As the host city of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Beijing attracted the attention of the whole world and increased its fame in the international community. It could be said that the Beijing Olympic Games was not only an international sporting event, but also the largest exhibition ever held in Beijing.
According to a survey conducted by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics and the Beijing Inspection Team of National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2007 Beijing hosted 8,045 international conferences and 355 international exhibitions and earned a revenue of CNY8.18 billion as a result. Beijing is becoming an international convention and exhibition city and the meetings, incentive travel, conferences and exhibitions business is booming.
The Special Influence of Beijing
Though the Olympic Games has made Beijing well known to more people, it is the long and rich history, diversified culture, and its position as a political center of China, as well as its solid economic development, that has driven Beijing's MICE industry. Beijing is the capital of China, and that is the main reason for the prosperity of MICE in the city. Housing all the central government departments and national trade organizations, Beijing has attracted various international conventions and national exhibitions. In terms of the meeting organizers in China, most of them have affiliations to national trade organizations and feature an irreplaceable advantage in organizing professional and industry exhibitions. Exhibitions of automobiles, machine tools, communications, textile machinery, printing, metallurgy, cryogenics, construction machinery, devices and instruments, computers, medical equipment, clothing and apparel are growing towards maturity day by day.
As the political and cultural center of China, Beijing, with its large number of embassies and foreign trading companies, has long been a gateway for multinational corporations to enter the Chinese market. Through government promotion Beijing has attracted wide attention from investors from both home and abroad; and various meetings, exhibitions, forums, and incentive travel events from multinational companies that want to enter China crowd into the city.
With the Olympic Games bringing in more international MICE clients to Beijing, the city shows both traditional and modern faces, being at once historical and trendy. With a long history, diversified culture and as one of the gateways of China, Beijing has become one of the leading tourism cities in China and attracts a great number of leisure travelers each year. To prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and realize the goals of the 11th Five-year Plan (2006-2010), Beijing has launched a range of tourism programs, including renovating the Olympic venues to modern leisure and entertainment parks, establishing the Qianmen-Dashilan traditional commercial area and developing the Shichahai culture zone. Meanwhile, Beijing is an ideal destination for incentive travelers. Being a capital city in Chinese history, Beijing has a long history that furnishes it with rich culture and many historical sites. Many of the cultural relics here are world class, exclusive and unparalleled. Beijing has rich resources that cannot easily be copied by others. The mysterious oriental culture of Beijing and the great difference between its culture and that of the western countries make Beijing attractive to foreign guests. Well-known sites of Beijing such as the Great Wall, the Palace Museum, the Summer Palace, the Imperial Ancestral Temple, the Temple of Heaven are no longer purely tourists destinations, they have become host venues for large scale exhibitions and have injected fresh air and modernity to the ancient city, adding creativeness and culture to MICE events and enabling MICE clients to experience a zero-distance contact with Chinese culture. In addition, the National Center for the Performing Arts, the Bird's Nest, and 798 Factory have become new sightseeing attractions for tourists, and these are helping to confirm Beijing's status as a famous tourism city.
The Olympic Games has not only advanced Beijing's international fame, but has also been a catalyst in the upgrading of Beijing's urban facilities. When preparing for the Olympic Games, Beijing invested about USD41 billion in improving and renovating its infrastructure. With the development and construction of the new airport terminal, four new metro lines, expressways ,and the road network between the six ring roads, Beijing has now a convenient transportation network for those travelling to and from the city.
As a globally recognized meeting and incentive travel destination, Beijing's construction of exhibition venues is progressing by leaps and bounds. The first schedule of the city's largest exhibition facility — the New China International Exhibition Center — was put into operation in April 2008. The new facility features an indoor exhibition area of 200,000 square meters and a commercial facility of about 1.03 million square meters and has attracted many international events. In addition, the National Convention Center, which is located in the Olympic Park and adjacent to the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, will have a grand opening in November 2009. With a total construction area of 530,000 square meters including 270,000 square meters of main building, the National Convention Center will be the largest and newest of its kind in China. The largest meeting rooms can hold 6,000 people and the grand ballroom can provide 3,000 seats. The center features an exhibition area of 22,000 square meters. In addition, it has up to 100 meeting rooms of various sizes that can be used for meetings, exhibitions, incentive travel, and events. Based on the current patterns, Beijing will build five convention and exhibition centers: Chaoyang CBD Convention and Exhibition Center, Northern Haidian Convention and Exhibition Center, Olympic Venues Convention and Exhibition Center, Shunyi Tianzhu Exhibition Center, and Yizhuang Exhibition Center.
