High Speed Rail Drives Business Travel In Wuhan

Wuhan has been the trade center for central and western China since the nation started to trade with foreign countries in 1861. Its unique geographic environment and commercial characteristics have created an open, inclusive, and creative "big pier culture" for Wuhan, and the Xinhai Revolution that first took place in Wuhan brought a pioneer spirit to Wuhan people.

With the rapid development of modern transportation, water transport has gradually lost its advantages, and Hubei has placed its hope on the construction of Wuhan New Port to revive the city's position as a convenient hub for transport. Moreover, the layout of the high speed railway, has brought new opportunities to Wuhan.

On December 26, 2009, the first real high speed railway in China the Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR was opened to the public, bringing Hubei into the high speed rail era. The Ministry of Railways has disclosed that the Beijing-Shijiazhuang to Wuhan HSR will be put into operation at the end of 2011. Then it will take just four hours to travel by train between Wuhan and Beijing. It will connect with the Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR, and the Wuhan-Beijing high speed link will extend to Shenzhen. These HSRs will form a four-hour economic circle centered on Wuhan.

In the late Qing Dynasty, China's first railway for north to south railway was built from Beijing to Wuhan as a result of efforts of the "westernization" group epitomized Li Hongzhang and Zhang Zhidong. Wuhan was then the sole hub for water and transport in China.

By the end of 2014 China will have built a high speed passenger transport network of "four horizontal and four vertical" passenger lines, making an eight-hour provincial capital traffic circle. Wuhan is at the intersection of these HSRs, and will have a 3.5 to 4-hour traffic circle with China's keyl central cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Guangzhou. In addition China will make Wuhan the shipping center of the middle section of the Yangtze River: reflecting the fact that the city is already a traffic hub for air, rail, and road transport.

The prosperity of business travel market is based on the development of the market economy. The open economy has negated the restrictions of time and space, requiring business travelers to have timely communications, efficient contact, and regional exchanges. Wuhan will continue to open up and attract investment, especially in finance, culture, and modern service industries.

What is the current status of the hotel market in Wuhan? What services do hotels have to attract business travelers? What opportunities will the HSR bring to Wuhan's business travel market? With these questions in mind China Hospitality New interviewed management at seven five-star hotels in Wuhan together with some business travelers to find.

Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Hotel Wuhan
"Located in the heart of China Optics Valley, Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Hotel Wuhan is surrounded by research institutes, high-tech enterprises, and colleges. The East Lake High-Tech Development Zone has brought in many large-scale programs to develop photoelectron information industry and software outsourcing." Liu Yuejin, the general manager of Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan is very proud of the hotel's location. He said these advantages have brought high-end events to the hotel.

With the background of 1+8 Wuhan City Circle and the 1+6 urban pattern, Wuhan is becoming more and more open and international. Business activities are increasing, so are exhibitions and conventions. This has brought Wuhan's hotel industry into a period of rapid expansion. Hotels begin to segment their products targeting different guests.

Liu believes the hotel's location has brought a higher lvel of synergy to MICE offerings in this area. The meeting facilities of Wuhan Science & Technology Convention and Exhibition Center and the room and dining facilities complement each other to create a product chain for large-scale conferences and exhibitions. And MICE guests can make up for lost revenue in the business travel low season. The hotel can meet the demands of high-end guests in the convention and exhibition industry.

How can the hotel meet the demand of high-end guests? According to Liu, there are seven aspects. First, the hotel has a 700-square meter pillarless grand ballroom and a 350-square meter pre-function area, together with six multifunction rooms, sufficient for meetings, exhibitions, and activities of various types. Second, their high-tech LED screen definitely makes a difference for gusts' events. It is also consistent with their low-carbon concept. Third, the hotel has recently introduced three new theme coffee breaks for meetings. Fourth, there is a WiFi network in every corner of the hotel, making access easy for business guests. Fifth, there is an independent kitchen on the same floor as the ballroom, to ensure the quality of dishes provided for meetings or other activities. Sixth, the hotel's full meeting facilities and professional MICE team offer endless possibilities to high-end meetings, banquets, MICE, and social activities of various sizes. Seventh, the hotel boasts a perfect location in Wuhan. Being the nearest international five-star hotel to the HSR, it is now expecting more MICE groups from other regions.

The hotel has a grand ballroom with multifunctional rooms on the same floor, and all are equipped with high-tech meeting facilities. Chinese, western, and Japanese restaurants can meet the demands from different MICE groups; and different banquet and meeting setups offer different experiences. The hotel's MICE team provides professional meeting solutions to companies and organizations and aims to bring unexpected surprises to organizers and participants. It also cooperates with the Wuhan Science & Technology Convention and Exhibition Center and Wuhan Botanical Garden to enable guests to hold activities in the two places.

Targeting high-end business guests, guestroom amenities are all tailor made for their convenience. The large desk, the bright toilet, the bathrooms with separate shower and tub areas, the ironing board, and the wireless Internet access, all these features show the hotel's considerate and thoughtful service to business guests. Liu stresses that the hotel attaches great importance to business guests' requirements. The ballroom is equipped with high-tech meeting facilities, and all executive floor suites are outfitted with computers and fax machines, as well as all-day free coffee and tea. The business center provides professional business services such as secretarial services. For 2011 Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan has installed a free wireless network. There is also follow-up for each event held in the hotel asking for guests' advice and suggestions for making improvements to the hotel's services.

