A Fresh Look At MICE In China's Historic Lijiang

Ning Jie is the deputy general manager of Kunming Comfort Travel Service Company and general manager of Kunming Comfort Travel Service MICE Company. He in a recent interview he gave China Hospitality News his views on the state of the meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibitions industry in Lijiang, a famous historic town in Yunnan province.

He is of the opinion that there were more MICE activities taking place in Lijiang in 2010 than in 2009. Companies had reduced expenditure in 2009 due to the impact of the global financial crisis, and many had chosen to hold MICE activities in places near their companies. Starting in the second half of 2010, there was an obvious increase in the number of MICE activities held in Lijiang as the economy began recovering, and most of these activities were in the automobile, medical, and elevator industries.

Ning thinks Lijiang's unique tourism resources are quite attractive to companies who want to hold MICE activities. These companies have been to most large Chinese cities, and they are looking to find new places for their events. Usually large companies would choose to conduct brand promotion activities in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and to conduct MICE activities in Lijiang.
Yunnan Province features a variety of tourism resources, and there are air routes from Kunming to each of the famous tourism attractions in the province — providing easy access for MICE groups. Lijiang's tourism resources can be divided into five parts, the snow mountain, the ancient town, the waters, the ethnic groups, and the culture. There are many things that can be used in MICE events.

Ning believes Lijiang has great potential for developing its MICE industry. Lijiang's hotel industry has been developing rapidly along with the development of the tourism industry; hotels like Banyan Tree Lijiang, Crowne Plaza Hotel Lijiang Ancient Town, and Lijiang Wonderport International Hotel can provide full meeting and accommodation facilities for guests. From December to January, many companies will come to Lijiang to hold their annual meetings, customer appreciation events, and incentive travel in Lijiang, and almost all the hotels will be full during this period. Of all the hotels Ning has used, Crowne Plaza Hotel Lijiang Ancient Town is the newest one with full facilities, and Ning would recommend this hotel for high-end events. Guanfang Hotel Lijiang is one of earliest hotels to get involved in the meeting business, and is suitable for meetings of 300 people. Lijiang Wonderport International Hotel has a very large meeting room, suitable for events for 600 people. Banyan Tree Lijiang is the place for small-sized high-end meetings.

Ning has organized a 15-day test drive for BMW in Lijiang. The local government was quite supportive, and cleared one road for this test drive. More than 1,000 people including distributors and media representatives from all over China joined the test drive. All staff had put on clothes with local features, and the dinner party was held in a local house. During the dinner party, Ning's team has arranged a special program to show guests how to identify an orchid, as this is one of Lijiang's local features. A souvenir with Dongba script was a very pleasant surprise for guests, and each guest was presented with their name in this script. Ning said it would usually take about three months to prepare for events like this test drive, as it involves many things, such as reservations, planning the itinerary, reception, service, and meetings.

Team building activities are also an important part of MICE. Around the snow mountain, it is popular to organize activities like treasure hunts to enhance team bonding.

Ning thinks Lijiang is a place where people can slow down and relax. They can wander around the ancient town, listen to Naxi music, see the Dongba characters, and experience the culture of ethnic groups. Every season has its distinguishing feature in Lijiang, e.g. the azalea blossoms in May, and people living in northern China can come to Lijiang to enjoy the warmth from October to January.

Ning says that with the entry of international hotel brands in the next three to five years there will be more guests coming to Lijiang — including high-end meeting guests.