China News Updates

What we learnt at IBTM China

Mixed reactions to a smaller show, but quality of local buyers improves.

With an attendance of almost 4,000 event professionals, IBTM China 2019 presented a successful two days of meetings, networking and education sessions.

Taking place at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) in Beijing from 28 – 29 August, the show received support from the Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau in connecting buyers with the growing regional market.

“We are incredibly proud to create this event that’s developed over the last 14 years,” IBTM portfolio director, Shane Hannam, said at the opening address.

“China is a dynamic and exciting place to do business, and we are committed to giving you, our customers, an environment in which you can do great business.” 

Here’s our take on this year’s show:

Mixed reception to new products on the show floor

Three new initiatives were launched at IBTM China this year. Following IBTM World 2018, the Technology Zone showcased event tech tools from the likes of Fielddrive and Info Salons.

A Happy Hour segment with Peking Opera and wine was also introduced, but it was the Business Travel Digital Innovation Summit that generated the best response.

More than 100 business travel leaders took part in this in-depth exchange to determine best practice for business travel managers.

IBTM China event manager Nicole Ci, said: “Our first ever Business Travel Digital Innovation Summit was extremely well received, and it was fantastic to feel the buzz on the show floor throughout the event.”

China advances in the association market?

In a dedicated session, ICCA Asia Pacific regional director, Noor Ahmad Hamid, outlined the rapid rise of China and its appeal as a destination for international association meetings – with tier-two cities such as Hangzhou, Xi An and Guangzhou seeing increased interest.

However, when it comes to the development of Chinese associations, more needs to be done to ensure the ‘professionalisation’ of domestic associations.

Maria Tong, director of association management and consulting at MCI China, said more than 870,000 social organisations are decoupling from the Chinese government, and stressed that local associations must take management cues from their international counterparts if they want to remain viable.

Similarly, Alicia Yao, managing director of IME Consulting stated that 70 per cent of these societies are looking to rebrand themselves but lack the knowledge and skills to do so successfully (and to live up to international standards).

“There are three issues,” explained Wang Qingdao, vice president of China Convention & Exhibition Society (CCES). “Firstly, the lack of one national bureau or a MICE bureau makes our marketing very scattered. Secondly, local associations are still a little apathetic in reaching out to international partners. And lastly, the disconnect between different cities and their policies make for an uneven business events experience.”

Quality over quantity

A number of exhibitors noticed the size of this year’s show was smaller than previous years, but acknowledged they continue to see a healthy appointment list from companies including BMW, Daimler, Danone, HSBC, Geely, Johnson & Johnson, and Boehringer-Ingelheim.

Lisa Zhao, sales director of Hiwing Air Travel, representing South African Airways, said: “The show has been this small for a couple of years but I still receive a fair amount of meetings, mostly from travel agencies. I will continue to have a booth under the South Africa pavilion.”

First-time exhibitor Jeremy Jiang, vice manager at Macau China International Convention & Exhibition Group Limited, admitted that he thought “the show would be bigger” and that he would meet more international delegates, but was satisfied with his meetings with local partners.

Another first-timer, Luisa Finiasi, events manager for Tourism Fiji, said: “I have seen great interest and had many meetings from local buyers – mostly for incentive and meetings. They love our exotic offerings and visa-free status!”

Buyers were equally satisfied.

From Hong Kong, George Kai, deputy general manager at CTSHK Metropole International Travel Services said: “I always come to IBTM China because it gives me a good opportunity to see new destinations, or new products in old ones. There’s also opportunities to network and meet new partners to work with.”

IBTM China reported that 84 per cent of hosted buyers fulfilled a full diary of appointments.

Security (still) a rising concern

As global tensions continue to rise, event security was a common cause for discussion at the show – especially for the Sri Lanka Convention bureau.

Following the devastating Easter bombings earlier this year, convention bureau chairman, Kumar De Silva, says thanks to the efficiency of local investigators and police, the country has made a quick recovery.

“All travel advisories have long since been lifted,” he said. “One or two events got postponed because they were close to the incident, but since July there hasn’t been any cancellations whatsoever. In fact, there’s a huge convention for the Bohra community this month – 25,000 delegates are coming.”

He added: “Our appointment schedule [at IBTM China] have been full so far. “China is our second largest market and, as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative, we have enjoyed plenty of interest.”

During a knowledge session on security, Steff Berger, managing director of conference consultancy VOBE based in Berlin, said event planners could do more to mitigate terror attacks.

When asked about event safety in China, Berger, who’s also a crisis manager, said: “As with many other countries, there are weak points when you look at the entire planning of the event – which I will not detail for security reasons – but there are many opportunities to make events even safer.”