The Chinese megacity of Shanghai once again played welcoming host to IT&CM China and CTW China from 21-23 March 2017 at the Shanghai Convention and Exhibition Centre of International Sourcing and created the ideal conditions for a multiple coming together at a blossoming event. This year for the first time both the incentive travel, conventions and meeting (IT&CM) and corporate travel (CTW) strands of the event, making their 11th and 3rd iteration respectively, were held within the same show floor area, seeding the conditions for important synergies to be made between the event and corporate travel industries and allowing for cross-fertilisation of many of the ideas emerging from the education and discussion sessions.

A further coming together at the event was in this year’s scope of coverage: from Buenos Aires to Barcelona and Scotland to Seoul, 2017 truly drew a global audience to China’s leading MICE and corporate travel double bill and brought delegates together from all corners of the planet.

“The exuberance of the Chinese MICE market and solid decade-long event record continue to pull in a stunning array of local and international exhibitors,” exclaimed Darren Ng, Managing Director of TTG Asia Media. “The year 2017 marks the 11th installment of IT&CM China, bigger and better after a remarkable 10th anniversary, and for the first time, our show floor is represented by destinations and companies from all continents across the world. Our 80% Chinese and 20% international buyer mix maintains with an overall increase in participation this year, and requests for branded networking functions have more than doubled.”

A quick glance at the branded networking functions offered an instant insight into the event’s coverage: Tourism Fiji, Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, South Africa National Convention Bureau and the Fukuoka CVB were all inviting buyers to evening dinner events to showcase the best of their destinations (and their cuisine), whilst across in the sister corporate event of CTW the leading airlines of Air China, United Airlines and Qatar Airways were all using the lunch time slot to make a similar impact, all of these functions highlighting a truly globalising and expanding show.

“When we first launched the show, China was a new, uncharted market for incentive travel, conventions and meetings, but over the course of ten years it has emerged as one of the world’s highest spenders for MICE activities,” said Jason Ng, Executive Director of MP International Pte Ltd. “According to a study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association, MICE activities worth 110 billion dollars made up 42% of China’s total domestic business travel spending. MICE activities comprise at least 45% of total international business travel spending – this is a far cry from a decade ago when MICE was a relatively new concept for most in the local market.”

With an understanding of the potential to be tapped in the Chinese market and from the 600 Chinese and international MICE, association and corporate buyers attending this year’s show, an uplift of about 20% on 2016, a number of European destinations were there to tempt some of the Chinese outbound. Monaco, Barcelona/Vienna and VisitScotland were all there to make their cases as strong destinations with excellent infrastructure for hosting business events, not to mention Turkey in offering a pre-show city tour of Istanbul sponsored by Turkish Airlines, with exhibitors from elsewhere across the globe also staking their own similar claims for a slice of the Chinese market.

Crafting the conditions in which the Chinese market can exhibit its top destinations to the world and the world can share some of their highlights with the Chinese market is a show that strengthens year on year, backed up by its statistics: up to 100% of the buyer-seller appointments between the near 600 buyers and the more than 700 exhibitors from almost 300 exhibiting companies and organisations could be pre-scheduled through PSA and the online diary, generating more than 14,000 business appointments in an environment rich in MICE professionals, with more than 3,000 in attendance from sectors including DMCs, PCOs corporate travel and associations, altogether a recipe for certain business success.

A further aspect of the show that is raising its status on an annual basis is the weighting it gives to its three core strands of networking, education and event highlights, with this year’s education focussed around ‘The Future of MICE in China’ and covering some fascinating and relevant topic sessions.

“Education is part of the 3-pronged approach that makes our show a success,” said Darren Ng. “Our commitment to knowledge-building and developing thought leadership in our participants means that our conference development team is focused on delivering the most relevant topics and deliberative sessions to learn, grow and be able to bring back skill sets that can benefit a delegate’s organisation, association or event programme.”

Amongst this year’s smorgasbord of sessions was an excellent keynote session with profile speakers from across China and other highlights ranging from maximising digital communications to brainstorming issues when considering building a new convention centre. Of particular interest was the presence of second tier Chinese cities little known in Europe or the English-speaking world, particularly those such as Xiamen and Ningbo that offer incredible infrastructure and fantastic value for money and that will steadily increase in attracting inbound events in China, as well as domestically of course, but are also displacing trips previously made to Europe.

 “Their appeal lies in local attractions, authentic culture and food, and interaction with locals through cooking classes, cycling tours and old town walks,” noted Desmond Lee, Group Managing Director at Apple Vacations and Conventions in Malaysia, also pointing out the 15-20% lower costs of such destinations.

Whilst secondary and tertiary Chinese cities often dwarf the main cities of Europe in terms of size and infrastructure, they offer pointers as to how smaller destinations in Europe and elsewhere can profile themselves to maximise their attractiveness and increase their standing as quality MICE destinations, especially in terms of how they promote themselves and put the right amount and type of people behind convention sales and the organisation of bids. Xiamen and Ningbo are two good examples of this, but there are many others in China too.

With IT&CM China growing like the eager teenager that the event is becoming, Kongres eagerly awaits the 2018 iteration for the latest news on China’s top destinations, but more importantly looks forward to encountering many more of the country’s lower order and emerging destinations, and to once again experiencing the world descend upon Shanghai for what is unquestionably China’s premier MICE and corporate travel double bill event.

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