HANGZHOU, host to last year’s G20 summit and winner of the 2016/2017 Golden Chair Award for “Most Attractive MICE City Destination,” has proven itself a worthy rival to cities like Shanghai and Beijing in the sector.
With more improvements planned and marketing ramped up, could the city advance to become China’s MICE capital?
Located in the Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou is a hub for commerce with an eclectic mix of modern structures boasting state-of-the-art amenities.
But travel a short distance from the bustling center and visitors will find traditional buildings nestled in leafy green areas and a myriad of natural and cultural attractions including temples, pagodas, museums and of course the famous West Lake.
This first-tier city has an extensive portfolio of exhibition spaces supporting its now thriving MICE sector. These include purpose-built venues such as the Zhejiang World Trade Center and large-scale facilities at hotels, 11 of which can host up to 1,000 guests.
International brands like InterContinental, Hyatt, Four Seasons and Sofitel also have a strong presence here, providing five-star accommodation to meet the needs of attendees, high-ranking delegates and tourists alike.
Expanding MICE facilities
Hangzhou had a competitive offering, but its successful bid for the 2016 G20 summit sparked considerable regeneration in the area, strengthening its position as a significant MICE player.
The multibillion-dollar project saw upgrades to public transport, homes, motorways and pedestrian areas as well as an increased effort to reduce air pollution.
But the new jewel in the city’s crown is the International Expo Center. At 850,000sq m, it is the biggest single building in China. The multi-use site features conference and exhibition space, a hotel, offices, Air Garden as well as parking for 4,000 vehicles. The exhibition center can accommodate up to 4,500 booths while the largest conference room can host up to 8,300 people.
Creation of modern brand
Keen to maintain the momentum generated by such a high-profile event and achieve more growth in the sector, the government has increased its support. Promotion for MICE is now managed through a dedicated agency, Business Events Hangzhou and a fresh branding strategy has been put in place.
“Hangzhou, Inspiring New Connections,” was unveiled in March at this year’s Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings China, in Shanghai. But it was the use of VR headsets at its booth that caused the real buzz, allowing attendees to explore the city’s MICE facilities in more detail than ever before – something that earned the team 50 additional contracts.
The city has also increased its social media presence launching a dedicated platform on LinkedIn to assist event planners and boost awareness of unique incentives like tours to the Meijiawu Tea Plantation.
Hangzhou has seen rapid development in the last few years, but more is still to come. According to Shanghai Daily, CNY1 trillion (US$147 billion) is to be invested in 500 projects by 2020 as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan. Among these are a number of initiatives to improve accessibility including a high-speed railway system, highway development and additional metro lines.
The timing of these plans is significant as 130 international events are planned over the next three years in addition to the 2022 Asian Games.
All things considered, it seems likely this dynamic city will top event planners’ lists for the foreseeable future and continue to evolve as a leading MICE destination.