The hotel is also concerned with guests' leisure recreation. In different seasons guests can enjoy different landscapes as the hotel is near to several scenic areas. The hotel itself also offers various recreational programs such as the gym, the heated swimming pool, and the Garden nightclub/sauna center.

Liu believes that the year 2011 will be an unprecedented opportunity for Wuhan to develop its MICE industry.

First, Wuhan has the urban charm and cultural advantage needed to develop MICE. The city has a landscape featuring mountains, rivers and lakes, and the famous three towns (Wuchang, Hanyang and Hankou), endowing the city with distinguishing urban charm. The Panlong culture, Guanyin culture, Chu culture, Shouyi culture, the anti-Japanese-war culture, and leadership culture are also unique in China. The year 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. People who come to Wuhan for MICE will enjoy the city's charm after work.

Second, Wuhan's location is another advantage for the city to develop MICE. As the geographic economic center of China, it is just 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers away from cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi'an, meaning trains can get to these cities in day. This location has great impact on the development of Wuhan's economy, and also for MICE.

Third, Wuhan enjoys the technology advantage to develop MICE. The city has many colleges and universities, research on optical fiber and cable, telecommunication, biomedicine, laser, computer software, new materials, and aquatic products, is in a leading position in China, and there are many international and national technology conferences.

Fourth, Wuhan has the industry advantage to develop MICE. As the sixth comprehensive industrial base in China, Wuhan has six supporting industries: steel, automobiles, optical-mechanical, tobacco, alcohol, and pharma-chemicals, which is a unique advantage over other cities in central China. The China Optics Valley is now growing up in East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, and the Optics Valley of China International Optoelectronic Exposition and Forum is also becoming an important event.

Fifth, Wuhan has the facilities for MICE. Besides local economic development, the MICE industry also needs support from other industries like transport, travel and dining. Statistics show now there are about 100 star-rated hotels in Wuhan, and its dining industry is one of the best in China. In 2010, 185 exhibitions were held in Wuhan, and eight of them were national ones, including Optics Valley of China International Optoelectronic Exposition and Forum, China International Machinery & Electronic Exposition, China Food Exposition and Trade Fair, and Wuhan China (International) Agriculture Expo. Wuhan has a very good location but a limited MICE industry. The new International Expo Center will be the largest and the most advanced in central China, which will greatly improve Wuhan's MICE hardware facilities after goes into operation.

Sixth, Wuhan has a business advantage. The total retail sales of social commodities and total capital flows are among the highest for Chinese cities. It is also one of the first cities to develop commercial retail after China joins the WTO. Two of China's top ten shopping mall groups have opened stores in Wuhan.

Liu said that the opening of Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR on December 27, 2009 marks the beginning of "HSR times" for Hubei province. According to the railway construction plan, Hubei will build the world's largest HSR network by 2013, with a four-hour economic circle centered on Wuhan. By then, it will only take about four hours to get to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou, which will definitely bring something new to tourism industry and even the whole economy. HSR also brings opportunities and challenges to Wuhan's hotels. Besides the HSR network connecting Wuhan to other regions, Hubei is also building an intercity railway network inside the province. Tourism traffic will be much easier, faster, and will save more time for tourists.

The Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR has already brought so many benefits to related industries in Guangdong and Hubei. Now the Beijing-Wuhan HSR is due to open by the end of 2010, there will be more and more tourists coming to Wuhan, and hotels will expand their business by all means.

Liu told China Hospitality News that the Wuhan Third Ring Road has just opened to traffic in 2011, and it only takes 15 minutes or so from the hotel to the Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR Wuhan Station and 40 minutes from the northeast section of the Third Ring Road to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan will continue to provide excellent service and comfortable experience for high-end business guests with its perfect location and facilities.

Long-term Cooperation Means Fine Communication
Yu Ting is the marketing director of Wuhan B&J Network Technology Company. She told China Hospitality News that the company often holds medium-sized customer meetings of different styles. When choosing a venue for their meeting, Yu will usually inspect the size and capacity of the venue, and whether the communications are effective. Hotels that Yu's company has used include Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan, Poly White Rose Hotel, and Best Western Mayflower Hotel Wuhan, and a number of four-star hotels.

Yu Ting said the company has kept a long-term cooperation with Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan, and communication between the two is quite well. In May 2010, the company held Baidu's marketing activity at the ballroom on the fifth floor of Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan. As a national tour, the activity needed a good venue with good brand effect. Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan turned out to be the perfect place for this.

To enjoy time after work in Wuhan, Yu Ting recommends East Lake, Guqintai, and Huanghelou. There are also many delicious foods in Wuhan especially along the Hubu Lane.

Real Five-star Hotel
Yu Zhongyi, the president of IBM Solution & Services (Shenzhen) Company Wuhan Branch Staff Club 2010, told China Hospitality News that the company usually holds annual meetings and other activities each year, and the size depends on the number of employees. For 2011 there will be around 150 people and there will probably be 500 in 2012. Yu thinks service is the primary factor in choosing a proper venue, since good service will make participants feel warm and cozy. Transport is also very important so guests and employees can travel easily.

The company held its 150-person annual meeting in Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan not long ago, summing up 2010 and looking foreward to 2011. Yu commented that the hotel staff are very responsible and professional, and also can bring up solutions in a short time according to client's requirements. Elegant and clean, the hotel really has five-star service and facilities.