The latest statistics from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics show that as of December 2008, there were 827 star-rate hotels in Beijing, including 52 five-star hotels, 122 four-star hotels, 268 three-star hotels, and 385 lower graded hotels. Data compiled Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels shows that the new four-star and five-star hotels that opened in 2008 added a further 9,739 rooms to the total in the city. It is estimated that new hotels will bring about 3,996 rooms to the city this year while planned for 2010 and later will bring a total of 2,414 rooms.
Though the global financial crisis may curb the demand of the MICE industry, the experience of other cities hosting the Olympic Games is that most host cities will see an increase in meetings after the Games. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games braught a rare opportunity for Beijing to make its MICE industry larger and stronger. And Beijing in the post-Olympic era will still be a hot spot of world attention and there will be more and more exhibitions related to the Olympic Games in the city in addition an the increase in the number of business travelers and tourists. In its tourism market plan for 2009, Beijing Municipal Tourism Administration put forward a marketing idea of "strenuously developing high end tourism market such as international meetings, exhibitions, business events and incentive travel". Through effective measures, it is promoting Beijing's MICE resource to overseas countries, executes marketing initiatives to expand the overseas high-end incentive market and promotes Beijing's new Olympic tourism products.
Hotel Managers' Viewpoints On Beijing MICE
Grand Millennium Beijing
Grand Millennium Beijing has designed its meeting facilities and rooms in accordance with its target clientele's needs. For the MICE market the hotel has extensive meeting and conference facilities. The hotel offers a 1,000 square meter pillar-less grand ballroom plus another 11 function rooms fully equipped with the latest technologies, including its adjacent business center that is geared for MICE and other related events. Combined with Grand Millennium Beijing's variety of food & beverage outlets and recreational facilities such as the fitness center and Spa by MTM, the hotel can ensure the absolute comfort and convenience of its MICE clientele.
Kurt O. Wehinger，the general manager of Grand Millennium Beijing，told China Hospitality News that with a strong network of over 120 hotels in the Asian, European and U.S. markets, Grand Millennium Beijing will attract the corporate, frequent independent traveler, MICE, and high-end leisure market predominantly from the lucrative Asian market, European market and affluent Chinese domestic travelers. Of these, MICE clients contributed to 40% of the hotel's total revenue.
Speaking of the financial crisis, Wehinger said while China is less affected by the global financial crisis than the USA or Europe, the hotel hasn't seen the end of this crisis just yet. With the present precarious business climate and the oversupply of hotel rooms in Beijing, the hotel industry is facing a buyers' market that will have an impact on rates and RevPar for the year to come. The good news is that the Chinese government has predicted an 8% growth for 2010 and they hope that its related economic stimulus programs will put China and its tourism and hotel industry on a much faster path of recovery than the rest of the world. With China playing an ever more central role in the world economy and with the continued projection of strong growth in both domestic and International business, it is expected that the Beijing MICE market will have adequate opportunities for the coming years.
Marco Polo Parkside Beijing
Talking about the general MICE situation of Marco Polo Parkside Beijing in 2009, Malcolm McLauchlan, the general manager of the hotel, said that Beijing's MICE market is affected a lot this year by the financial crisis, but Marco Polo Parkside Beijing seizes every possible opportunity to cooperate with large multinational companies and it has occupied an important position in the market with its diversified options, excellent service and flexible and competitive rates.
