Guiyang: The Green MICE Destination

The ancient Chinese called the northern side of mountain "Yin" and the southern side "Yang", hence Guiyang has got its name since the city is located to the south of Guishan Mountain. Ancient Guiyang was rich in bamboo and the musical instrument called a Zhu is quite similar in pronunciation with the Chinese word for Bamboo. So Guiyang is also called "Zhucheng", or simply Zhu. Nowadays "green meetings" are quite popular in international market. What could make Guiyang a fascinating meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibitions destination and what surprises can people expect from the city?

Guiyang: The Green MICE Destination

Overlooking Guiyang from a high place, one can see two green belts surrounding this mountainous city: Guiyang's green lungs. Green is a characteristic of the city and is reflected in three aspects of the city: a summer resort, its simple environment and culture, and its hot springs.

Natural Environment
Guiyang has charming natural sights, a fine ecology and rich indigenous ethnic culture. Focusing on environmental protection, Guizhou province has been developing ecotourism and is concentrating on travel, publicity, culture, sports, and agriculture. It has now formed an ecotourism model consisting of sightseeing, a summer resort, leisure, fitness, scientific research, cultural experience, and environmental protection on the basis of its world heritage sites, nature reserves, national parks, forest parks, and geoparks.

Various events have been held in Guizhou province in 2009, such including the Plum Festival in Libo, the Anshun Eulalia Festival, Guizhou Baili Rhododendron Festival, China Guiyang Summer Season, China Zunyi International Wine Festival, Fanjing Mountain Eco-Cultural Tourism Festival, and the Qiandongnan Primitive Culture Festival. All these events are aimed at promoting Guizhou's tourism resources.

The Summer Resort
The Chinese Metrological Society has awarded Guiyang the title of Chinese Summer Resort City in 2007, and it is said to be the first and only place in China with this distinction. Located on latitude 26°N and with an elevation of 1,000 meters, Guiyang has a pleasant climate with the average temperature being 15.3°C. Even in July which is generally the hottest month of a year, the average temperature of Guiyang is only 24°C. This has helped Guiyang become a suitable destination for conferences and meetings: especially in the summer season.

Ecological Environment

Guiyang is the first city to be awarded the title National Forestry City by the Chinese State Forestry Administration. Its forest coverage is 42%, among highest for a Chinese provincial capital. In addition its karst topology has given the city good eco-environment which is a definite advantage when meeting the requirements of high-end MICE guests.

Hot Springs In Winter

In summer Guiyang is famous for being the Chinese Summer Resort City: in winter it turns to hot springs. There are abundant resources in Wudang District, Kaiyang County, Xifeng County and Yunyan District and temperature of most hot springs is between 45°C to 55°C. In recent years Guiyang has been re-developing the famous hot springs that have made hot springs the feature of Guiyang's winter. With spring flowers, a resort for the summer, and fruit picking in autumn, Guiyang is a place tourists can enjoy throughout a whole year.

Minority Culture
The Miao and Buyei minority peoples inhabit in Guiyang, giving the city a full ethnic culture. When MICE planners organize events in villages inhabited by minorities their guests will have the chance to get close to the indigenous ethnic culture.

The Emerging MICE Industry
Wang Jun, the general manager of Guizhou China Youth Travel Service Inbound Travel Center, said that despite the fact that Guizhou had come late to the MICE market it has been developing very fast. Guiyang now has almost 100 star-rated hotels and 800 tour vehicles, and other facilities are becoming more mature. As the travel service center of Guizhou province, Guiyang is also the gateway to other tourist destinations of the province. Around Guiyanghere are eight national and 24 provincial scenic areas, eight national key cultural relics protection units, four national nature reserves, and two historical cities. Tourism operators can develop high-end tourist products according to the requirements of MICE guests. For instance, there are Huangguoshu Waterfall, Dragon Palace, Zhijin Cave, and Malinghe Valley in the west; Wuyang River, Zhenyuan County, and Fanjing Mountain Nature Reserve in the east; and Libo-Zhangjiang Scenic Area, Maolan Karst Forest Nature Reserve, and Zunyi and Chishui to the north south. Most of these attractions are within 200 kilometers from Guiyang and even the farthest Chishui Scenic Area is only 460 kilometers away.

Wang Jun regards Guiyang as a unique meeting venue in China, considering it as both a business meeting destination and a summer resort. Recreational and entertainment facilities around Guiyang such as hot springs and golf courses can be good places for sightseeing, outward bound events, self drive tours and other programs.

Currently Guiyang's MICE industry has begun to take shape. An average of 30 to 40 meetings are held in Guiyang's four and five-star hotels each month and hotel principals say that almost half of the high season guests are there for meetings.

Guiyang International Convention And Exhibition Center
The center is situated at the north of Guanshan Donglu and east of Changling Beilu in Jinyang New District. It is adjacent to the municipal administrative center of Guiyang, and close to Guanshan Park which is just to the west of the center. It is expected to be a multi-function international convention and exhibition center on the largest in scale and to have the best facilities in southwest China.