Spring and autumn are the best time to come to Wuhan, said Yu. East Lake is a must-go place, so is Hubu Lane where guests can enjoy various local foods. The HSR has connected Wuhan to other regions more conveniently, said Yu, and there will be another option for the company's staff traveling to Beijing for business when the Wuhan-Beijing HSR is open.

Hotel Supports Company's Environmental Protection Philosophy
Tian Yuanjun is the administration officer of Wuhan Vanke Co., Ltd. She says the company usually holds three types of activities in Wuhan, real estate investor conferences with 120-150 people, customers appreciation dinners for 150-180 people, and company annual meetings with around 400 people.

Tian says the venue for each event is carefully chosen after comparing alternative offerings. Location is the first factor, and then the size, ceiling height, decoration, and, finally, the price.

The company has used Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan, and Marco Polo Wuhan. Tian said she found the meeting service of Ramada Plaza Optics Valley Wuhan very impressive. The hotel provides a one-stop service for large-scale meeting groups. From the initial contact, to detailed negotiations, to follow-up of meetings, and to checkout, the hotel always assigns the same meeting service personnel to handle all of these. This one-stop service can guarantee a smooth contact between hotel and client. The company held its 2010 Annual Meeting and Carnival in this hotel not long ago. More than 400 people participated in this activity. Using the LED screen and the multi-purpose audio/video player, the event became more interactive and also environmentally friendly.

What advantages will Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR and Beijing-Wuhan HSR bring to business travel? In Tian's opinion, the HSR has made the company's business activities more convenient, as it is an alternative to air travel. The Wuhan HSR station is located near to the East Third Ring Road and it is easy to get to Hankou and Wuchang: especially East Lake and Optics Valley.

Tian Yuanjun has introduced every aspect of Wuhan to business travelers. The rivers divide Wuhan into three parts, Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. For first-timers, East Lake in Wuchang is the place to enjoy the lake view and flowers; around East Lake there is Moshan, Meiyuan Garden, the botanical garden, and Wuhan University, which also are places to enjoy natural landscapes. When visiting the Yangtze River and the Han River, there is Yellow Crane Tower on the Snake Hill in Wuchang. At the north of Snake Hill there is Hubu Lane where all kinds of local foods are on offer; at the south of Snake Hill there is the Xinhai Revolution Museum. Qingchuan Pavilion on Guishan Hill in Hanyang is the place from which tourists can see the Yangtze River, Snake Hill and low Crane Tower.

Hankou is the place where tourists can shop and get the feel of the time when Wuhan was a concession. New Public Park shopping street is always at the forefront of fashion. Hankou concession has buildings in western styles, and it becomes a bar street at night. Other places like Jiqing Street and Jingwu Road are also where tourists can experience the real Wuhan.

Novotel Wuhan Xinhua
The Novotel Wuhan Xinhua is centrally located in Hankou. It is in the dynamic commercial and financial district of Wuhan, and is adjacent to the New World Trade Center, Jianyin Building, and CMBC Building. The consulates of France, the USA, and South Korea are within five minutes' walk, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport is 25 kilometers away, Wuhan HSR station is 21 kilometers, and Hankou Railway Station is four kilometers away from the hotel. It only takes about 20 minutes to drive to famous sites like Hankou River Beach, Yellow Crane Tower, East Lake, and Guiyuan Buddhist Temple.

Gilbert C. Mennetret, the general manager of the hotel, says it has a typical French style as it is a Novotel hotel and part of the Accor group. Famed for authentic French cuisine, the food production team led by the French executive chef offers French dishes, desserts, and pasteries. There are also other French employees in the hotel's management team to ensure the hotel provides a professional and quality service to guests from around the world.

The hotel has 303 stylish, elegant, modern guestrooms, including the Premier Floor and five lady rooms. Each room type has free WiFi, LCD flat-panel TV with multiple language channels, and an in-room mini bar. There are also five non-smoking floors as alternativefor business travelers. The fitness center of the hotel has a 16-meter-long heated indoor swimming pool and a tennis court with night lighting. The gym is equipped with top imported facilities and has a sport bar offering healthy drinks. Fuego on the third floor offers a French style seafood buffet for 180 people, and Fu Man Lou on the second floor offers Chaozhou and Cantonese cuisines with ten balconies for private parties. Bistro 98 on the first floor offers French cuisine and wines.

Novotel Wuhan Xinhua has six ballrooms and meeting rooms of different sizes. The 410-square-meter ballroom with 4.5-meter ceiling height can accommodate up to 350 for meetings or 260 for banquets. The multifunction room is 176 square meters in area and can be divided into two independent meeting venues equipped with a video conference system. There is also a VIP room and two full-function meeting rooms. All meeting venues in the hotel have free wireless Internet access, and a simultaneous interpretation system is also available.

In October 2010, Novotel Wuhan Xinhua hosted the football players and referees for the China vs. Uruguay football match. A coordination meeting was been held in the hotel to prepare for this. The hotel has carefully prepared the menu, collecting views from guests after each meal and making improvements for the next meal. During their stay in the hotel, both the Chinese and the foreign guests were very content with the services, and even wrote a thank-you letter for the hotel.

