Incentive Travel With Inner Mongolian Characteristics

Inner Mongolia is one of the major birth places of prairie culture in China. With its rich culture resources and long history it has attracted wide attention. In recent years, more featured travel products have been developed based on the prairie culture and this has greatly boosted the region's tourism.
Incentive Travel With Inner Mongolian Characteristics

In 2009, with the adjustment on Chinese tourism market, many companies have shifted their focus for incentive travel from overseas markets to the Chinese domestic market, and from long-distance travel to short-distance travel. Cost effective and featured tours have become main considerations for them in choosing a travel destination. This marks both a turning point and an opportunity for Inner Mongolia.

Geographic Advantage
Inner Mongolia spans north China, northeast China, and northwest China. Neighboring Russia and Mongolia, it lies on a border of more than 4,000 kilometers and serves as an important transportation channel between China, Russia, and Mongolia. There are 18 border towns in Inner Mongolia, which have formed an open zone on the border. Domestically it is adjacent to the more developed Beijing, Tianjin, Tangshan, and Bohai economic circle; and it is also closely linked to the Northeastern Industry Zone, which is strongly backed by the state, and the less developed regions of West China. With improvement in air, railway and road facilities, Inner Mongolia's geographic advantage will be gradually highlighted.

Inner Mongolia is the closest ethnic minority dominated autonomous region to Beijing. Huhhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, is 470 kilometers from Beijing on land and from the Chinese capital by air. At present, there are nine airports in Inner Mongolia which run 59 domestic and international routes, and nearly all the Chinese airlines have operations in Inner Mongolia. With the launch of an expressway between Huhhot and Beijing, the region is basically accessible from surrounding areas and this will pave way for the region to combine its tourism products with those of the neighboring regions.

Industry Advantage
Based on its existing resource, Inner Mongolia has formed an advantageous and influential industry cluster featuring dairy, coal, chemical, electricity and cashmere, and has benefited from a pivotal position in China to attract companies to come to trade in the region. Each year, Inner Mongolia hosts a wide variety of exhibitions, trade fairs, and seminars and these have helped drive up the income of the related industries of the region. Experts suggest that Inner Mongolia develop business exhibitions based on its energy, resource and industry advantage, play its due role in green resources, and hold exhibitions of green dairy, meat, grain, fruit, vegetable, forest and aquatic products and wild plants processing, bringing its advantage in medicine into full play by organizing conventions and exhibitions on green medicines, healthcare products, traditional Chinese medicines, Mongolian medicines, bio-medicine and veterinary drugs, and further strengthen the construction of its special brand of "drug exhibition".

Tourism Resources
Bordering Mongolia and Russia to the north, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region spans the largest inter-longitude distance of any region in China. Prairie culture, ethnic culture, northern China scenery and border towns have fostered diversified tourism resource for the region. The grassland in the northern part of Inner Mongolia is the largest ranch in China. Hulunbei'er Prairie, Xilamuren Prairie and Xilinguole Prairie in the middle part of the region are all good places for tourists to experience grassland scenery. In addition, Inner Mongolia has unique deserts. The most famous deserts include Badanjilin Desert, Tenggeli Desert, Kubuqi Desert, and Xiangshawan. Inner Mongolia is also the hometown of Genghis Khan (the founder of theYuan Dynasty). There are a number of places of historical interests in the region, including: the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, Zhaojun Tomb, Wudang Zhao, and Xi Li Tu Zhao.

The folk culture highlighted by Mongolia has added an extra touch for the Inner Mongolia Prairie. In the golden season of July and August each year when the plants are flourishing, livestock are fat and weather refreshing, the Mongolians will hold the Nadam festival which features traditional programs of wrestling, horse racing, archery, the game of Bururi, and Mongolian Chess. This is a good time for tourists to experience the appeal of Mongolian culture

Hotel Facilities
The development of incentive travel in Inner Mongolia has attracted a number of top brand hotels and the higher service levels at these hotels has guaranteed the reception of a large number of incentive travel clients.

