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May 15, 2017

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Technology delivers for MICE

HANGZHOU’S West Lake received over 1.8 million visitors during the three-day Labor Day holiday, so much so that locals joked that the famous Broken Bridge in the lake would collapse under the weight of the visitors.

Of course, the bridge is called “broken” because of historical reasons. But despite its name it has stood firm down the ages. A record of 300,000 people in one day still stands today!

It is impossible for those who travel during public holidays to avoid the big crowds in China, a country of 1.3 billion people.

But technology is expected to help solve the conundrum, according to Hangzhou Tourism Commission.

The commission’s Hangzhou Tourism Economy Laboratory has developed a series of information systems that monitor the city’s tourism data.

One practical application is a WeChat account (hzsjxx) that shows real-time data of visitors at top scenic sites in Hangzhou. Checking on that site, tourists can avoid crowds.

Zhou Wei, an official at the laboratory, demonstrated its use to Shanghai Daily.

He opened the account, clicked “travel-i robot” and asked: “Is the Music Fountain crowded now?”

Colorful curves appeared on his mobile screen.

“Tourists can check and compare the peak curve of visitors today and of last week,” said Zhou. “They will find all the curves peaked at 7pm or 8pm. Accordingly, they can adjust their plans to visit the spot, maybe at 6pm.”

The account is just one of the local administration’s efforts in developing MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industry.

Since last year, big data and cloud computing have become the new weapon of the city’s tourism promotion.

At the laboratory, the Hangzhou Tourism Dynamic Monitoring System records real-time data of tourists, the service industry and tourism business.

Travelers’ sources, ticket sales, traffic information and consuming behaviors are all analyzed.

The data are collected from travel websites, search engines, online travel agencies, as well as from local traffic, meteorological, environmental protection authorities.

“Big data makes us prepare better,” said Zhou. For example, after it was discovered that more South Koreans were visiting Hangzhou this season, the commission immediately printed Hangzhou travel manuals in Korean language.

Data from the monitoring system showed that during the school summer holiday last year, Hangzhou received a sizeable number of visitors from the underdeveloped regions of China.

The commission acted on the data and put out advertisements this year, targeting that market for the coming holidays.

In the future, the government-run system will be made available to the public for free so that they can benefit from cloud computing. “For example, hoteliers will be able to see all the hotels’ room rates in the city and adjust their own,” said Zhou.

Hangzhou has been focusing on developing the innovative industry for almost a decade. That is understandable because the city is known for its scenery, has abundance of hotels, and is near the country’s economic hub, Shanghai.

Last year’s G20 Summit was a nice demonstration of the city, and consolidated its ambition of becoming the nation’s MICE capital.

Excellent tourist attractions and a good infrastructure ensured a successful G20 Summit. The city now tops event planners choice for various international summits, seminars, meetings and forums.

Earlier this month, the city government invited a group of leading names to experience the upgraded hotels, exhibition halls, infrastructure and transportation. The aim was to promote Hangzhou’s MICE industry among the industry leaders.

The G20 Summit helped spread Hangzhou’s image around the world. The government, encouraged by the result, has accelerated plans to further develop the MICE industry.

The Hangzhou International Expo Center, which was built for the summit, has become the city’s new name card.

For a long time, the city lacked large exhibition halls to host high-end activities. That has changed now. By the end of February, more than 20 organizations signed contracts with the center. About 10 percent of them are international conferences.

In the next three years, more than 130 international meetings and competitions would be held in Hangzhou. The 2017 National University Games and the 2022 Asian Games will give a higher profile to the MICE industry.

Xiaoshan District, which will house the Hangzhou Olympic Center, used to be a suburban industrial area. Today, it is the new tourist destination with the area’s popular destination, Xiang Lake, surrounded by parks, resorts, hotels, aquarium and even office buildings. The district government plans to promote it as the “meeting room” in southeastern China.

Last November, Hangzhou launched its MICE destination brand, Summit Hangzhou, with the slogan “Inspiring new connections.”

It has four main aspects: avant-garde horizon, top quality, extreme experience, and fruitful results.

The avant-garde horizon refers to high-tech exhibitions and conventions. Top quality means high-end Hangzhou International Convention Center, star hotels and services. Extreme experience comes from Hangzhou’s “paradise-like” scenery and tailor-made service.

MICE industry is considered the high-end part of the tourism industry. Though Hangzhou boasts an array of tourist attractions, only a few MICE products in the past were able to meet the market demand.

The government has created new tourism routes, as well as new theme packages based on tea, silk, Buddhism, Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and modern-day G20 Summit.

Today, Hangzhou is listed as the third best conference and exhibition city on the Chinese mainland after Beijing and Shanghai, according to the International Congress and Convention Association.


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