Mennetret said Wuhan's hotel industry has been developing rapidly in recent years as both central and local governments are paying more attention to the city. The Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR has attracted more and more Guangdong tourists to Wuhan. In 2010 the tourism market performance was four times better than that of 2009; occupancy rate of hotels climbed up to 60% even during traditional low seasons for business travelers such as Spring Festival and the National Day Holiday. With more and more star-rated hotels especially international brands entering Wuhan, the competition will become fiercer. Hotels will strengthen management and staff training to improve service and increase competitiveness while providing more opportunities for hotel professionals. Mennetret believes Wuhan's hotel industry will have a bright future.

2011 will be the year for fast development of Wuhan's business travel market. The city will keep being the leader in central China. Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen and Honda have built their new factories in Wuhan and this will greatly improve the automobile industry, the establishment of Wujiashan economic development zone will also bring more opportunities to Wuhan. The opening of the HSR from Beijing and Shanghai to Wuhan will connect Wuhan with the two major guest source markets more closely. The improvement of local transport facilities and the construction of 1+8 Wuhan City Circle will bring more convenience to business travellers. Besides, the new air services from Wuhan to Paris and Singapore will help Wuhan become an international city.

Hotel Supports Company Event
Xu Kai, the manager of the marketing department at LG Electronics (China) Co., Ltd Wuhan Branch, says the company holds new product launch meetings and dealer assembles for 50 to 200 people in Wuhan. Usually the company will inspect a venue for five aspects. First, check if the venue is bright and spacious enough to accommodate all the participants. Second, check if the venue is large enough to provide a product display area. Third, check the food and beverage. Fourth, check if there are special breaks for VIPs. Fifth, check if there is person in charge of coordination of venue arrangement.

Generally speaking Wuhan's hotels can meet the requirements of various meetings and events. Xu has used hotels including the Novotel Wuhan Xinhua, Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, and C Oriental HotelWuhan, and the former two are the mostly frequently used ones because they are close to the company and have good facilities.

The company held its 2010 Dealer Authorization and Goal Signing Conference for over 200 people in Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel. There was a display area with beautiful show girls to show the company's latest products. To show the company's sincerity, a welcome note with the signature of the company's general manager was been placed in each room. The hotel assisted by placing the note in a prominent position in each reserved hotel room. It also allowed the company to arrange the meeting venue one day in advance. The hotel had assigned people to follow up lighting and other things during the meeting. In addition, there were obvious marks and signs to guide the guests in the lobby, the entrance of the meeting area and rest area, and in outdoor spaces.

Xu said Wuhan is a city having a long history that is worth visiting. The 1911 Revolution Museum, East Lake, Hubei Museum, Hubu Lane, and Hankou River Beach are definitely on the must-see list. Local food like hot dry noodles is something you don't want to miss. The HSR is very good news for the company, said Xu. When the Beijing-Wuhan HSR opens by then end of 2011, there will be a new choice for staff to travel to Beijing where the company's headquarters is in.

Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan
Liu Bing, the general manager of Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan, said Wuhan's economy is now more open and is becoming international and professional. Business activities are increasing, and exhibitions of various levels are being held in Wuhan. All these have brought opportunities to Wuhan's hotel industry. Targeting different guests, hotels have entered the stage of product segmentation, hotel management is becoming more professional, and four and five-star hotels are hosting more functions.

Adjacent to Wuhan Municipal Government, the hotel is in the financial and commercial center of Wuhan, making it the first choice for business guests. Another major guest source is tour groups both domestic and international. It is only steps away from Hankou River Beach, and is surrounded by many old buildings from the concession period. The Jianghan Road Pedestrian Street is just ten minutes' walk away. This is the place where tourists can experience the old but modern Hankou. In the evening, tourists can go to the bar street or have a night tour on a ship to enjoy the night.

As the first riverside hotel awarded a five-star plaque, Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan is dedicated to offering a personalized perfect stay experience, Most of the hotel's guestrooms enjoy Yangtze River views from different angles. Besides face-to-face communication with guests, the hotel also establishes other channels to get to know guests' needs. For example there is a Guest Relation Division in charge of collecting comments and suggestions from guests and reporting these directly to the general manager. The hotel regards meeting guests' needs as the final pursuit, providing standard yet warm services. The front office will record long-stay guests' favourites as a reference to each sector of the hotel.

You can be confident of experiencing exceptional luxury and comfort in the hotel's 393 guestrooms and suites, about 70% of which offer stunning views of the Yangtze River. Spacious, elegantly designed and decorated, each is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and every convenience for the discerning travelers. The Howard Johnson Club Floors feature exclusive benefits and superior comfort and privacy for discerning business travelers. These include a private lounge, dedicated check-in and check-out, complimentary breakfast and evening refreshments, concierge service and a free meeting room. The hotel has a total of almost 1,900 square meters of function space, including two large ballrooms and eight multifunction rooms, all equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment.

Celebrities hotel has hosted include the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and his wife. The efficient, high quality, and sensitive service has won the praises from all the hotel's guests. Jimmy Carter wrote a letter to the hotel commending it on its considerate service.

