Wuxi And Kunshan: MICE Markets On The Yangtze River Delta Region

The economy of Yangtze River Delta is one of the most dynamic and competitive in China. The 2010 Shanghai Expo will not only bring opportunities to Shanghai, but also to all the other cities in the Yangtze River Delta.

Wuxi And Kunshan: MICE Markets On The Yangtze River Delta Region

A cluster of cities featuring leading MICE services has been formed in the region with the aim of creating a regional MICE brand to encourage integration of resources among all the cities in the region. Wuxi and Kunshan, by exerting their respective advantages, cooperating with each other, or taking joint actions with Shanghai and its surrounding areas, have become key players in the Yangtze River Delta in building a highly developed and prosperous MICE industry.

In 2008, Wuxi was selected as the city with the highest sense of happiness in China. Justifying this title Wuxi combines hard work and elegance.

Located in the south of Jiangsu province and in the center of the Yangtze River Delta plain, Wuxi neighbors the Yangtze River to the north and Taihu Lake to the south. It is adjacent to Suzhou to the east and Changzhou to the west. As a land of abundance as well as a modern industrial city, Wuxi is also nicknamed "Little Shanghai". During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Wuxi saw rapid development with its advantageous natural conditions, convenient water and land transportation and stable social environment. In the modern times, Wuxi was an economic city south of the Yangtze River and a cradle of the national industry and township enterprises. Its economic growth entered a new stage after the liberation of the city, and through more than 30 years' development following China's reform and opening up, the city's economy is now growing rapidly and its general economic strength has grown stronger.

Wuxi is also nicknamed "Pearl of the Lake Taihu". Wuxi's scenery combines natural landscape beauty with perfect manmade features. It is a place with rich human culture. Many historical figures including the Qingshihuang Emperor, Lu Ji; Li Bai; Lu Yu; Wang Ansh;, Su Shi; and Wen Tianxiang, left either monuments or poems to the city and added glamour its glamor. In addition, Wuxi has also nurtured such famous poets, artists, scholars and writers as Qian Zhongshu, the blind A Bin, Liu Tianhua, Xu Beihong, and Sun Zhifang.

A place that combines beautiful natural scenery with rich culture, Wuxi has the essential features of a MICE destination. Plus, it has the sound hardware and software facilities necessary for MICE development.

Advantage in Transportation
Wuxi international airport's flight network extends to all major cities across China, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shenyang, Chengdu, Haikou, and Kunming and it has launched international routes to Hong Kong, Macau, and Osaka to meet the demand of business travelers. In addition, with the construction and launch of high-speed trains and the high-speed railway, it now only takes about 50 minutes to travel from Shanghai to Wuxi. The Beijing-Shanghai High-speed Rail, which is currently under construction, has a station in Wuxi. The inter-city rail link between Shanghai and Nanjing which will be completed in 2010 will have a train departing every three minutes. The trains will run for 24 hours a day and this will help strengthen the ties between Wuxi and Shanghai.

Wuxi's high-tech industries such as software, alternative energy, new materials, and bio-medicines are all growing dramatically. As the origin of China's IC industry and the center of the Yangtze River Delta Region, Wuxi has attracted many dragonhead enterprises such as Hynix, Sharp, Wuxi Suntech Power Co., Ltd., Wuxi China Resources Huajing Macro Electronics Co., Ltd, and Changdian Electronics Technology Co., Ltd and has a complete industry chain and solid industry base. China(Wuxi)International Semiconductor and FPD Expo, which has been held for three successive years, has served as a platform for the world's semiconductor and flat panel manufacturers to exchange ideas and cooperate on projects. The advantageous geographical location, excellent investment environment and strong economy of Wuxi has attracted up to 50 companies from the Top 500 Global Corporations to invest and has created an excellent environment for the city's MICE sector.

