Speaking about this year's inbound incentive travel, Yao Hong, deputy general manager of the Inbound Travel Department of the International MICE Division of China International Travel Service, says that due to the financial crisis, many foreign companies are reducing their budgets for meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions, some have canceled their events while others have reduced the number of people attending events.
In the meantime, every country is encouraging companies to organize their MICE events at home to protect their economy and their tourism industry. Furthermore, the outbreak of swine flu is another big issue for the the inbound incentive travel sector.
Yao said that despite the decline of 30-40% in inbound incentive travel, many foreign companies — particularly new energy companies, pharmaceuticals, and automobile companies — still choose China for their meeting events because they see the big business potential of the Chinese market. However, they have reduced their overall spend by a lot. In this situation, to attract more clients to hold events in China, the MICE Division has added some new elements to the original programs. For example, they provided team training and coaching programs in coordination with the training personnel of the human resource department, incorporate clients' image design and brand promotion into their events so the clients can make use of each for rewarding employees, human resource training, and market promotion thus "killing three birds with one stone". Yao said that China's domestic incentive travel market is not too bad this year and it is estimated that the world's incentive travel market will improve in the second half of 2010. Yao said there are four reasons that have prompted Beijing into presenting itself as an incentive travel destination. First, government support. Both Beijing Municipal Government and Beijing Municipal Tourism Administration have offered great support to the incentive travel industry and have provided special funds to encourage companies to participate in the bidding for international meetings or co-hosting meetings and events or acting as supporting organizations of events. Second, the post-Olympic heritage. The Olympic Games has further boosted Beijing's influence. After the Olympic Games, the Olympics sports venues have become new attractions for Beijing. To see the "Bird's Nest", many events organizers have changed their venues and chosen Beijing. In addition, the National Convention Center in the Olympic Park will be a new venue for large-scale meetings, exhibitions, events, and parties. Third, the unique culture of Beijing. Before coming to China, those who want to seize a slice of the pie in the Chinese market must first understand Chinese culture. This is the first step for them when entering China. Beijing has very many culture elements that can be used for different themes of incentive travel. Fourth, the volunteer team. The volunteer team is an important resource for international meetings. Beijing's experience in offering volunteer services is a foundation for the city to serve various international meetings.
Yao's team makes full use of Beijing's major incentive travel resources. They offer creative ideas for each event by combining the new venues with the new culture and a company's own themes. For example, Yao and the MICE Division incorporated the "Harmonious" concept of Chinese culture into the World Young CEO Association Global Meeting to show the meaning of family harmony, social harmony and harmony between East and West, which enabled the members and their families to learn about Chinese philosophy from its origin, Chinese customs, and Chinese thinking patterns the better to know China and to invest in China. In addition to using Chinese culture to create new ideas for events, Yao and her team made other explorations. For example, based on Beijing's new scenic spots, they referred to The Amazing Race, a live show program broadcast by the US CBS TV network since 2001 to design team competition programs that have the employees to compete in speed, wisdom, and courage and hence help enhance team spirit and team intelligence, and forge individuals' will and willingness in accepting challenges. This has been well received by the clients.
Yao stressed it is important to cooperate with MICE hotels in carrying out inbound incentive travel service. She said that her company had cooperated with St. Regis Hotel, China World Hotel, Grand Hyatt Beijing, The Peninsula Beijing, The Regent Beijing, Beijing Shangri-La Hotel, The Westin Beijing Financial Street, Four Points by Sheraton Beijing and Beijing Kerry Center Hotel.