As there are more and more professional meetings and forums, and more and more international exhibitions, the MICE industry has gained more attention, and Wuhan Municipal Government has made it clear that it will develop the MICE industry to build Wuhan into a famous MICE destination in China. Thus Wuhan is developing subway, a light rail and viaduct in the city, and integrated transport network including highway, water transport, bus, railway, and suburban railway out of Wuhan. Meanwhile the HSR centering on Wuhan is under construction now, which will attract more business travelers to Wuhan. Currently Wuhan has two large convention and exhibition venues, and another new one scheduled to open in 2011 that is expected to be the largest single exhibition hall in central China. In addition, there will be a total of CNY32.8 billion invested in the business travel and conference and exhibition market, and seven projects will be completed within 2011 and construction will be started on nine more; meanwhile a bunch of leisure tourist streets will also open in 2011. Thus business the travel and conference and exhibition market of Wuhan in 2011 will see great potential, and hotels will provide more professional quality service to MICE guests with their rich experience and comprehensive meeting facilities.

Liu Bing says Wuhan is one of the four national railway hubs and six national passenger terminals planned by the Ministry of Railways. There will be a high-speed passenger transport network centered on Wuhan to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi'an and Nanchang. The Guangzhou to Wuhan HSR has brought much more domestic tour groups and FITs to Wuhan; hotels have gained much profit from this. In 2011 the hotel will continue to win orders from tour groups while try to expand new markets. Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan is cooperating with major travel wholesalers in Wuhan, Chongqing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen to conduct joint sales with outbound travel service providers, so the hotel can take the initiative in marketing. The hotel is also developing the northern regional market to prepare for the Beijing to Wuhan HSR.

HSR To Be Supplement For Business Travel
The director of Cummins (China) Investment Company indirect procurement department, Xiao Huihong, told China Hospitality News that anniversary ceremonies and annual departmental meetings are held each year with 20 to 200 participants. The surroundings, the facilities, food quality, landscape, and traffic, these are the factors Xiao would look at when inspecting a venue.

Hotels that the company has used in Wuhan include Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan, Marco Polo Wuhan, New World Hotel Wuhan, Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, and Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel. In 2009 the company held a new factory inauguration ceremony in New World Hotel Wuhan.

The facilities and services of Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan have greatly impressed Xiao. The hotel features meeting rooms of various sized all equipped with full meeting facilities. The No. 1 balcony of the restaurant enjoys a wonderful river view and is capable of holding banquet of the highest standard. And the revolving restaurant provides privacy for guests.

Xiao said the majority of the company's business travel was by air, and the opening of HSR is a good supplement, especially when the weather is not conducive to flying.

Broad Future For Wuhan's Business Travel Market
When talking about the market status of Wuhan's MICE industry, CITS Wuhan Company Inbound Tourism Center's general manager, Hu Yanhua, said Wuhan is now attracting more international and domestic companies to invest in Wuhan and set up offices here as Wuhan has been named as one of China's central cities by central government. The China International Medical Equipment Fair and the Conference on Overseas Chinese Pioneering and Developing in China are held in Wuhan, and touring expos about medicine, automobiles, food, and home appliances also choose Wuhan as one stop. The new expo center in Hanyang New District will soon be completed and will be able to undertake more international conferences and exhibitions.

In recent years, CITS Wuhan Company Inbound Tourism Center has undertaken many activities including Pfizer's global CEO business meeting, Deutsche Bank training session, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Nanjing Branch annual meeting, Dongfeng Citroen C-5 launch, China Aviation News training session, and Goldman Sachs business investigation. Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel, Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan, Renaissance Wuhan Hotel, and Holiday Inn Riverside Wuhan are long-term partners of the company.

Hu and her team have successfully held the strategic development annual meeting of a Fortune 500 company. A five-star hotel is the first choice for the venue, because the facilities and services can ensure the smooth process of the meeting. Traffic and surrounding environment are important elements when choosing a proper venue. Basically Hu will check three aspects of a hotel venue. First, the surroundings and supporting facilities of a hotel. An on-site investigation will be needed to see if the venue has easy access to the airport and the company. The meeting facilities also need inspecting including size of meeting rooms, capacity of different setups, the standard of the audio-visual equipment, and the degree of sound insulation. An efficient and professional meeting team providing support and service to an event would be perfect. The parking lot and vehicle scheduling are also very important.

Second, guestrooms of the hotel. Room service is important especially for some large-scale meetings and events lasting for several days. For example, there should be enough rooms of different types to satisfy the needs of different guests for a meeting or an event. Reservation, check-in, check-out, and cancellations, the use of the room, the payment, and which credit cards are accepted by the hotel, all should be checked when choosing a venue.

The third aspect is the food and beverage of a hotel. For coffee breaks during meetings, Hu will check the variety, quantity, price, service time and setup. For dinner, Hu will mainly check the service, the menu, price, table setups, and if there are enough waiters and waitresses during the busiest times.

For guests who want to enjoy a view of the Yangtze River Hu suggests choosing Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan which has a revolving restaurant. The hotel can establish a team to follow up related things based on the size of a meeting or event. Full communication will be made with the organizer before the activity, and a contingency plan will also be made in advance. The team provides professional service to organizers. In addition the hotel has wonderful food and beverage offerings featuring both western cuisine and local food. Its design is elegant and fashionable: with the considerate service it is a home away from home for all guests.

Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel is the hotel most often used by Hu Yanhua. The hotel features a good location with convenient transport. And the ballroom is one of the most unique ballrooms in Wuhan with an elegant design and modern equipment. Hu once organized the one-week China Municipal Engineering Conference in this ballroom. She mentioned that the hotel had prepared free gifts for guests as part of its turndown service.

Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel
Bruno Storti is the general manager of Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel. He states that Wuhan's hospitality market has had a steady growth, and now has 11 five-star hotels and more than 20 four-star hotels. Wuhan's current business and leisure market is sufficient to sustain these numbers of hotels.

