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March 21, 2012

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Hey, Sport - Shanghai's calling

SPORTING events and their citywide celebrations are a bonanza for Shanghai, attracting droves from the sport industries, fans and businesspeople - and giving a boost for the hotel industry. Tan Weiyun reports.

Shanghai is building itself into a mecca for sports events with enormous tourism potential. As the city hurtles along in economic, financial and cultural development, the metropolis has also proved itself an international arena for hosting global sports events, ranging from the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix and the track-and-field competition Diamond League Shanghai, to the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2012 and the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The prosperity of the sporting events is giving a great boost to Shanghai's tourism industry.

"Sporting and tourism are tightly linked, making them the two sides of Shanghai's calling card," Shanghai Vice Mayor Zhao Wen told Xinhua news agency during the FINA World Championships held in Shanghai last July.

By the end of 2015, Shanghai expects to be built into an international tourism city and tourism will become one of Shanghai's supporting industries. "And hosting big sports events will certainly be the new development opportunity," she says.

Take the F1 for example. Since 2004, the race has not only attracted millions of spectators to the game but also over 6 billion viewers tune in around the world.

"F1 is just like a treasure bowl, a magnet that attracts economic profits and the world's attention to Shanghai," Zhao said.

Seeing the huge market, Shanghai is trying to mix tourism elements into the sports events to create an integrated industrial chain.

"Sports brought passion to tourism," said Cheng Meihong, deputy director of the Shanghai Tourism Administration. "In Shanghai, a sports event is more than a competition. It's a carnival, a grand gala for tourists."

The prosperity invigorates the city's hospitality industry as well. The UCI Women's Road World Cup 2011 Shanghai held in scenic Chongming Island last May brought the island visitors and business opportunities.

During the five-day bicycle tour carnival, all of the island county's hotel rooms were filled and the number of visitors doubled.

They came to Chongming not only for the world-class bike competition, but also to appreciate the county's beautiful wetlands, various bird species, folk culture and country cooking.

Since 2004, the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix has brought more to the city's hotel industry. It attracts around 200,000 spectators to the races each year.

A report conducted in 2009 by ACNielsen, a global marketing research firm, revealed that Formula One gave a huge boost to the room rate of the star hotels.

The occupancy rate was increased by 23 percent during the Grand Prix, while the figure soared by 48 percent in the hotels providing accommodation for racing teams and drivers, and 63 percent among the 13 hotels located near the Shanghai International Circuit in Jiading District.

The room rate also rose by 10 to 20 percent during the Grand Prix. According to the report, it brought about 210 million yuan sales volume during the three days.

"Even though it is hosted in Jiading, most visitors would choose to stay in town when they travel to Shanghai, since it is more convenient and the city itself is very attractive," said Gilbert Mennetret, general manager of Grand Mercure Hongqiao.

"It is not only because of the number of visitors flooding to town to see those games, but also a whole supply chain of business," Mennetret said.

"On top of that, there are the racing teams and drivers that stay near the circuit, and there are the media, the sponsors and suppliers of every team that stay downtown, which allows them more direct access to resources. Countless parties and other MICE events are also organized during the game. Just to think about all the rooms and food all these people need during their stay, it's definitely a promoter to the industry."

Grand Mercure Hongqiao is one of the closest city hotels to the F1 circuit, which became a strong choice for many suppliers and sponsors of the game. "To us, this amount of business is a windfall bonus. We also have the opportunity to up-sell our other facilities and services, such as the SPA, gym, and food and wine to these guests," Mennetret said.

All of the hotel rooms are equipped with kitchenette and laundry machines, among their unique attractions setting them apart from other hotels.

"It is very well received by the athletes we hosted," the manager said. "We have also invested in a Keycard Control System to all our elevators so that privacy and security are taken care of. If their schedule allows, a muscle soothing relaxation treatment at our SPA would be ideal for their long-haul trip as well."

Benoit Amado, general manger of Pullman Shanghai Skyway, notes that the hospitality industry benefits significantly from world-class events.

"It is a so-called 'eyes economic phenomena.' I've found Shanghai people are becoming increasingly fond of watching sports competitions in recent years," Amado said.

"These sports events are good for hotel image recognized via marketing exposure from home and abroad. Meanwhile, it can help hotels increase their revenue, and to some extend, room rate as well."

During the past two years, Pullman Shanghai Skyway has accommodated many sports delegations.

It received more than 600 media people for the 14th FINA World Championships; they stayed in the hotel for a whole month.

It also played the host to athletes and coaches of the Volleyball World Championships in 2011, the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF) events in 2011, as well as the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) events, including the Volkswagen 2011 China vs World Team Challenge.

"As a designated reception hotel for World Expo in 2010 and 14th FINA World Championships in 2011, we have extensive experience in hosting these types of receptions," Amado said. "We have security X-ray check machines with support from local Pubic Security Bureau; we work with local hygiene authorities to ensure the food cleanliness and healthiness and monitor the whole process from food supply, food preparation up to food service. We served standard cooked dishes providing the nutrition requirements of all sport athletes."


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