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March 2010Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net 19 CITY FOCUS B y the end of the Olympic year 2008, Beijing's quality hotel stock had risen to 827 hotels, including 52 five- star properties. New four- star and five- star hotels opening that year added 9,739 rooms, with 6,410 more put in the pipeline since. While Shanghai has the World Expo, 2010 brings the Asian Games to Beijing and China's first Meetings Week in September. Senior director sales and marketing at the China National Convention Centre, Beijing, Jennifer Salsbury, tells CMW how the venue is building on the Olympic legacy: " We have had a tremendous response since we opened on 21 October last year. The location on the Olympic Green is important. The venue layout enables several events to run simultaneously and, in the first two months of the centre's reopening, 107 events were staged. A further 100 were operated in the first weeks of 2010. " The main mix is 30 per cent corporate meetings, 25 per cent association or government meetings and 13 per cent exhibitions. The multi- purpose plenary hall means there is a healthy sector of business from the entertainment industry, with local TV stations broadcasting shows from here. " In June, we will have the World Congress of Cardiology ( WCC) with a minimum of 15,000 delegates, the largest scientific meeting to have ever been held in China. " We are the largest convention centre in China ( 24,000 sqm of meeting space and 36,000 sqm of exhibition halls) and the first to have purpose- built exhibition halls and conference centre under one roof. " We are working with the Beijing Tourism Administration in achieving awareness of opportunities as part of our bid proposals. " China ranked 11th in the ICCA country rankings for 2008 with 223 qualifying meetings. Over 33 per cent of these were held in Beijing, which ranked 14th in the city list. Shanghai ( 28th) hosts 25 per cent and Guangzhou is the third city with five per cent of China's international convention market. When the figures are expanded to include other types of meetings, it is estimated that around 60 per cent is held in Beijing. " Meetings business in China has reduced along with the rest of the world but, the CNCC is only seeing increasing demand." Outbound opportunity The growing China outbound meetings, conferences and incentive travel market did not exist in any significant way before 2000. MICE Chinamagazine publisher, David Zhong, says a typical group size for outbound meetings is 300 delegates, although 1,500 are not uncommon. Zhong notes that the average budget per head for an outbound Chinese meeting is now around RMB10,000 ( US$ 1,464), with the average stay for groups travelling to South East Asia being four to five days. " Given the scale of opportunity, key players in the MICE industry around Asia has taken note and are vying for a piece of the growing pie," says events consultancy BSG Asia's MD Mark Cochrane. " The prime factors affecting the choice of destination of mainland meetings groups are [ perceived] safety, cost, quality of MICE infrastructure ( hotels, venues), and ability to obtain visas." Typical safety concerns include local crimes, political stability and health concerns such as the presence of SARS or H1N1. The visa issue is also a thorny one. Many Chinese groups are interested in going to the US, for example, but difficulties often push them to select other destinations. Several countries in South East Asia have moved to capitalise on this opportunity by implementing more lax visa policies, including Thailand and the Philippines. Cochrane believes Singapore is top of the list of favourite destinations for outbound Chinese meetings due to its reputation as the safest destination in Asia and the fact a majority of locals can speak Mandarin. Macau enjoyed a surge in popularity during the recent casino- fuelled boom, but Beijing has reacted by choking off visitors from the mainland by implementing restrictive visa policies. Cochrane believes this is part of Beijing's policy " to encourage Macau to develop into more of a rounded entertainment destination". Cochrane says: " Nevertheless, the outbound meetings market in China remains nascent and this is reflected in by the fact that most large corporates do not even have a dedicated meeting manager. Typically the sales or finance manager assumes the role of meeting planner when the need arises. This also results in short planning times for many outbound groups. Less than six- month lead time is typical." DMCs and CVBs in some Asian markets are struggling to adapt to these features, but given that the phenomenal growth is expected to continue, it is likely that the most responsive providers will have the opportunity to establish a foothold in what will be the definitive meetings market in Asia. Beijing building a legacy CNCC is owned and operated by the Beijing North Star Company. The venue was the main press centre and venue for fencing and pistol shooting at the 2008 Olympics and was later retro- fitted for conventions and exhibitions. The CNCC represents an investment of RMB5.3bn ( US$ 78m) and was designed by RMJM of UK, the complex includes: ?? The CNCC Convention and Exhibition Centres ?? Two hotels ( 420- room four- star CNCC Grand Hotel and the 337 room five- star Intercontinental Hotel) ?? Direct links to the main city Metro ?? Plenary Hall seating 6,000 delegates ?? Ballroom seating 3,500 for banquets ?? 74 meeting rooms and six exhibition halls