The long-stay market has a good potential with the ongoing focus in central China, said Storti. The Beijing to Wuhan HSR will start running this year, and this will bring further opportunities to Wuhan. Additionally, new office buildings will allow a shift of existing tenants and also attract new tenants.

Generally speaking the corporate sector is the strongest for all hotels in Wuhan followed by MICE. Wuhan is not a traditional leisure travel destination and leisure guests are not a major segment in the market. However as the HSR develops, more Guangdong tourists will be able to come to Wuhan.

The hotel has guestrooms and twin share comfort with enough space, as well as suitable meeting facilities. For example the well-sized ballroom has breakout meeting rooms and areas for participants to relax, without leaving the meeting environment. The hotel's professional event service and up-to-date electronic equipment and AV systems make clients' events even more successful. There are also convenient and professional business facilities with good service from the front desk, the executive lounge, and business center staff. The ample food and beverage area can cater for over 200 guests for lunch and dinner without disrupting the actual event room. Professional hospitality people are able to meet clients' needs and demands for all services required. In addition, the hotel features a good location for guest business activities.

Hotel rooms have panoramic views of both the lakes surrounding the hotel, and have a separate shower and bath. In 2011 the all guestrooms in the hotel will have LCD TV screens placed.

For business travelers, Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel is located in the city's commercial area, making it very convenient for offices, banks and major business centers in Wuhan. It is also opposite and close to three beautiful lakes, bringing a relaxing outlook to guests after a long day of meetings and business activities. Guestrooms are designed for comfort, offering business travelers more space and amenities to make their stay more relaxing. The Executive Floor has a separate keycard system so all guests can relax in comfort and security. The Club Lounge offers spectacular lake views with premium professional service. Hotel staff have been trained to make guests feel welcome and to help make their stay a relaxing, successful, and productive time.

Storti says he can share two case-studies with readers. In November, 2010 the hotel held the AmCham Charity Events organized by AmCham Central China Branch. Senior managers of foreign enterprises and celebrities attended this event. They gave generously for students from depressed areas. It also held the two-day Dongfeng Motor Corporation 2010 Conference in December, 2010. Nearly 300 guests attended the event. After the conference, the company manager and staff were satisfied with hotel's comfortable accommodation, meeting service, and food quality.

The negative effect from the global financial crisis will nearly be eliminated in 2011 in China, says Storti. In the meantime China's Central Government has officially appointed Wuhan as the "Central China Hub City". This means that more new domestic and global companies will be relocated and asked to come to Wuhan, and new city construction projects will be carried out. The business and commercial market will grow rapidly in 2011. The Wuhan government has invested more capital in the exhibition industry in 2010. The new expo center is being constructed now in the development zone, and more MICE or exhibition service companies will choose Wuhan as the first city to hold their activities, such as industrial forums, new product launches, and travel expos. This will help the Wuhan Economy grow and prosper in the future.

New World Wuhan Hotel
Located in Hankou's CBD, New World Wuhan Hotel is close to the regional headquarters of many international companies. The hotel is a 45-minute drive from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport and a 15-minute drive from Hankou Railway Station. The hotel, part of New World Center, is adjacent to New World Department Store, K11, a short stroll from Wuhan International Plaza and Wuhan International Exhibition and Convention Center. The ideal location makes it convenient for business and leisure travelers.

Recognized as the largest city in central China, Wuhan had a double-digit increase in GDP over the past five years: says David Wicker, the general manager of the New World Wuhan Hotel. Along with its expanding economy, Wuhan's hotel industry is experiencing an unprecedented growth in both supply and demand, which is having a profound impact on many markets and hotel investments. By the end of the first quarter of 2011, 15 five-star hotels with more than 4,500 guestrooms will be on the market, double the number that existed before the global financial turmoil. So increasing competitive market pressure did not hamper the development of the industry. Compared with 2009, the occupancy of five-star hotels and their average daily rate have increased by 25% and 10%, respectively, in 2010. Furthermore, there are more than 20 hotel projects in the Wuhan development pipeline over the next five years.

Corporate guests are the main part of the hotel business, states Wicker, especially the rapid development of the economy of the city. Th corporate FIT will become a more and more important part of the business in the future. The hotel is going to upgrade two more meeting venues before the first half of 2011, which will help increase the hotel's capacity to accommodate more MICE business. In addition, it will focus on bookings from professional booking engines and tour operators in 2011.

According to Wicker, business guests are particularly interested in a hotel's location, room comfort, safety, efficiency, personalized service, and broadband availability. That is why New World Wuhan Hotel offers the Modern Oriental Hospitality experience. For example, repeat guests are welcomed with homemade soup instead of the normal fruit plate; guests' top-five preferences are recorded in their profiles, and advanced preparations are made according to his or her likes and dislikes; guests can direct in-house enquiries to the service center with the push of a button; executive club guests enjoy special tailor-made benefits; and, the winter season aside, guests can enjoy a relaxing stroll in the poolside garden on the sixth floor.