Inner Mongolia Jin Jiang International Hotel provides 953 rooms with more than 1,500 beds. As the largest five-star hotel in northwest China, the hotel offers 30 meeting rooms of various sizes plus a comprehensive range of hardware. In terms of hardware facilities, it is the best hotel in Huhhot suitable for hosting various conventions and exhibitions. As a matter of fact, it has successfully served The 8th International Grassland Conference and the 21st International Natural Grassland Conference", "The 2nd China Ethnic Commodity Trade Fair", and "The 9th China Huhehot Zhaojun Culture Festival".

Shangri-La hotel Huhhot features a large banqueting hall of 1,620 square meters in area. Its front hall is 564 square meters and can host a cocktail party for 1,500 guests. In addition, it has a luxury banquet hall of 416 square meters and ten multifunctional rooms to satisfy different demands.

Holiday Inn Hohhot has a banqueting hall of 406 square meters that can be divided into three sections according to clients'requirements. Its multifunction hall is 416 square meters in area and it can cater for 220 people at banquets or be separated into six areas according to client's request. Each area is suitable for arranging tables in a theatre style, boardroom style, or in a "U" configuration.

Hotel Managers Talk About Incentive Travel

Daniel Cheng, the general manager of Inner Mongolia Jin Jiang International Hotel, states that Huhhot features rich tourism resource with grassland, desert, hot spring and golf courses and are especially suitable for incentive travel. Cheng says that Gegentala Prairie, Xilamuren Prairie, Huiteng Xile Prairie, Xiangshawan, Daihai Hot Spring, Daqingshan Golf Course, and Daqingshan Ski Resort are all famous destinations in Inner Mongolia where tourists can experience prairie culture and local recreational activities. In addition, China Huhhot Zhaojun Culture Festival, which is co-hosted by Huhhot Municipal government and Huhhot Municipal Commission, has been successfully held for nine years. The scale and influence of the event are both increasing and this has made the event an ambassador of the city's image, a platform for speeding up local economic development, a carrier for culture and economic exchanges and a driving force for unifying nationalities and cultural development. Zhaojun Culture Festival has been appraised by IFEA as one of the ten major celebrations in China with the greatest potential.

Huhhot presents unparalleled tourism resources for incentive travel. It is also a "famous historical and cultural city in China", "an excellent tourism city in China", "the Dairy Capital of China" and "one of the top ten ecological tourism cities in China". The city is currently actively pushing forward its incentive travel by holding various kinds of trade fairs, exhibitions, expositions, sports events, and commercial events and has attracted a great many tourists, trade events and cultural exchange activities, which have greatly promoted the development of transportation, tourism, commerce and food in the region. Cheng suggests that the region set up the concept of "big travel" and "regional travel", make full use of the tourism resource of its surrounding areas and work as a tourist center to develop and expand its tourism market. He is entirely confident of the development of incentive travel in Huhhot.

Atiq Rehman, the general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Huhhot, says that Shangri-la's "Classic Conference" aims to provide a whole range of new service patterns such as discounted meeting periods for meeting organizers to search for the latest deal and book rooms online. He believes that booking online can help meeting organizers avoid a lot of trouble by collecting guests'names and allocating rooms for them. According to Rehman, the hotel has established a corporate credit management center to form a credit alliance with other hotels and ensure a response to any inquiries within 24 hours. The hotel has also launched a simplified meeting plan and agreement. The hotel staff will work with professional meeting planners and meeting preparation managers to ensure the success of an event.

Onr the prospective of Inner Mongolia as a new incentive travel destination, Rehman believes that under the central government's call to expand domestic demand and with the rapid development of the autonomous region, the government has strengthened its efforts on inviting businesses and the region now receives more meeting and exhibitions than ever before. Currently, due to the influence of the global financial crisis, companies are limiting their budget on meetings and exhibitions. Compared with the past, there are fewer meetings in first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai as meeting organizers have shifted their attention to cheaper second tier cities. In these circumstances, Huhhot has an obvious advantage as an ideal destination. With the rapid development of incentive travel in Huhhot, more and more meeting professionals and talents are crowding into the city, and this has ensured a high service quality for the events. So Huhhot has a bright future for incentive travel with regard to the macro environment, the local advantages, and professionalism.