Hotel Facilities
Wuxi features a well-developed hotel industry. The international star-rated hotels in the city can meet business travelers' demands for accommodation and events. Geoffrey Howe, the general manager of Millennium Wuxi, thinks highly of Wuxi's MICE environment. Millennium Wuxi has a good selection of meeting rooms available for meetings and events of any size. The hotel is set amongst 12,000 square meters of landscaped gardens which lend themselves as the perfect backdrop for corporate events such as dinners and cocktail parties. So whatever the requirement or event, Millennium Wuxi is able to work with its clients to ensure a perfect experience.

Howe said that Wuxi has lots of picturesque views such as the Taihu Lake. The hotel can provide five-star off site catering services which enable clients to taste their unique food while enjoying the beautiful scenery. He stated that in addition to wonderful scenery, Wuxi is also famous for its food. So when the hotel hosts these events they can be tied in to local seasonal festivals such as the Yang Shan Shui Mi Tao or Peach Festival in July and August or the Ma Shan Yang Mei or Bayberry Festival which occurs from May to July. And of course visitors who come in October can sample the famous Tai Hu Hairy crabs when they are at their peak.

Howe believes that the meetings and events industry in Wuxi has a great deal of development potential. He said that Wuxi provides a very convenient location for meetings and events being located in the central of the Yangtze Delta area with many natural tourism attractions and good infrastructure such as transport, this makes it an attractive destination for MICE events. The Wuxi government recognizes this and has invested in the building of the new Wuxi Convention and Exhibition Center which is due to open in the near future. He thought that Wuxi's MICE business would be developing steadily in the next few years.

Guo Jianjun, the general manager of Doubletree by Hilton Resort Wuxi Lingshan, introduced several unique MICE venues in Wuxi to China Hospitality News, including the 88-meter high bronze Big Buddha of Lingshan (known as the world's No. 1) and Xiangfu Temple. Guo said that the Wuxi Brahma Palace, which is well known for its splendid construction and live performance, is an ideal place for companies to enhance employee morale and build teams as the hotel holds outward bound exercises. He said that all these venues are only about four kilometers to Doubletree by Hilton Resort Wuxi ∙ Lingshan, which is about five kilometers to Taihu International Golf Club, the only golf club in Wuxi.

Doubletree by Hilton Resort Wuxi Lingshan provides 487 luxury rooms, an independent meeting center of 5,000 square meters with brand new facilities and more than 20 multifunctional meeting rooms and two 580 square meter pillar-less banquet halls adjacent to an area of multifunctional grassland, a baseball court, football pitch, and a golf green of over 40,000 square meters. Guo said that the hotel incorporates local characteristics into meetings to bring a brand new experience to clients.

Guo believed that in a time like today when everyone seeks green meeting and healthy meeting, Wuxi, as a city whose forest coverage rate reaches 35.2% and with rich Wu and Yue culture plus convenient transportation and cheaper expense, has great potential in developing MICE business.

Neighboring Shanghai to the East and Suzhou to the west, Kunshan has developed from an agricultural county into an important and emerging industrial city in the Shanghai economic circle. At present, as many as 1,300 companies have production facilities in Kunshan. And 23 of these are Top 500 Global Corporations. In addition a batch of dragonhead and garden-style projects has been launched. Tourism represented by Zhouzhuang is also on the increase, the famous Yangchenghu hairy crab and Kunqu Opera which has been listed by UNESCO as a human unwritten and nonmaterial cultural heritage has made Kunshan a popular destination for meeting and event organizers.

Taiwan-funded enterprises have accounted for quite a large part of Kunshan's economic entities. At present, there are more than 1,000 Taiwan-funded companies in Kunshan. Though geographically it belongs to Jiangsu, Kunshan is industrially linked to Shanghai and has become an integral part of Taiwan business in Shanghai. For this reason, in addition to local enterprises, many companies from Shanghai also choose Kunshan for their events.

