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UK conference, events sector sets its sights on Chinese buyers

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-04 11:23
Illuminated Big Ben at dusk in London, UK. [Photo/VCG]

More than 600 one-on-one business meetings were generated during VisitBritain's latest effort to promote the United Kingdom as a business events destination among Chinese buyers.

The UK's national tourism authority's inaugural "MeetGB China" event, which marketed the UK as an attractive destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions - known collectively as MICE - brought 27 British suppliers and 25 Chinese industry buyers together in Edinburgh on Friday.

The Chinese buyers were also able to take part in educational visits in the UK, in locations including Edinburgh, York, Cardiff, London, Belfast and Manchester, and to experience venues, food, hotels and attractions.

Michael Ellis, the UK's tourism minister, said: "Our culture, scenery and history are among the many reasons Chinese visitors are coming to the UK in record numbers. We are also home to world-class incentive travel experiences and events infrastructure, and we are committed to expanding this important economic market."

Ellis said events such as MeetGB China help promote "the first-class service we provide to Chinese business visitors to help attract more international incentive groups and conferences to the UK".

China moved into the UK's top 10 most valuable inbound visitor markets last year, with visits reaching a record-breaking 337,000, up 29 percent over 2016, and spending up 35 percent to a record 694 million pounds ($907 million).

The event concluded with a Scottish evening at The Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh with traditional dancing and an "Address to a Haggis" conducted in Chinese - a reading of Robert Burns' similarly titled poem preceding a feast featuring the Scottish delicacy.

Melissa Raffaelli, the hotel's director of sales, said: "The Chinese market is of great importance to The Balmoral, and we have launched a series of initiatives aimed at welcoming Chinese guests to ensure they feel at home in the hotel."

Speaking at the evening reception, Wang Zhen, general manager of the Beijing Tourism Group's MICE division, said: "MeetGB China gave us a deep understanding of the UK's MICE resources in a limited amount of time.

"Although we know a lot about the UK's major cities, through MeetGB China we were able to learn about what the UK has to offer as a MICE destination. We found it offers a perfect combination of the traditional cultural facilities and modern infrastructure," Wang said.

He said he is willing to recommend the UK tourism industry, its culture and strong MICE resources to customers.

Another British supplier, Stephanie Newton, head of business tourism at Marketing Manchester, said the event was a productive way to engage with prestigious Chinese conference buyers, promoting the unique value of the region.

"We look forward to working closely with this market and welcoming plenty more Chinese MICE visitors to Manchester and the North of England in the future," she said.

According to VisitBritain's latest China MICE Market Study report, 61,000 business visits were made to the UK from China last year, accounting for 18 percent of all visits and a 31 percent increase over 2016. Business visitors spent 117 million pounds. About 1 in 5 business visits from China to the UK were MICE-related.

The report suggests access to more flight routes between the UK and China has contributed to the increase. Chinese travelers can now fly direct to the UK from 11 airports, with new options from Changsha, Sanya, Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Xi'an. The new route from Beijing to Edinburgh with Hainan Airlines means there are now links from China into three UK cities - Edinburgh, London and Manchester.

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