Inner Mongolia Plays The Prairie Culture Card For Incentive Travel
With the development of Chinese incentive travel, Inner Mongolia has attracted a great number of clients for incentive travel or other events with its unique folk and regional culture. What has made the region so attractive to incentive travel planners and organizers and finally become a destination for incentive travel? With this question in mind, China Hospitality News interviewed Li Yaqun, the general manager of Inner Mongolia Chunqiu Travel Agent Company.

Inner Mongolia Chunqiu Travel Agent Company is engaged in inbound, domestic and outbound travel services. Currently the company has two branches: Inner Mongolia Spring Airlines Service Company and Inner Mongolia Chunqiu Business Meeting Service Company. The latter is one of the major service providers of meetings and exhibitions planning, organization, reception, post-meeting reviews, and meeting related services in Inner Mongolia. Affected by this year's financial crisis, like most other travel agents, IMCTAC has adjusted its plans and shifted focus onto incentive travel and domestic travel in a timely manner. Li says that it is now "at the right time", "in the right place" and "with the right people" to develop incentive travel in Inner Mongolia.

At the Right Time (Favorable Time)
IMCTAC has been devoted to meeting and incentive travel for four years and this year it will continue to focus on promoting incentive travel. Starting early this year, the company began to send staff to cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and, Hangzhou to meet clients and expand its market. Li states that with the increase in experience, incentive travel clients have changed their ideas in choosing a destination. They hope to go to a place with strong local characteristics and, after they have traveled to the first tier and second tier cities both home and abroad, Inner Mongolia which is symbolized by the grassland culture has become an ideal choice for them. Besides, due to the influence of the global financial crisis, many companies have chosen to cut their budgets and as a result, they choose domestic destinations instead of overseas ones, and local travel instead of long distance travel for their incentive events. Inner Mongolia has become a cost effective location for them. Data shows that in recent years, more and more people have chosen Inner Mongolia for meetings and exhibitions.

At The Right Place (Favorable Location)

In Li's view, the favorable location of Inner Mongolia encompasses convenient transport, tourism resources, and hotel resources. First, about the transportation: Huhhot in Inner Mongolia features an advantageous location. Being close to Beijing, it can be easily accessed by self driving and by rail. For tourists from other Chinese cities, there are more than ten flights each day to meet their demand. Second, Inner Mongolia is mainly populated by ethnic minority group with a unique culture and tourism resource. June to September each year is the best season to visit the region whose prairie culture is represented by Huiteng Xile Prairie and Xila Muren Prairie. Tourists can join a wide variety of activities such as horse riding, camel riding, archery, and shooting. They can also watch Mongolian style wrestling, climb Aobao Mountain, visiting local Herdsmen, taste local dairy produce and milk tea, enjoy roast meat, drink fermented mares' milk, and join a campfire night. In addition, tourists can also visit the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, Xiangshawan, and Zhaojun Tomb to experience the local history. In a word, this is a place suitable for companies to raise their staff's morale.

Third, with regard to hotels, hotels in Huhhot, such as Inner Mongolia Jin Jiang International Hotel, Shangri-la Hotel, Huhot, and Phoenix Hotel Inner Mongolia, offer excellent reception services. Many hotels in the city can receive incentive travel groups of over 500 people. In addition, some international hotel brands will be coming to the city soon.

With the Right People
IMCTAC has provided services to meeting and incentive travel groups in the pharmacy, automobile, and consumer fields and is experienced in offering these services. Li says that it is very important to train staff who directly serve incentive travel groups because incentive travel involves high standard service, and the training involves reception, quotation, budget reviews, and outsourcing. He says that in their proposals, they need to detail what is to be done at every minute. When receiving an incentive travel group, the staff of the incentive travel department need to go to the front desk, check restaurants, and arrange menus. They also need to do a series of detailed work such as putting ice water in the right place as requested by the clients before they arrive. After the meeting, they need to arrange Itineraries for the guests based on their demands.

Li is optimistic about the future of Inner Mongolia's incentive travel. He says that with the opportunities brought by the right time, the right place, and the right people, Inner Mongolia will definitely be a good choice for incentive travel planners.