New World Wuhan Hotel has a total of 1,100 square meters of event space, including a 440-square-meter pillarless grand ballroom. Five conference rooms and a chairman's lounge are equipped with modern audio-visual equipment. Spaces are adaptable for many types of events, such as business conferences, exhibitions, wedding banquets, and themed parties. In November 2009, the Sino-French project negotiation conference was staged at New World Wuhan Hotel. The Jean-Pierre Raffarin, an ex-prime minister of France, joined Wuhan's vice mayor Yue Yong in presiding over the high-level meeting, which was organized by Hubei Provincial foreign affairs office. To ensure every detail was fully implemented, the hotel organized a special committee that included senior managers from all relevant departments to deal with all the requirements and ensure that any problems could be solved quickly and efficiently.

Wicker is confident that the hotel market will maintain its rapid development in 2011, not only because of Wuhan's double-digit economic growth, but also because of the rapid development of its infrastructure. After the opening of the Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR in December 2009, the number of inbound tourists surged 40% compared with the previous year: according to the Wuhan Tourism Administration Bureau. The Beijing to Wuhan HSR is scheduled to be launched at the end of 2011 and will link with the Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR. This will accentuate Wuhan's unique and convenient location for the business travel market. Furthermore, 2011 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. The central and local governments are going to invite hundreds of thousands of people to join in grand ceremonies to memorialize China's landmarks and modern history. It will be a remarkable time to build up Wuhan's name both in domestic and overseas markets.

Hotels Should Provide a Customized Service
Wuhan Riverbend Properties Consultancy holds year-end summary meetings with 30 to 40 participants and year-end customer appreciation meetings with 150to 200 people every year. The company's chairman Sui Qun said it will usually choose a spacious venue with only a few pillars and providing customized services to clients.

Hotels the company has used include Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, Renaissance Wuhan Hotel, Novotel Wuhan Xinhua, New World Wuhan Hotel, and Ramada Plaza Optics Valley. She expressed her satisfaction with New World Wuhan Hotel's professional meeting facilities and service. In January 2011, the company held its year-end dinner party in Holiday Hotel Tianan Wuhan City Center. Though the facilities were a little bit old, but the event was quite successful and creative. She hopes hotels could provide some customized service based on client's requirements.

East Lake, Hubei Provincial Museum, Hubei Museum of Art, are the places Sui recommends to business travelers to spend their leisure time after work. Hubu Lane and Jiqing Street are the must-see places to enjoy authentic local food.

Sui loves Beijing very much. When the Beijing to Wuhan HSR opens, it will be much easier for her to go to Beijing at the weekend. The company also offers training opportunities to employees. The HSR will make communication more convenient, and the company will consider expanding its business to Beijing and other cities.

Marco Polo Wuhan
John Beresford is the general manager of Marco Polo Wuhan. He believes that Wuhan's geographic location as a traffic hub in China will bring more business opportunities to the city. In recent years more and more international luxury hotel brands have entered Wuhan, reflecting the city's potential. Marco Polo Hotels has already signed agreements with many Fortune 500 enterprises which will bring more business guests to hotels and improve the group's competitiveness in high-end market. Given the perfect location of Marco Polo Wuhan, it will attract more high-end groups during long holidays.

Beresford thinks the product itself matters a lot to business travellers' staying in a hotel. As it is a Global Hotel Alliance property Marco Polo's member guests have the opportunity to join the "Local Experiences" program for free. Guests in Marco Polo Wuhan will get a good chance to know Wuhan better by bicycling along the river beach and learning to make local food like hot dry noodles.

Compared with the business market in 2010, Beresford thinks the market in 2011 will have more opportunities. The Beijing to Wuhan HSR will bring more tourists from northern China, as well as more business travelers. At the beginning of 2011, Marco Polo Wuhan has visited some embassies and enterprises in Beijing, seeking potential cooperation opportunities.

HSR Means Opportunities
International Enterprise Singapore executive secretary Zhang Yu tells China Hospitality News that the reputation of a hotel matters the most when she books a hotel in Wuhan, because most guests are foreign business travelers, and IES should ensure they have the best service in Wuhan. The facilities and environment are also important. Full facilities and convenient transport will make a good impression on guests who have traveled to a city. Brand and star-rate also matter because they are usually connected to a hotel's service and hardware.

Zhang has used Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, Marco Polo Wuhan, Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel, and New World Wuhan Hotel. The five-star Marco Polo Wuhan has quite a good reputation and the best hardware facilities of its kind, and many foreign guests like the simple, comfortable and bright style of the hotel. Guestrooms featuring a fabulous Yangtze River view are a big plus for business guests as they might not have spare time to visit local attractions.

According to Zhang, most business travelers do not have much time for sightseeing, and Yellow Crane Tower and the bar street along the River Beach are the common choices. If there is any more time, the Hubei Provincial Museum is also a good place to go to.

Now more and more enterprises in east coastal areas are expanding their business to inland areas. Wuhan does not have so many direct flights to other destinations, which is a restriction for business. But the Wuhan to Guangzhou HSR and the Beijing to Wuhan HSR will certainly attract more enterprises in large cities and even foreign countries to invest in Wuhan, which is good news for Wuhan's local enterprises.

Renaissance Wuhan Hotel
Renaissance Wuhan Hotel's general manager Daniel Lai thinks that the development of the hotel industry reflects the state of the city in terms of economic conditions and consumer's spending behavior. In Wuhan, spending behavior is still very different to some of the well developed cities. However, with the national strategic development plan for central China, Wuhan city circle has been approved as a comprehensive experimental zone; the introduction of the high speed train and the new development plan for tourism in Hubei, hotel industry in Wuhan is entering into a new era. Recently, people have seen the pace of development is becomeing much quicker. New hotels projects have been announced and the number of four and five-star hotels in Wuhan will be tripled in the next two to three years. With the ongoing improvement of infrastructure and economic conditions, Wuhan will soon offer consumers a wide variety of choices.

