational park, a 50,000 square meter conference center and a 3,000 seat meeting place, suitable for corporate and industry associations to hold incentive travel events. In particular, the 50,000 square meter Xiu Bo Yuan Exhibition Center is the largest modern exhibition center in Hangzhou and host place of 1,500 booths for the China International Animated Cartoon Festival. In the second half of 2009, the 11th Hangzhou West Lake International Expo preparation work will be carried out. Featuring convenient transportation, the hotel is accessible via self-drive and public transportation. It also has convenient access from the airport, the railway station, and the long-distance coach station.
New Century Grand Hotel Hangzhou is a five-star business meeting hotel. As a flagship of New Century Group, the hotel is in the highest building in Hangzhou, with 47 floors totaling 218 meters in height. Located in the central business area of Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou, the hotel is 15 kilometers from Xiaoshan Airport and near the Shanghai-Hangzhou-Yong expressway. In addition it is about half an hour's drive from the West Lake and the cultural city Shaoxing. The hotels' super large room capacity and advantageous location is the main reason for it attracts incentive travel clients.
Crowne Plaza Hangzhou Grand Canal offers six versatile function rooms and a single grand ballroom, designed to welcome parties from 20 to 500 people. Each function room is equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual systems. The hotel's banquet room is 460 square meters in area and five meters high. The adjacent 15,000 square meter exhibition center will be a leading venue for corporate events, boosting Hangzhou's capacity to accommodate high end corporate events.
Hotel Exhibition Marketing
Anthony G Myers, the general manager of Sofitel Hangzhou Xanadu Resort, said that the hotel would work with MICE organizers, event management companies, travel agents, and professional conference organisers to identify any specific needs and allocate room availability well in advance. Sofitel Inspired Meetings allocates a dedicated Inspired Meeting Planner as a single contact person to handle all arrangements prior to the event and a dedicated Inspired Meetings Concierge to oversee the operations during the event.
Steven Xu, the general manager of New Century Grand Hotel Hangzhou, thought that the purpose of incentive travel is to encourage employees or clients to travel by means of meeting, exhibition and travel, therefore it's necessary to choose the right hotel, meeting rooms and good scenic spots. With the successful experience in the past, the hotel has had received many international meeting organizers and is good at meeting planning, budget making, and timely updating. The hotel plans to market itself through promotions in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou where there are many incentive travel planners and try its best to attract more return customers with its excellent meeting service.
Amir Hassan, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Hangzhou Grand Canal, said that the hotel has established full scale meeting support systems that guarantee a two hour response for each inquiry. Crowne Meetings Department is now complete with professional meetings and events planners to assist organizers right from event concepts to execution of the entire program. The hotel also works with some of the leading Event Management companies to offer custom designed events to the corporate segments.
The Future Of Hangzhou's Exhibition Business
In March 2009, Hangzhou Municipal Exhibition Management Office issued 12 rules entitled "nurturing consumption hot points and enlarging consumption demands" to promote exhibition consumption. Regarding nurturing travel consumption, they said that large efforts will be made to "push the construction of Hangzhou as an international meeting destination and train Hangzhou's business meeting market." The government's support, will no doubt be an accelerator for Hangzhou's exhibition business development.
Guido Milner, the general manager of Sofitel Hangzhou Westlake, believes that ranked after Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, Hangzhou is number five in the exhibition stakes in China. The rich tourism facilities, human resources, and good economic foundation, city infrastructure and strong industry cluster are all advantages for Hangzhou in developing its exhibition business. At present, as there are not so many venues for exhibition in Hangzhou and the scale of exhibitions they can serve is small, so it is hard for the city to host high-end and large scale exhibitions. With the completion of the Hangzhou Exhibition Center project, Hanghzou will be able to accept various meetings and exhibitions both home and abroad.
Amir Hassan, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Hangzhou Grand Canal, is very confident about the outlook of MICE industry in Hangzhou. In particular the city government and the district governments are extremely active in promoting Hangzhou. They have been very successful in creating a supporting infrastructure that has attracted some of the leading multinational corporations to establish their regional base here. Steven Xu, the general manager of New Century Grand Hotel Hangzhou, believes that with the marketing and mature of incentive travel, there will be a lot opportunity for the development of exhibitions in Hangzhou in the future.