5 minutes on the Chinese MICE market

Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director (Asia Pacific) at ICCA, gives a snapshot of the MICE sector in China ahead of his session at IBTM China this week.

What has been the biggest trend you have seen in business events in China and the surrounding regions this year? From ICCA’s perspective and based on our latest global statistical report for 2018, China has solidified its position as one of the top ten destinations in the world by hosting 449 international association meetings which meet the ICCA criteria. Even though China remains at number 8 in our world ranking, the number of meetings hosted has increased from 376 in 2017 to 449 in 2018.

Beijing and Shanghai are still the top two cities in China for hosting international association meetings. However, other cities are also achieving business from associations, cities such as Hangzhou, Xi’an, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Wuhan, Qingdao and Shenzhen have all performed well in 2018.

From a regional perspective, the Asia Pacific market share for hosting international association meetings reached another milestone in 2018 with 2,938 meetings – 11.2 per cent from the global market share. The region has managed to attract more meetings compared to the previous year with a steady growth over the last decade. All in all, the for China and Asia Pacific there has been steady growth in the association space.

How does the MICE market in China and the surrounding regions differ from the rest of the world? Chinese associations operate under an “umbrella” concept that has worked well in ensuring economic stability. An umbrella association such as the Chinese Medical Association (CMA) is one of the most well-known and well-established governing bodies in China and establishes hundreds of societies in the medical industry. Despite the US-China trade war, strong fundamentals have allowed national Chinese associations to undertake more activities for their members including more research projects, training and education programmes and to bring more international conferences to China. In addition, the advancement of technology in China, especially in 5G and fintech, has changed the way both the consumer and trade industries work.

What do you think will be the biggest growth area for the MICE market in China and surrounding regions? One of the biggest areas for growth potential in China will be the ability to develop new venues for MICE consumption. China presents enormous opportunities, and the considerable increase in construction of new exhibition and convention venues is not only taking place in main cities but also across the country. There has been expansion in the hotel industry and reports indicate that by 2023, China’s hotel industry will be a $100 billion industry with 6.3 million rooms. From the association perspective, not only China but the Asia Pacific region has increased its market share. The top destinations are Japan (#7 in the world), China (#8), Republic of Korea (#12), Australia (#13) and Thailand (#21).

China has the largest ICCA membership, with a 300 per cent membership growth. Why do you think this is and how fundamental has this been to venues in the region? Twenty years ago, China had less than five members and they were based only in Beijing and Shanghai. Now, China has the fastest growing ICCA membership in the world, with over 80 members across the whole country. This has been brought about by the exemplary support and success shown by current members winning international meetings. China also has the support of provincial and city governments who understand the importance in promoting the association market.

What would you consider the main challenge for business events in China and surrounding regions? Even though the MICE market is a fast-growing sector, it’s not as attractive and lucrative as other sectors such as IT, telecommunications and infrastructure. Therefore, one of the main challenges that we see in the MICE industry is attracting and retaining qualified and professional staff.