The hospitality industry of Kunshan, headed by The Doubletree by Hilton Huaqiao/Kunshan, has provided solid hardware facilities for these events. John Burger, general manager of The Doubletree by Hilton Huaqiao/Kunshan, said that the location of their hotel enables clients to hold their incentive travel events at Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai Cart World, the water town of Zhouzhuang, the ancient town of Qiandeng, Jinxi, and Yangchenghu. Each year, Kunshan also holds a beer festival and a Hairy Crab Festival. These will help companies achieve desired result.

The Doubletree by Hilton Huaqiao/Kunshan has contributed to Kunshan's MICE business. The hotel will keep close contact with the local government to help improve the service level of the city's MICE sector with the hotel's meeting facilities and events. In the meantime, the hotel will cooperate with various business councils such as the German Businessmen's Council and Taiwan Businessmen's Council to meet their needs for meetings and exhibitions. Through cooperation with meeting organizers, the hotel provides more preferential packages for the clients. Cooperating with companies that offer a series of training programs is one of the strategies for the company to expand its MICE service. In addition, the hotel has built a Chinese language web page targeting Chinese market and it also plans to set up a Traditional Chinese language website for Taiwan clients. Burger said that as the hotel is close to Shanghai International Automobile City, he will keep a close watch on the new car release and F1 races in the City.

In John Burger's view, though there are just a few high end hotels in Kunshan at the moment. With the development of the hospitality industry and the improvement of the related infrastructure, Kunshan is certain to grow into a new MICE destination. Burger firmly believed that Kunshan's MICE business will mature day by day.

Cities like Wuxi and Kunshan have boosted the prosperity of the MICE market at the Yangtze River Delta region, which can be a challenge to Shanghai, but the competition is not so fierce as each of the MICE companies still needs to sharpen its competitive advantages. Looking from the perspective of developed countries, any exhibition city in the world can not hold every meeting and exhibition and they need to make the best use of their advantages and bypass the disadvantages, choosing seeking competitive advantages and market segmentation. In the same way, cities at the Yangtze River Delta need to promote each other and bring their advantages into full play to jointly advance the uprising of the Yangtze River Delta MICE city cluster with Shanghai as the center.

Wuxi's MICE Going Towards IT and Environmental-consciousness
Speaking of the MICE resource in Wuxi and Kunshan, Zhu Fangfang, the general manager of the International Meeting and Exhibition Department of China Travel Service (Wuxi) Co., Ltd, is very familiar with the subject. Zhu told China Hospitality News that Wuxi is a mature industrial and commercial city whose industry and commerce began to be active in the late Qing Dynasty. Through 30 years' reform and opening up, Wuxi has become an important industrial city in China and has attracted more and more global Top 500 Corporations to invest in the city. The frequent holding of business events has paved way for the city's MICE development. Second, regarding transportation, Wuxi's airline network covers all major cities in China including Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, and it has launched flights to Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo and Osaka to meet the needs of business travelers. With the launch of the high-speed railway and the high speed trains, it now only takes 50 minutes to go to Shanghai from Wuxi.

Third, Wuxi has a variety of exhibitions and industry associations as well as complete facilities and hotels. For example, the Wuxi Sports Center can be used for meetings and exhibitions. Lihu New Town's open park can serve as a venue for meeting events. In addition, there are many European and American enterprises in Wuxi New Zone that have a lot of business activities, therefore hotels at this area offer great convenience to companies that have MICE requirements. For example, the Landison Plaza Hotel Wuxi located in the CBD areas of Wuxi New Zone, offers complete meeting facilities. The Millennium Wuxi is advantageously located in the busy business area of Wuxi New Zone. The hotel is set amongst landscaped gardens that form the perfect backdrop for corporate events such as dinners, cocktail parties, etc. and can meet the meeting demands of Japanese, and European and American companies. Taihu Lake Hotel features a beautiful surrounding with typical garden styles court and is experienced in outdoor banquets.

