With new hotels, an ultramodern infrastructure, affordable prices - and the most stunning collection of historical sites of any Asian capital city - Beijing seems a no-brainer for Mice planners seeking a destination that has ancient culture and modern comforts. But the window of opportunity is somewhat limited, given the brutal northern winters that make December, January or February visits to China's capital less than appealing. The southern port city of Shanghai, although lacking an ancient China portfolio, does have a mild climate year round and a compact layout that makes visiting its limited attractions easy and convenient. Both cities are blessed with some of the world's newest and most stunning hotels and conference facilities, partly as a result of staging major events. In Beijing's case, it was the biggest of them all - the seamlessly-organised 2008 Olympic Games - while Shanghai snagged the World Expo. Although the two most important cities on the mainland will always be the focus for major Mice events, other, secondary cities are attempting to lure away business. The port of Tianjin, now just 30 minutes from Beijing thanks to a high-speed rail link, recently saw the opening of the five-star Raffles hotel. 'The city is swamped with special events,' says general manager Gilbert Madhavan. This month, we'll have the Summer Davos, and then late September to early October, there is a conference about climate change. Most of our business comes from within China - Beijing and Shanghai are two of our largest feeder cities. Tianjin is not a famous Mice destination, it's always been overshadowed by Beijing. However, it is worth consideration. It's a modern city, yet it's full of culture and heritage.' In Beijing, Mice business is on the up. David Wilson, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, expects the Mice traffic to expand by 15 to 20 per cent next year, particularly with smaller-scale, niche events. Recently, the hotel was involved in staging functions for Mont Blanc, iPhone and Cartier. 'As a Chinese cultural icon, Beijing continues to attract Mice events,' he says. 'The new infrastructure after the Olympics has helped boost more interest. The city also has diversity, as well as the cultural aspects, it has entertainment and unique venues. 'Popular Mice itineraries include a gala dinner at an ancestral temple that is part of the Forbidden City; lunch or dinner by the Great Wall; cocktails or breakfast by the Tiananmen gate; bicycle tours and events at the Today Art Museum, or in the 798 Art District.' Art is the theme at the Opposite House, the city's trendiest hotel, owned and operated by the Swire group, a factor that helps bring in culturally oriented meetings and incentive groups. But even specialist groups tend to include the big-ticket cultural attractions, such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Great Wall, in their itineraries. Out at the Great Wall itself, now a mere 90-minute drive from downtown, along new highways, long-term American resident Jim Spear recently opened the Brickyard Inn and Retreat Centre, located at the Mutianyu section of China's most iconic structure. 'We get incentive business both directly from companies and from specialist tour operators and destination management companies,' Spear says. 'Our business is mainly international.' Major international hotels, such as the Westin Beijing Financial Street, report that a further surge in Mice revenue is expected next year. In addition to organising Mice events, the Westin will stage its own culinary extravaganza, Hats Off, in November, featuring Michelin-level chefs from around the world. 'Meeting planners are spoilt for choice in Beijing,' says general manager Charlie Dang (right). 'It's a great tour destination, culturally diverse, with many attractions to visit, and with a rich history. There are a multitude of Mice group activities. It is also politically stable, with a thriving economy and is very safe. Beijing has great airport facilities and infrastructure, all modern conveniences and technology is available. And the people are friendly and helpful.' In Shanghai, the World Expo put the city in the spotlight - not always for the right reasons, as the international media highlighted the long queues, rude staff and poor organisation skills. But on balance, it was viewed as a major plus for hotels and Mice organisers. 'It was a big boon to Shanghai when China invested in extensive promotion of the event at least 24 months prior to the opening date of the World Expo,' says Gottfried Bogensperger, general manager of the Hyatt on the Bund.