It is learned that the Guiyang International Convention & Exhibition Center will include a convention and exhibition center, an eco-convention center, a business zone, a five-star hotel and ancillary services, as well as other services. The convention and exhibition center will have eight indoor exhibition halls covering an area of between 7,776 and 9,720 square meters and an 29,770-square meter outdoor exhibition venue. This means it can accommodate 4,113 indoor standard booths and 1,562 outdoor standard booths. It will be able to hold 60 international exhibitions and 1,000 domestic exhibitions. The international eco convention center will boast two large meeting rooms accommodating 3,500 people, a conference hall with simultaneous interpretation equipment, several small meeting rooms, a VIP room, and an auditorium. The five-star hotel will have 800 guest rooms and suites. The whole project for the center is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

Hotel Seeks Innovation In MICE
Kamal Sanusi, the general manager of Sheraton Guiyang Hotel introduced the hotel's MICE facilities to China Hospitality News. The hotel is located in the city's central business district within a 15 minute drive from the airport. With a beautiful view of Nanming River, guests only need a three minutes walk to be in the famous sightseeing spot. Hotel has 1,525 square meters of meeting and function space. The Grand Ball Room is 540 square meters and can be separated into three functions rooms. The pillar-less Grand Ball Room is seven meters high, which makes it suitable for any type of setup. The hotel has launched a lot of different theme parties such as "Colorful Guizhou" and "Red Army" that show many aspects of the city.

The hotel is located in the center of town and positions itself as a business hotel, so its major market is still business FIT. In addition, with the development of Guiyang, a lot of companies and MICE planers have turned Guiyang into a new MICE destination. Hence, from last summer, more and more MICE groups have stayed in Sheraton Guiyang Hotel. Especially in the high season of spring and summer, MICE groups have become major customers of the hotel.

Sanusi said that Sheraton Guiyang Hotel has occupied more than 30% MICE market. And for the high-end MICE Market, Sheraton Guiyang Hotel has a 60% share. Thanks to this, more than a third revenue of the food and beverage and room revenues come from MICE.

Since Guiyang is becoming known as a MICE destination, more and more MICE buyers are choosing Guiyang for their events. More customers make the hotel get more experienced in hosting the MICE customers and always imposes a pressure to be creative. For the GSK Annual Conference, the hotel presented a theme dinner "Colorful Guizhou" for GSK guests to enhance their understanding of Guizhou culture. This year, since Guangzhou Southern TV Channel has hosted an activity on the "Long March", so hotel created a "Red Army-Long March" themed tea-break to go along with their topic which made the activity more impressive.

According to Sanusi the MICE industry in Guiyang is currently a niche market, but it definitely has a great market potential. Besides MICE buyers, a number of international hotel chains and MICE organizers are starting to pay attention to this market hoping to share get a share of the cake while developing this market.

Kamal Sanusi figured that Sheraton Guiyang Hotel has not been harmed by the financial crisis to any great extent. Since the development of Guiyang is different from other major cities, compare with Beijing or Shanghai, Guiyang has less contact with the international world which makes it less affected by the financial crisis. However the hotel has made some strategies to fit the new market. Whereas it focused on a number of big companies before, the hotel has started to approach some small and medium sized companies during the crisis. In the meantime, it has also invested a lot in the MICE market. For example, the hotel has promoted Sheraton Guiyang with Guizhou's natural attractions, such as sightseeing and the weather, to Beijing, Shanghai and other metropolises to attract more business. Besides, it didn't drop its rates during the financial crisis as the hotel believes in "keeping rates and giving more benefits". From January 2009 till now, Sheraton Guiyang has gained a lot benefits in terms of revenue, ADR and RevPAR from this price strategy. It has also ranked within Starwood's top five hotels this year.

Booker's Opinion: A Suitable Place For Meetings
Liu Ping, the CEO of China Star professional Programs in Beijing, together with her team successfully organized the Sino-US Education Guizhou Forum in December 2008. This is the largest international forum Guizhou has ever held.

Liu said that Guiyang should show people its special characteristics in MICE market: based on the experience gained from this forum. Though Guizhou has had no experience in hosting large-scale conventions, it is the right place for various meetings. For example, the Eco-Forum Guiyang held in August 2009 has shown the advantageous eco-resources of Guiyang to the whole world. Guizhou is also rich in mineral resources. If international conventions concerning mineral resources could choose Guiyang as the host city, it will also benefit the local industry.

Anthropology, minorities, climate, and environmental protection are also areas Guiyang should expand on in the MICE market. All Guizhou needs is a professional team that can bring Guizhou to the world with its precious resources.

As to incentive travel, Liu Ping thinks both Guizhou and Guiyang have many suitable places. Any destination with four or five-star hotels and good services can be a good place for incentive travel. The indigenous culture like Dong Ka Lau and the gorgeous natural beauty such as Huangguoshu Waterfall can all be part of the activities for an incentive group.

