Slow and Steady Return for Domestic Events in China

Frances Ferrante
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BEIJING — The return of domestic live and hybrid events, along with positive hotel and airline trends, point to a slow and steady recovery of the MICE sector in China.

In Beijing, three-quarters of hotels are now open and reporting increasing demand from domestic MICE events, such as Design China Beijing 2020. One of the first live shows to return, it attracted 15,000 visitors and 100 exhibitors to the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre on September 23-26.

In other good news, the number of domestic flights is close to pre-COVID levels. Some popular tourist attractions have recovered, or even, surpassed levels of incoming tourists over the same period last year, according to Jane Jie Sun, CEO of China’s online travel agency the Trip.com Group, who made the announcement at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing in early September—the first major international trade event to take place in China since the pandemic.

Cultural events are also starting back up, with the 10-day Beijing Music Festival taking place October 10-20 and the city having just held its first festival, The Strawberry Music Festival—usually held in the spring—on October 5.

Related. The 2020 Hunan Auto Show First Large-Scale Exhibition Held in China since January

The Latest from Shanghai
Meanwhile in Shanghai, live and hybrid shows have been moving forward, with a summer highlight being a hybrid version of Shanghai Fashion Week. A total of 100 runway shows took place at city landmarks including Xintiandi, One East Plaza, and Taikoo Hui. Among other industry shows, the 46th CIFF Shanghai 2020 wrapped up on September 10, combining forces with the Shanghai International Furniture Machinery & Woodworking Machinery Fair 2020 and bringing 1,000 exhibitors and 118,409 industry professionals to the Shanghai Hongqiao National Exhibition & Convention Centre. The 22nd China International Industrial Expo took place September 15-19 at the Shanghai National Convention and Exhibition Center, with 500 new technologies and products on display.

The Shanghai New International Expo Center (SNIEC), which reopened at the end of June, reported a steady schedule of events for the remainder of 2020—just 20% off in exhibitors and visitors from 2019. In late September, Tube China, a trade fair for the tube and pipe industry, attracted 221 exhibitors, while earlier this year, wire China saw 640 Chinese companies showcase a wide range of products. In combination, these two shows brought 36,552 buyers to Shanghai.

Related. Shenzhen World Back with Shenzhen International Furniture Exhibition

Looking Forward
In early September, the World Conference on Tourism Cooperation and Development met in Beijing, with the focus on boosting confidence and recovery in the tourism sector, including MICE. Secretary-General of the World Tourism Cities Federation and Director-General of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism Chen Dong pointed to the investment in the Asia-Pacific tourism sector in 2019 as having reached $120 billion and accounting for 38% of all global tourism investment. He was optimistic in his assessment that tourism will remain the most attractive sector for investment post COVID-19.

Secretary-General Chen and other tourism leaders are looking to 2021 for a continued increase in domestic live and hybrid events, followed by a return of international MICE business later in the year and into 2022.

Kris Van Goethem, Managing Director, Thomas Cook MICE China, reported that inbound MICE business is not expected to come back in the first half of 2021, “So we continue to focus on domestic MICE business with an eye on international companies based in China.” He sees planning for MICE business happening in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.

“We expect to see in 2021 a continuation of primarily online events and an increasing amount of hybrid events being launched,” predicted Pacific Asia Travel Association CEO Dr. Mario Hardy. “The physical event will merge with the virtual, and organizers will focus more on the engagement of audiences.”

Reach Kris Van Goethem at 86 21 2330 0668 or kris.vangoethem@thomascook.com.cn; Mario Hardy at 66 (0)2 658-2000 or mario@pata.org.