On hardware facilities, Marco Polo Parkside Beijing features highly concentrated meeting facilities. The hotel's meeting rooms can be divided or combined and this provides more choice for clients. All the meeting venues of the hotel are naturally lighted and equipped with advanced audio-video equipment, wireless or wire network access. McLauchlan said that the hotel's clients are mainly from the business and MICE sectors. With the recovery of the economy and resurgence of the MICE market, McLauchlan said he expected to see an increase in meetings and incentive travel clients.
Marco Polo Parkside Beijing is a modern international five-star hotel. Located in the central area of Beijing's Olympic venues, the hotel neighbors the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, and the Olympic Park in an area of well-developed offices, shopping, sightseeing, and surface and underground transportation.
Malcolm McLauchlan believes that the new National Convention Center, which will be the largest of its kind in Beijing, would have a great impact on the surrounding areas and will certainly bring more opportunities to the area. As time goes by better and higher-end meetings would emerge; and professional and personalized meeting services and flexible pricing would be the competitive advantages for hotels.
Although it is a new hotel, Marco Polo Parkside Beijing has successfully held various meetings and banquets. All of the hotel's facilities and equipment have operated well and its service quality has matured. What is worth mentioning, is that during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the hotel successfully hosted the 18-day German VietenTour "Champion Club". During the period, the hotel's Beijing Hall host 100 to 300 people each day, in addition, it also provided 80 to 100 rooms for the organizers. In addition, the hotel also provided service to the Netherlands Paralympic House in September 2008 and was spoken of highly by the princess from the Netherlands. In keeping with China's theme for the Olympic Games, the hotel integrated Chinese elements into the decoration of its Beijing Hall, and added classic Chinese food to the western BBQ menu at the request of the organizer, which enabled all the international guests to enjoy the different kinds of food of China during the Paralympics. The hotel also provided professional suggestions based on the organizers' requirements for lighting and audio equipment, which brought new highlights to the event.
Crowne Plaza Parkview Wuzhou Beijing
Roland Steiner, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Parkview Wuzhou, says the situation of MICE in Crowne Plaza Park View Wu Zhou Beijing in 2009 is really good. The hotel is strategically located, adjacent to the Beijing International Convention Center and to the Olympic Park, and the operation of the new National Exhibition Center and the opening of the China National Convention Center, have contributed to the hotel's conference business.
Crowne Plaza Park View Wuzhou Beijing has comprehensive meeting facilities: including the city's largest pillar-free ballroom with natural lighting, and the ballroom can be divided into two separate rooms. It was renovated in July 2009 with deluxe decoration. The hotel can host all kinds of meetings ranging from 10 to 1,100 people with nine multi-function rooms of different sizes. To meet its customers' growing demand for meetings, the hotel has expanded with a new 1,300 square meter exhibition center, and a 600 square meter garden tent which has a Western-style ambience. There are so many choices of meetings for guests: a formal meeting was arranged in a large conference room, with advanced audio-visual equipment; welcome cocktails, and parties can be held in the corridor or sofa area; larger receptions can be arranged in the hotel's back garden or sun tent, guests can enjoy delicious food and wine with a beautiful garden view of fountain and flowers; and large events can be held on the lawn in front of the hotel. A wide range of outside catering is also one of the hotel's advantages.
Steiner said that the ratio of domestic clients and international clients is 50:50. However, because of the financial crisis, they have made more efforts to expand the domestic market. Of course, the opening of China National Convention Center will bring a lot of new business opportunities to the hotel. The hotel will make full use of its resources to accommodate receptions, press conferences, seminars, themed parties, outdoor-catering, and other activities to meet the large-scale exhibition and in pursuit of best market returns. Moreover, the hotel belongs to the same owner company — Beijing North Star — as the National Convention Center, so it also will get a lot support and business opportunities from the owner.
Steiner stated that it is fact that everyone can see that Beijing has developed vigorously in the MICE market over the past few years. As a city filled with mystery, history, and infinite vitality, Beijing will attract more and more MICE customers.
The Westin Beijing Financial Street
In the eyes of Charlie Dang, general manager of The Westin Beijing Financial Street, the hotel is more than a hotel; it is a retreat offering a full spectrum of products and services that provide everything from tranquility to rejuvenation. It's a destination where guests are understood and feel this is a place where "I can be at my best". The hotel guests leave feeling rested, energized, enriched and renewed.