Based on her experience in organizing events, Yao has put forward several suggestions as a hotel booker. First, establish a stable hotel meeting and incentive travel reception team. If staff changes are too frequent, the client will worry about the consistent quality of the service they can enjoy and this will also make the client feel hesitant to recommend the hotel to other clients. Yao hopes that the hotels can have a stable management team to stabilize its clientele and ensure the continuation of their cooperation. Second, offer more creative themed diners. Themed diners like Beijing Food Street and an Imperial Night have existed for more then ten years and most hotels have offered this kind of diner event. So hotels now need to be innovative in their themed diner offerings to keep pace with the time, instead. Third, with regard to food service for outdoor events, Yao suggested that hotels study the difference between take-away menu and menus for banquets, improve their food delivery service and understand clearly which foods are suitable for take-away and whether their color, taste, flavor, and form are suitable for take-away. And also promote environmentally -friendly, energy-saving food delivery services. Fourth, most companies and enterprise associations attach much importance to corporate social responsibility and environment protection when holding a meeting, so hotels should give consideration to the environment when providing meeting products. They should advocate green meetings and design green meeting products to meet clients' demand in such aspects as tea breaks, diners, meeting articles, venues, and backdrops.
MICE Plans Not Affected By Global Financial Crisis
Li Dongdong, event manager of the Sedan and Light Duty Truck Tyre Marketing Department of the Beijing Office of Michelin China, is mainly responsible for the company's meeting and events planning, organization and cooperation with suppliers. Li told China Hospitality News that Michelin holds various meetings each year in different cities, including new product release meetings, distributor and agent meetings, and employee meetings. Although the financial crisis has had a certain impact on the MICE market, Li believed that Michelin's event plans have not been altered as a result.
Li said that the company held a dealer meeting in Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall in March 2009 that was attended by more than 600 people. Due to its large scale, a Beijing travel agency was asked to provide air tickets and hotel booking and airport reception service for the event. In addition, in October 2009, the company will hold a dealer and agent meeting for 800 people. Li said reception capacity, price and location of hotels should be considered in choosing a hotel. In the past the company has chosen Beijing International Hotel, Jiuhua Spa & Resort, Sofitel Wanda Beijing, and Kunlun Hotel's meeting products or room services.
Based on previous experience, Li believed that everything will work correctly when a famous hotel brand is chosen for a meeting event: as long as the price charged by a hotel is in line with the service provided. Finally Li hoped that hotels would make further improvements on their dining services for groups.
Beijing Culture Adds Vitality To MICE Events
Beijing D&S Media Company is a local public relations consulting company in Beijing that is committed to providing integrated marketing services to help corporate clients maximize interest and enhance their brand. Through their localized culture, competitive prices and professional service team, D&S serves many famous companies, both from home and abroad.
Regarding the changes of this year's PR event market, Andy Zhao, the general manager of the Action Marketing Department at Bejing D&S Consulting Company, said that the global financial crisis has indeed affected PR events, and many companies have reduced their budget on meetings, which leads to a cancellation or reduction in scale of events. This happens mostly in the high volume consumer and IT industries, while the medicine and automobile industries are least affected. Some companies have made adjustments on their events. They organize medium and small size events on their own while let PR companies handle large size PR events or commercial activities for them, but the total number of events has decreased as a whole. Due to the financial crisis, companies are reducing costs while they are also carrying on brand marketing in simple ways. It is generally believed that the number of events will increase in 2010 and companies will resume budgeting for their meetings then.
It is widely known that PR companies will offer creative events for clients. In Zhao's opinion, Beijing has a great number of resources and this makes unlimited creativity possible. Beijing's biggest advantage lies in its geographical location. As the capital city of China, Beijing's history and human culture can add new touches to company events. Taking Beijing's architecture as an example, D&S has used the special yellow tiles and red walls of Beijing to decorate the meeting venue for a company client. This creativity combined the traditional Chinese culture with innovative culture and brought a strong sense of Beijing culture to clients.
Second, Beijing has many advantages in terms of hardware facilities. The city's hotels and various meeting venues can meet clients' varied demands. Third, Beijing's resource advantage is mainly reflected in the fact that it hosts a large number of international events, particularly performances. In Beijing, performances of various genres and styles, and performances from different countries are available. Fourth, Beijing's convenient transportation ensures the success of an event.
