Capital to experience a magical moment
The China International Convention Centre (CNCC) at the Olympic Green will bring a new element to the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (Mice) scene in Beijing. There will also be a touch of magic for its first event in July.
Although the venue is not due to officially open until November, following delays to reconstruction of the facility that was formerly the Olympic Broadcast Centre, the show must go on for the pre-booked International Federation of Magic Societies World Championships of Magic 2009.
Tony Xu Feng, CNCC's business development manager, said the venue would be ideal for the event, which would be attended by 2,000 magicians from around the world.
'We officially open later in the year but we were committed to this major event,' Mr Xu said. 'The [organiser] had planned to do it in the Beijing Grand Theatre, but that would have to have been redesigned. The show needs four metres of space under the stage.'
The CNCC cost 5 billion yuan (HK$5.68 billion) to build and is in the vicinity of the Bird's Nest National Stadium, the venue for the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. Also in the area are the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube. Behind it is the National Indoor Stadium, which hosted gymnastics events during last year's Games.
The CNCC complex consists of the main convention centre, two hotels, office buildings and a commercial area. Access to the venue is convenient with an underground railway entrance connection in the basement. The main convention building covers 270,000 square metres, the biggest in China. There is a 2,000-seat theatre, grand banquet hall accommodating 3,500 people and an exhibition hall covering 24,000 square metres. There are 80 breakout function rooms for exhibitions, conferences, lectures, banquets or performances. The latest synchronised interpretation and live voting systems are among the array of international-standard facilities.
Mr Xu said: 'We have targeted three categories - intercontinental forums, such as the China-Africa summit, association meetings, such as the World Cancer Congress, and corporate meetings. We are already looking at bookings for three years ahead. It is a huge facility perfect for new markets, such as the World Championships of Magic, and large-scale banquets. It is the only purpose-built congress centre in China and we have no existing competitors on this scale. We can provide whatever is needed. It will be the premier venue on the mainland. Our nearest competitors are in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore.'
Mr Xu, one of 50 members of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives (Site) China, believes the venue will be a launch pad for the capital to break into the world-standard league of Mice destinations, although he admitted there was still much work to be done to achieve that status.
'The CNCC will be a pioneer venue in attracting more international conferences. But Beijing lacks the governmental support that overseas cities receive. The municipal government plans to invest in the Mice sector, and the Beijing Tourist Administration (BTA) is already committed, but now there is no national convention and visitors bureau [CVB]. We need this for the further development of purpose built facilities, the training of certified staff and increased regional co-operation.'
In addition to marketing, a national CVB will work on a sustainable development plan for the country by offering support, education, technical assistance and conducting research and analysis.
The Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau is a good regional example, and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau helped boost Bangkok in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) rankings.
'The Olympics were a huge boost for Beijing as a meetings destination, but the prime destinations are still in Europe and America,' Mr Xu said. 'More international associations will host meetings here now that the Professional Conference Organisers Association [IAPCO] is represented in Beijing. Their presence has a big influence.'
IAPCO has 100 members worldwide and is committed to raising standards of service among members and other sectors of the meetings industry through continuing education and interaction with other professionals.
Industry professionals in Beijing said education was the key to development, and they were working more closely together. The BTA has invested 3.4 million yuan to help Site China members apply for international conferences and run training programmes this year.
China International Travel Service, the country's largest travel agency, said bringing professionals together to share ideas and trends benefited the Mice industry as a whole.
Alicia Yau Hong, the company's director of sales, meeting and incentive division and vice-chair of Site China, said: 'We are still in the infancy stage with the Mice industry in Beijing. We are learning from other countries. We meet Site members around the world at their events and learn. We know we have a lot to learn. Other chapters around the world have had 20 to 30 years' experience. They are talking about marketing and creativity, but we are still at the level of talking about training. This is the difference for the industry in Beijing. With government support and BTA determination, and with more effort, we hope we can catch up to the international level within a few a years.'
Site China is working closely with Meeting Professionals International, the ICCA and IAPCO to get more corporate incentive events in Beijing. It feels optimistic that there will be growth despite the economic situation. 'Until now there have been few pure incentives meetings in China,' Ms Yau said. 'Mostly it's been internal meetings, conferences or forums. The Golden Bric - Brazil, Russia, India and China - makes us optimistic. Naturally, Mice business will go down a bit. Internal company meetings may change to conference calls to save budget, but many markets will invest more to raise the return.'
Ms Yau said the mainland was no longer a cheap destination for Mice customers from Japan, the United States and Europe due to the strong yuan. Mice professionals should research the market carefully, develop more new products, improve service quality and develop e-commerce. And more effort should be put in the design of events to make them more interesting.
Site wants its members to learn more at conferences overseas. Ms Yau said: ' We want our members to create more business through networking. Once we clinch this new business we want to retain it through quality meetings and incentives events.'