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Hotels expect bright future

DESPITE increasing competition from the growing number of new hotels opening in Shanghai, several local hoteliers are bullish about the future of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) business after a bumper 2010 on the back of the World Expo.

MICE business is a crucial component of the overall business of a hotel, with fierce competition to host major events coming to Shanghai.

Both well established icons like the Pudong Shangri-La Shanghai and new stars like the InterContinental Shanghai Expo and Shanghai Marriott Hotel Changfeng Park say they have gained a boost from Expo 2010 and are predicting MICE business will grow strongly in the next few years.

InterContinental Shanghai Expo General Manager Michel Koopman says the hotel - the only international luxury hotel located next to the Expo site - has received strong MICE business since it opened its doors in April this year.

MICE business has come from both government and companies which are doing business in and around Expo, says Koopman.

The hotel has held over 500 meetings and conferences since opening and Koopman is optimistic that exposure the Expo has given the city will bode well for a long-term increase in MICE business to the city.

It specializes in medium-sized meetings and conferences and has enjoyed success by focusing on the pharmaceutical, finance, automotive and technology-related companies drawn to the high-tech facilities at the hotel.

"Shanghai is a vibrant metropolis and a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks and modern skylines," Koopman says.

"Now with another new destination, the World Expo site, it will attract a lot of local and international travelers, who might return in the future and see the potential in Shanghai as a great place to organize their next MICE event."

While Koopman sees a bright future for Shanghai as a popular MICE destination, he says the city can further boost its profile by better targeting its efforts to attract MICE business in what is a highly competitive global market.

Pointing to MICE destinations like Melbourne in Australia, where there is a dedicated conventions bureau that works with hoteliers and major event organizers to attract MICE business to the city, Koopman says Shanghai needs to better coordinate its efforts to avoid a post-Expo slump in MICE.

The Pudong Shangri-La is another hotel in close proximity to the Expo site that is enjoying a boost in its MICE business this year.

Lulu Uy, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, also says it will be a tough year next year with supply expected to outstrip demand for hotel rooms but that Shanghai is well placed to gain MICE business in future.

The Shangri-La can cater for a range of events, but has become a specialist in large events, with the hotel boasting one of Shanghai's biggest ballrooms.

Its grand ballroom is more than 800 square meters, and its extensive food and beverage team makes it well positioned to attract big events, Uy says.

Uy says hotels have seen shorter planning times for meetings and events, with the hotel having flexibility to accommodate companies at short notice with more than 6,500 square meters of space that includes 14 meeting rooms.

Uy says the Shangri-La has a simple recipe for attracting and retaining MICE business.

"We will continue with our current strategy of focusing on providing the best service and facilities to our guests," Uy says.

The Marriott Hotel Changfeng Park expects to grow its MICE business next year, according to the hotel's Director of Marketing Mun Hee Park.

"Expo has definitely put Shanghai as a destination on the map and already MICE enquiries for next year are stronger than what they were in the past," Mun says.

The hotel is also hoping that the business generated from Expo will also provide a long-term boost to business travelers.

Adding a further boost to the MICE market is the addition of the new Expo Center - an expansive convention center that will be one of the few remaining buildings on the Expo site after the event finishes.

The center boasts 140,000 square meters of space and tourist authorities predict it will be a major drawing card for potential MICE business.

Mun says the center will provide a welcome fillip to the city's MICE market in the coming years but the increase in supply will mean hotels need to focus on providing an all round experience.

Apart from the draw card of its new state-of-the-art facilities, since the hotel opened in February it has tried to provide more activities including utilizing the adjacent lake and Changfeng Park for dragon boat racing and team building barbecues.

"Our aim is to give groups wow experiences and impress organizers so they keep coming back," she says.


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