Besides, Guizhou has many resources that are suitable for team building initiatives such as expeditions and rafting. More activities can be engaged in if people have enough time. The time when rhododendrons and rape flowers are in blossom is quite a good opportunity for outdoor activities.

International high-end MICE is quite expensive in Guizhou, stated Liu Ping, taking into consideration the cost of travel and the limited choice of star-rated hotels. But it is OK for domestic MICE planners. Meetings with 200 to 300 participants would be perfect for the place considering hotels and other factors.

China Star has cooperated with Sheraton Guiyang Hotel, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Guizhou, and Shengfeng Hotel. Location, service, hotel rooms, and other facilities are all included when choosing a proper hotel for clients. International chain hotels are often better in these aspects. She also suggests hotels could pay more attention to the dining details. Reception tables, testing meeting facilities, the setup of meeting rooms, and setting of tables should also be paid attention to.

Room For Growth In MICE

Guizhou China Youth Travel Service Inbound Travel Center's Wang Jun told China Hospitality News that the Guiyang government has introduced an eco-tourism brand of "colorful Guizhou, cool Guiyang", hoping to build Guiyang into an "eco-leisure tourist city with international influence".

Guiyang's entire tourism industry has got off to a late start. Now Southeast Asian guests account for a large proportion of the high-end tourism market. Guizhou needs more promotion to introduce itself to Europe and America. Wang Jun predicted that in the next five to ten years, there will be more and more high-end tourists coming to Guizhou.

As a summer resort tourist city, a forest city, and a natural oxygen bar, Guiyang will certainly satisfy the needs of guests looking for new destinations. The indigenous culture of the ethnic minorities is also attractive to many people. However, sustainable development is highly recommended to protect the nature.

All in all, through sustainable development, Guiyang's tourism resources including ethnic culture, natural landscape, red tourism, hot springs, and its famous wine will of course attract more high-end tourists.

Speaking of hotels in Guiyang Wang Jun said there are international chain hotels such as Sheraton Guiyang Hotel and Ramada Plaza Guiyang; and Hilton and Kempinski will also enter Guiyang next year. Objectively speaking, the hardware facilities of four and five-star hotels are satisfactory but software facilities and services are the bottleneck that's restricting the development of hotels. For example, 80% staff of an international five-star hotel should be able to communicate in English, but Guiyang's five-star hotels are far from achieving this: not to mention Japanese, German, French, and other languages. Besides, a hotel's pricing should be stable as many high-end MICE events usually need offers one year ahead of the scheduled event.

An Attractive Summer Resort
Th deputy general manager of Shanghai Jinqiu Business Travel Agency Sheng Huajing told China Hospitality News that MICE events have been reduced in number as the financial crisis has impacted most industries but not the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to the medical reforms, many meetings have been held by the pharmaceutical industry.

Huangguoshu Waterfall and Tianxing Bridge are scenic spots that Sheng thinks that might be attractive to guests. The cool weather of Guiyang in summer has made the city a fascinating destination. Besides, the airport is quite near to the downtown area which is propitious for the development of meeting and incentive travel.

The company has cooperated with Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Guizhou, Shengfeng Hotel, and Sheraton Guiyang Hotel. Meeting facilities, accommodation conditions, accessories, and services are the key factors Sheng Huajing would consider for her clients.

For older properties the low floor to ceiling height of their meeting venues is a major problem. Many high-end MICE groups have abandoned Guiyang for this reason. Now only the ballroom of Sheraton Guiyang Hotel can meet the requirements of high-end events. Shanghai Jinqiu Business Travel Agency used to choose the hotel for AstraZeneca's academic conference on sedation in intensive care units and made it a big success. Yet many clients would change their MICE destination when the one and only hotel is not available. Sheng suggests there need be more high-standard hotels offering more choices to clients.

Events In Guiyang:
The First Asian Youth Animation and Comic Contest in 2007; Century Zhong Tian Cup China-Uruguay Football Contest in 2007; Ninth ASEAN and China, Japan, South Korea (10 +3) Summit in 2007; First International Hot Spring Festival in 2007; Second Asian Youth Animation and Comic Contest in 2008; Second International Hot Spring Festival in 2008; Third Asian Youth Animation and Comic Contest in 2009; Seventh Lotus Awards China (Guiyang) National Folk Dance Competition in 2009; Pingba China Tiantai Mountain Award Amateur Go Championship in 2009; China Weiqi A League (12th and 13th round) in 2009; Ninth National Traditional Games of Ethnic Minorities in 2011.

Resources that can be used in MICE activities:

Qianling Mountain climbing; vegetarian food in Hongfu Temple, Qianling Mountain (for up to 30 people); long table dinner in a Miao village, Xijiang; rafting on Shanmu River; Baoli Hot Spring; Sisters' Rice Festival in Shidong during April and May each year; Kaili Miao New Year during October each year; Zhenyuan Dragon Boat Festival in May; and cave explorations in Zunyi for professionals.