As to why the hotel is attractive to MICE clients, Dang said that the hotel has a total of 1,686 square meters of meeting and banquet space to suit every occasion. The ballroom is divisible into three for greater flexibility and the hotel has seven additional meeting rooms all with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, an abundance of natural light, and complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access. Adjacent to the hotel The Beijing Financial Street Conference Centre has over 1,800 square meters of specialized conferencing, exhibition and event facilities on three levels. A divisible ballroom boasting 1, 488 square meters is ideal for large conventions, exhibitions, trade shows, and gala dinners as well as having five meeting rooms for smaller meetings and seminars.
Dang told China Hospitality News that 60% of the hotel's clients are transient (including 25% FIT, 30% Corporate, 5% Leisure), 35% are groups and the rest account for 5%. Charlie Dang said that both domestic and international business during 2009 has been tough. The global financial crisis is still impacting the market as a whole, resulting in cost controls being a significant factor in negotiations with clients. For example, historically the hotel has had a strong client base in local banks, however this year the revenue has noticeably declined. The international MICE market is even more challenging, with far less incentive groups and large business meetings. Conversely, the pharmaceutical segment remains active but they are facing strong competition across the city.
The Westin Beijing Financial Street hosted VISA, the main sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The hotel's outstanding MICE facilities were used to host, accommodate and entertain their high profile VIP's, top-level consumers, business partners and senior management. VISA delegates used the entire Treasury Ballroom as their hospitality suite for their meals, receptions, Internet access, and as a gathering point.
In keeping with the Olympic theme and the very first hotel to do so, the external of the ballroom was transformed to resemble the iconic ‘Birds Nest'. Internally the ballroom was a magnificent three-dimensional recreation of the ‘Water Cube' from floor to ceiling as well as having tiered lounge areas for delegates to relax in. The hospitality suite featured an illuminated raised bar in the centre of the room and delegates could keep up to date with the games, as all the action was projected onto a floor to ceiling clear screen. Each wave of delegates was welcomed with an elaborate welcome reception in which acrobats walked the walls in a recreation of the Olympic opening ceremony. The components that made up the unique design of the Olympic ‘Birds Nest' and ‘Water Cube' were meticulously recreated on a smaller scale and made specifically to fit the Treasury Ballroom. This is one of the successful cases that the hotel has organized for the client.
The Westin Beijing Financial Street also manages the Financial Street Convention Center. Dang said that acquiring the FSCC has enabled them to capture large MICE groups, thus making Westin Financial Street more competitive than similar hotels with limited meeting space. There are a number of key elements to the hotel's strategy. First, the FSCC is considered as extending the capabilities and capacity of the hotel. For example, the hotel can accommodate a large business meeting in the conference center while providing lunch and dinner within the hotel. In addition, the hotel is positioning the FSCC as a small and medium scale exhibition and trade show venue within a key business area of the city. A clear differentiator for the FSCC is the fact it is managed by Westin, thus levels of service, maintenance and overall appeal are at a higher standard than conventional venues of this type.
Sofitel Wanda Beijing
Sofitel Wanda Beijing features a comprehensive set of meeting facilities. The hotel has a French style ballroom covering 1,368 square meters and ten multi-function rooms of various sizes to meet different demands. All the meeting rooms are equipped with advanced and high-tech meeting facilities, including high speed wireless Internet access, advanced audio-video equipment, video conference facilities, adjustable projectors and cameras, simultaneous translation facilities, adjusted lighting control system. All the meeting rooms are on the same floor — the seventh floor — and most of them are naturally lit.
Ian Alexandre, the general manager of Sofitel Wangda Beijing, told China Hospitality News that as a result of the financial crisis and the swine flu epidemic, the demand for MICE declined dramatically this year. However, the hotel offers flexible but competitive rates expected and satisfied by the clients. It also offers value added benefits to attract clients and provides exclusive and excellent services to surprise them. Even with the current gloomy situation, thanks to the joint effort of the hotel's teams, the hotel has nearly accomplished its target sales goal for this year.