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September 14, 2009

BIG IN BEIJING:Inside the largest international and regional meetings event in China

Having skipped a year due to the Beijing Olympics, would CIBTM prove that China was really ready for a major meetings and events industry exhibition by proving itself to be bigger and better than in 2007. Ian Whiteling finds out…

There is no doubt about the growing influence of the emerging economies on the global meetings and events industry, or the huge business potential they offer. This was the driving force behind Reed Travel Exhibition's launch of an event dedicated to the Chinese incentive travel and meetings market, CIBTM.

At the time, this foward-looking and bold move was viewed with a certain amount of scepticism, most of which was focused around whether Reed had launched the show too early. This was further fuelled by the cancellation of last year's event.

Although Reed gave plenty of advanced warning that the show wouldn't take place in 2008, along with a logical explanation relating to the disruptive effects of holding CIBTM in the same year as China hosted the Olympic Games, some remained sceptical.

Would there really be a CIBTM in 2009?

Would it be more or less successful than the 2007 event?

Delivering success
Well, the last few months have seen Reed answer such questions very forcefully indeed. CIBTM 2009 opened in one of Beijing’s newest exhibition venues on 8 September and was 35% larger than in 2007.

As one of the first events at the CNCC (China National Convention Centre), participants were in the heart of the Olympic Green and alongside the Bird’s Nest – a venue made famous around the world during the 2008 Olympics, thus capitalising on the success of the Games.

Highlights from the show included an announcement by organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) to launch a new initiative for 2010 with the creation of the first week dedicated to the meetings, events and incentives in China. 

Co-hosted and supported by the Beijing Tourism Administration (BTA), CIBTM will be the pivot for the week, which Reed hopes will bring support from the private sector, local and regional authorities, the industry associations and CIBTM participants.

Thirst for knowledge
“CIBTM’s aim is to be the driving force behind the growth of the meetings industry throughout China,” says CIBTM event director Graeme Barnett.

“This latest edition has shown that both exhibitors, hosted buyers and trade visitors are thirsty for knowledge of the sector and international business practices, which have resulted in a record attendance for the professional education programme. 

“By introducing a week of events surrounding CIBTM 2010 we can help China fully realise its potential to attract large scale international corporate and association events.

“We will now start to build a strategy for the creation of China Meetings Week that will focus on education and learning, knowledge sharing and best practice. As this is one of the most important markets in the world, CIBTM 2010 will lead the way in providing an insight into the needs of both inbound and outbound meetings and incentive travel business.”

Education programme
Chris Lynn, sales and marketing director long haul for Visit London, and exhibitor at CIBTM, confirms the need for education, and says: “This market is a huge education process, which we are wholeheartedly happy to support.”

This year’s Education programme reflected the needs of both inbound and outbound buyers and suppliers, and included presentations on The Changing Tastes of Chinese Corporate Buyers.

David Zhong of MICE China detailed how a new trend has emerged with corporate buyers now prepared to take the advice of international third parties about destinations, while also participating in overseas fam trips – something that didn’t happen a few years ago when all recommendations were taken only from local travel agencies.

He also detailed how buyers are now “smarter, more realistic and focused on ROI”, while stability of a country and security are also high on the agenda for corporates when choosing a location.

Choosing destinations
Vivian Wang, director of procurement at Lenovo, one of China’s biggest PC companies, also spoke on how she selects a destination for her meetings and incentives.

Lenovo has spent more than $3.5 million on overseas meetings since 2007 and Wang said that the most popular destinations are now Europe, Japan and South Korea for their meetings and incentive programmes. “Europe is most important to Chinese people; they like it the best,” she said.

“The process of destination selection covers a number of priorities including the resources provided by the tourist board, the safety of the destination, comfort levels, the importance of the seasons and what cultural experiences they offer. Flights must be flexible and the conference facilities must be good. Finally, financial support from local tourism boards is important to ensure the budget is met.”

Swept off its feet
Other sessions included The Perception of Chinese in the World and the Perception of the World by the Chinese, by Professor Zhang Guanrui, the director of Tourism Research Centre of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

He talked about how 80% of Chinese see China still as a developing country, and how other countries are simply sweeping China off its feet. At the same time, more and more Chinese people are traveling, only to find that the outside world is not as good as they thought, and that not all foreigners are as China friendly as they expected.

All of the sessions are available to download at www.cibtm.com.

Meetings in China
During the CIBTM opening press conference, Li Xuemin, vice director of the Beijing Tourism Administration, outlined the progress of the development of the conference and meetings infrastructure in the City.

She pointed out that since 2007, the number of venues in Beijing has reached 4,425, with 10 exhibition halls and more than 134,000 hotel rooms in the City of which 836 are star-rated. Beijing attracts approximately 2,000 domestic and international meetings annually of which 140 are considered large events.

CIBTM 2009 attracted more than 321 exhibiting companies, and is expected to confirm 280 hosted buyers and over 3,500 trade visitors, once the figures are officially independently audited in the coming weeks.

Overall feedback from exhibitors and visitors has been positive, with comments from Colleen Jiang, Shun Tak Hospitality Services and a participant on the Macau Tourism Board stand (this year’s biggest exhibitor), being typical.

“CIBTM has been a good show,” she says. “We have had many new leads and potential business from both China and overseas visitors mainly focused on general incentive programmes and insurance company meetings. We have had 99% of our appointments fulfilled and the quality of the buyer was good.”  

So rather than China not being ready for an event like CIBTM, the country has embraced the show with great enthusiasm, while the global meetings and events industry has made the most of this great opportunity to engage directly with one of the most important markets on the planet.

For further information, visit www.cibtm.com

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