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October 27, 2011

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Building an even stronger brand

IT'S easy to see why Hangzhou has become such a hot MICE destination. With beautiful scenery, loads of attractions and great facilities, conference and exhibition planners are finding that the capital of Zhejiang Province has just the right mix to balance business and leisure, Shi Xiaohan reports.
Traditionally a hot tourism destination, Hangzhou is storming into the MICE market, bidding to create even bigger waves.
Enlisted as one of the most popular MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) cities by the International Congress and Convention Association and winning top spot in domestic rankings such as "Top 10 Cities for Conventions and Exhibitions in China" have shown Hangzhou's position in the MICE industry.
Hangzhou has become a MICE center in the Yangtze River Delta while gaining international prestige. Last year alone, Hangzhou hosted 8,120 conferences and 156 exhibitions. More than 450 of the conferences involved international participation.
Blessed with three major water areas - West Lake, Qiantang River and Xixi Wetland - Hangzhou is a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life while still enjoying the convenience of quality infrastructure. Newly developed spots like Xiang Lake near Hangzhou's International Xiaoshan Airport and Qiandao Lake in Hangzhou's suburban area have also added to the city's appeal as a MICE destination.
At the same time, the rich cultural heritage of Hangzhou has provided MICE tourists a chance to immerse themselves in local customs during their breaks from business. As West Lake has recently been enlisted as a World Cultural Heritage, this beautiful city is increasingly gaining international attention. Shows like "Impression West Lake" and "Romance of Song Dynasty" take viewers on a trip through history.
Hangzhou's historical traditions also offer visitors interesting experiences. From a cup of tea to a visit to the famous traditional Chinese medicine stores, the experiences are sure to help people focus on their inner balance.
Recently connected to mega-cities like Shanghai and Beijing by high-speed train, Hangzhou has become more accessible than ever. The city's MICE industry has benefited from the high-speed craze.
"Hangzhou is just 45 minutes from Shanghai by high-speed train, enabling easy travel between Shanghai and Hangzhou or other cities; it definitely increases traffic to Hangzhou," says Phillip Yu, general manager of Hyatt Regency Hangzhou.
The easy link between Hangzhou and other cities does not only bring about new business opportunities, but also fiercer competition.
"Now we are competing not only with hotels in Hangzhou, but also those in Shanghai, Suzhou, and even cities further away like Qingdao in Shandong Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province," says Yu.
Hangzhou, however, is ready for such competition. The city has been preparing itself as a competitive destination in the MICE market for over a decade.
In 2000, Hangzhou government was wise enough to revive the West Lake Expo, an event which was originally held, and then halted, in 1929. After taking this step, Hangzhou has initiated its own way of energizing the convention and exhibition industry.
With the revival of the West Lake Expo, the Hangzhou government aims to develop the local MICE industry, lure investment and host a tourism event for visitors from home and abroad. The government has since implemented a series of supporting policies and set aside 5 million yuan (US$780,000) every year to boost the industry. After over a decade of hard work, the city is approaching the targets.
Economic potential
From 2007, more than 20 percent of all West Lake Expo projects are hosted by foreign exhibitors with projects involving international participation surpassing 30 percent. In 2008, the West Lake Expo was recognized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade as an international event.
Located at the southern tip of the Yangtze River Delta, Hangzhou is on the frontline of China's economic growth. As the capital of Zhejiang Province, which is famous for its vibrant private sector, Hangzhou has huge economic potential with key industries like services, IT, logistics, pharmaceuticals and leisure developing quickly.
Newly developed industries in Hangzhou have been provided a perfect platform to attract attention through these conferences and exhibitions. Events like Exposition of Cultural and Creative Industry and E-sports Festival have showcased the development of Hangzhou's emerging creative industry. Jointly hosted by the municipal government and the local e-commerce company Alibaba, events like Taobao Carnival, Online Advertising Convention and the Information Technology Exposition have helped to upgrade the city's IT and e-commerce industries. National Pharmacy Expo pronounced Hangzhou as the new center of the country's pharmaceutical industry.
"The expositions, based on Hangzhou's vibrant economy, are closely related to the city's strategic industries," says Ye Min, director of Organizing Committee of the Hangzhou West Lake International Expo.
Thanks to continuous efforts during the West Lake Expos, the city has developed a MICE industry of noticeable scale. In May, the city officially set up its own MICE Tourism Association in a bid to provide one-stop service for MICE tourists. Members of the association include luxury hotels, exhibition halls, convention centers, travel agencies, airlines and scenic attractions.
Hangzhou government has also implemented a series of incentive policies for the association to better develop theMICE industry.


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