For Wuxi's MICE market in 2009, Zhu said that generally speaking, the global financial crisis does not affect the MICE business of China Travel Service (Wuxi) as the company is receiving more orders. Zhu said that clients' total expenditure on MICE decreased by 10%, but they hold more events in a year. So Zhu believed that Wuxi would see more large size meetings, small events, and middle and small size exhibitions in the year.

Zhu believes that Wuxi's MICE would grow toward IT and environment-consciousness. Zhu stated that IT companies in Wuxi New Zone including Hynix and Suntech are taking advantage of opportunities brought by the 2010 Shanghai Expo to develop their respective industry and they will stress the theme of environmentaly friendly meeting facilities, and there will be some new and fashionable hotels focusing on IT technology. With the development of Wuxi's economy and the arrival of new hotels as well as the development of Wuxi New Zone and increase of business activities, Wuxi's MICE will be greatly promoted.

As it is only 45 minutes' drive from Wuxi to Kunshan, many companies in Wuxi choose Kunshan for their events. Zhu pointed out that Kunshan neighbors Shanghai to the east and Suzhou to the west and is well known for Yangchenghu hairy crabs. With the economic development of Kunshan, it has now become a new industrial city and many Taiwan-funded companies have set up their factories in Kunshan. The advantageous location, convenient transportation and busy businesses have nurtured the MICE market of Kunshan. Kunshan has a lot of facilities and resorts related to Yangchenghu and Zhu's company has cooperated with Yangchenghu Resort and Swissotel to provide meeting and travel services to business clients. As an emerging MICE destination, Kunshan owns many enterprises and excellent hotels, therefore many companies have chosen Kunshan for their events and some such as Techpool Bio-Pharma Co., Ltd., Bayer, KFC and Laxosmithkline, from the surrounding cities choose Kunshan for their weekend events. September to November of the year is the peak season for Kunshan's MICE business, especially when the chrysanthemums are in blossom and the hairy crabs are the fattest.

Economic Development Drives MICE Development
Wuxi Xianfeng Meeting and Exhibition Company is a professional meeting, exhibition and event service provider. Wang Meilin, director of the company's Client Department,shared her views on Wuxi's MICE industry with China Hospitality News. Wang said that because of the global financial crisis, many companies have cut back on their events and budgets to control cost and Wuxi's MICE sector has been affected. For this situation, the company has specially launched "Meeting Expert" to provide three kinds of service including "exclusive service" "whole-distance service" and "consultant service" to offer customized plans to clients.

In Wang's view, Wuxi is attractive to corporate clients because of its rich MICE resources. First, the city has a good selection of hotel facilities and its five-star hotels offer complete facilities and services and other hotels such as Taihu Hotel, Hubin Hotel, Ramada Plaza Hotel and Kempinski Hotel can also serve as excellent venues for meeting events. As a local meeting service provider of Wuxi, they will consider a hotel's location and outdoor space in selecting a hotel. Wang said that the outdoor space of Taihu Hotel and Millennium Wuxi are very unique. Take Millennium Wuxi for example, the hotel is located in Wuxi's New Zone where there are many Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean enterprises so it's convenient for these companies to hold events.

Furthermore, Wuxi features rich tourism resource such as The Three Kingdoms City, Shuihu City, Li Yuan and Mei Yuan where clients can experience the natural beauty and local culture of Wuxi, while Wuxi Brahma Palace is also an ideal place for meeting organizers. What's more, each year Wuxi will hold the unique Cherry Festival and Fireworks Festival.

Lastly, Wang said that despite the impact of the global financial crisis, Wuxi Xianfeng Meeting and Exhibition Company will launch new products to retain old clients and attract new clients. When we interviewed Wang, she had just come back from a business meeting of more than 600 people-an event the company organized for Foton Lovol. In addition, the company has organized events for other famous companies like Hynix and Suntech. With the development of Wuxi's economy, more and more companies will come into Wuxi and therefore the city's MICE will have a bright future.