By taking advantage of Beijing's special features, Zhao designed a batch of "pre-Olympic era" events before 2008 Beijing Olympic Games for an electrical company, e.g. visiting the Olympic venues that were under construction and enabling the clients to experience the change that the Olympics had brought to Beijing. After the Olympic Games, Zhao and his team launched "Post-Olympic" themed events for the Great Wall Lubrication's dealer meeting which enabled clients from all over the country to experience the change of Beijing's living environment through visiting Olympic venues and Beijing hutongs. In addition, they connected the Green theme of the Olympic Games with the company's environment concepts and achieved excellent results for them. What's more, during preparing a national friendship-making event for a pharmaceutical company, the team set up a vivid scene based on an old Beijing setting, including old Beijing apparel, residents' activities, acrobatics, and banquets at the Swissotel Beijing.
Regarding choosing a hotel, Zhao said that they have cooperated with Swissotel Beijing, Beijing Shangri-la Hotel, and Crown Plaza Parkview Wuzhou. For hotels of the same class, Zhao said he would consider the transportation, facilities, hardware and brands before choosing them. Zhao said that hotels of the same class in Beijing do not vary much in hardware, but they do need to make improvements in service. To be specific, the hotels need to improve their servicee, ranging from the initial liaison to conclusion of the work. Zhao said that some hotels lack credibility and they often ignore their staff management. This is shown in the hotel's frequent cancellation of a reservation and their inadequate employee service levels.
Beijing's Post-Olympic MICE
Through years of development, Beijing Blue Power Conference Exhibition Design now has a whole set of client analysis systems and MICE process flows which can efficiently and accurately master clients' demands by virtue of the conpany's rich experience in the MICE industry. The company is also experienced in planning and executing meeting events inside and outside of China. Meanwhile it can help enhance enterprise brands through careful planning and management. Dong Jie, the general manager of BBPCED, shared his views with China Hospitality News on the challenges faced by Beijing's MICE industry this year as well as the advantages that Beijing possesses after the Olympic Games.
Because of the global financial crisis, there are companies whose marketing events have been constrained, particularly those in the automobile, finance, foreign trade, real estate industries. These industries have cut their budgets for meetings, but Dong believes that the quality of the meetings has not been downgraded as a result. Therefore, Dong and his team need to seek a balance between costs and results when providing a plan for the clients. Dong said that the financial crisis has brought a major challenge to professional MICE planners, so these professionals should learn to grasp the market, analyze the market, and bring the most wanted events and most desired result for clients with a limited budget.
Dong Jie believes that Beijing is a city that combines traditional culture with international modernity. And the Post-Olympic Era has brought in more opportunities for Beijing. Dong said that apart from the world-famous historical sites, the unique Olympic venues are a product that Beijing has made when introducing its ancient culture and modern development to the world, and this traditional culture of Beijing should be promoted during MICE events. For example, Beijing's featured restaurants like Junwang Fu, Gongwang Fu, Yi Shi Liu Hao and Da Zhai Men all combine Chinese food with traditional Chinese style scenic spots and culture and can each be used as a dining place for meetings. These places truly embody the authentic Beijing culture. Meanwhile, new hotels such as the InterContinental Beijing Beichen facing the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube have opened. All these are the unique resources of Beijing's Post-Olympic Era. What's more, Many of Beijing's Olympic venues and the 798 Factory which feature a unique cultural atmosphere can be used to hold incentive events for multinational companies. With a good theme, the events will surely bring surprises to clients.
For hotels, Dong said that they often used Beijing Marriott Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, the Westin Beijing Financial Street, The Westin Beijing Chaoyang, Grand Hyatt Beijing, and InterContinental Beijing Beichen, all of which are professional in providing international meeting services. However, Dong believed that the MICE departments of these hotels do not have a full understanding of MICE and they still stay at a level offering the preliminary services of hotel reservation and arranging meeting venues. Dong said when clients choose a hotel, they will consider the content of their meeting, the scale of the meeting, the theme of the meeting and the way the meeting is held. If a hotel can not give a satisfactory answer to these basic meeting questions and their sales force is not well trained on MICE, their capacity in serving the MICE clients will be limited and this is not good for their development.