The commercial customers of the hotel are mainly involved in heavy steel, railway development industry as well as from state-owned corporations. The hotel is also just a few minutes' drive from the famous East Lake and other tourist spots and thus attracts a lot of leisure travelers as well.

Lai told China Hospitality News that the hotel customer nationality mix is 80% domestic Chinese and 20% international travelers. The hotel goal is to be the pace-setter of the hotel industry in Wuhan through the introduction of new food and service concepts, thus making its customers not only feel at home but also find something new in every visit to the hotel. The hotel associates are trained to provide these experiences to customers. The ultimate goal is to make Renaissance Wuhan Hotel a household name in this region.

In Lai's eyes, customers of Renaissance Wuhan Hotel are the most unique business travelers. They have a curious mind; they are constantly looking for new things, exploring life changes. They are explorers. In short, they are not looking for a stay in the premises; their stay is to discover new things. Therefore, they strongly help them to achieve what they want. The hotel layout and casual use of subtle bits and pieces attract the curiosity of their innocence. Hotel's facilities and services, interior decoration, furnishings and unique interest in the theme of make their customers feel a sense of belonging. As an example of the many things that the hotel does to create a unique hospitality experience itl offers a theme for the "Navigator" service. This unique service is a set of local information carefully prepared for the customers prior to their arrival helping them to find authentic food, evening entertainment, to shop, and to tour around the city.

The hotel offers over 1,372 square meters of state-of-the-art banquet and convention facilities including a high ceilinged pillar-less grand ballroom of 577 square meters and for meeting rooms.

In December 2010, superstar pianist, Lang Lang made the Renaissance Wuhan Hotel his home away from home. Anticipating his arrival after midnight, the hotel prepared an early breakfast which included seven of Marriott's Signature Chinese dishes. A piano was specially arranged in his room so he could rehearse for the public performance on the following day. A security guard was also stationed on the floor to ensure he had no interruption.

Along with the strategic development plan of central China, which approves the Wuhan city circle as a comprehensive experimental zone, the availability of HSR and the new development plan for tourism in Hubei, Wuhan hotel industry will usher in a new round of booming development. The expected increase in personal disposal income, the introduction of the Wuhan to Guangzhou high speed train service, the anticipated opening of Wuhan International Expo Center in 2011, progressive improvement of the city's infrastructure create a very attractive environment for new investments thus bringing in a lot of opportunities in these segments for the hotel industry. As a pace-setter Renaissance Wuhan Hotel is well positioned to bring new experiences to its customers who have also a new travel experience.

Tailored Plan Makes Event More Successful
According to Wuhan Huade Environment Technology Company's assistant marketing director, Cao Wei, the company holds various types of meetings in Wuhan, including a twice-a-year board meeting with all directors and representatives of the management, annual meetings with all employees and special guests, technology seminars, and business negotiations.

Transport, meeting facilities, and service are the three major factors for Cao when choosing a venue. Hotels she has used include Renaissance Wuhan Hotel, Wuhan Jin Jiang International Hotel, Marco Polo Wuhan, Howard Johnson Pearl Plaza Wuhan, Shangri-La Hotel Wuhan, Hongguang Jianguo Hotel, and Best Western C-Bank Hotel. Renaissance Wuhan Hotel with its professional, friendly, dedicated service had greatly impressed Cao Wei.

Huade held a customer appreciation event at Renaissance Wuhan Hotel in January 2011. The hotel had tailored a plan according to the company's requirements, which guaranteed the smooth progress of the event. Customers were satisfied with the dinner party.

Cao recommends that guests who come to Wuhan for the first time visit the East Lake, Yellow Crane Tower, Qintai Grand Theater, and Hubu Lane. The company has been holding its annual meeting in other cities, and the HSR will greatly shorten the time needed for a trip, and will also add more destinations for the company's other events.

Fluent Foreign Language Ensures Barrier-free Communication
Alstom (Wuhan) Engineering & Technology Companyadministrative assistant Li Huimin toldChina Hospitality News that the company holds meetings of different sizes in Wuhan, for example annual meetings, advisory meetings, and French headquarters management meetings with the local company management. Conditions and facilities of a venue, the capability of hotel staff to handle emergencies, and their level of Englis, are the most important factors for Li when determining whether to use a venue.

Li has used Renaissance Wuhan Hotel and Best Western Mayflowers Hotel Wuhan for the company's events, and has maintained a long-term cooperation with Renaissance Wuhan Hotel because of its good service. This hotel has new facilities that can meet the demands of different meetings. The staff are well-trained and will communicate with the company in advance and prepare a contingency plan. It is worth mentioning that the hotel staff speak fluent English making the meetings smoother. The decoration and furnishings are very fascinating; the company also chooses this hotel for suppliers and company employees.

In April 2010, the company held a meeting between management from the French headquarters and Wuhan company's management in Renaissance Wuhan Hotel. This meeting wass mainly a summary and review of the Wuhan company's performance. Hotel's meeting service personnel spoke fluent English and made the meeting smoother with their dedicated service and advanced meeting facilities.