Yunnan catches up
A successful tourism development plan and experience from hosting CITM have placed Yunnan on the map of quality MICE cities, writes Manuela Zoninsein
Yunnan Stone Forest
After welcoming 2.3 million overseas tourists in 2010, a result of its 11th Five-Year Tourism Development Plan, the Yunnan Provincial Tourism Bureau has set itself a new challenge. It aims to draw 4.3 million overseas arrivals under the 12th Five-Year Tourism Development Plan, which kicked off this year.
The province, recognised for its beautiful natural landscape, biodiversity and culture, has drawn mostly leisure travellers, observed Luo Haoshuo, China International Travel Service (CITS) manager for European and American overseas markets. â€śHowever, growth now lies in MICE,â€ť he said.
|â€śKunming has been playing host to CITM for many years now. This has certainly helped to develop Kunmingâ€™s capabilities as a MICE destination.â€ť
Senior account manager
Pacific World, Shanghai
Violet Wang, senior account manager of Pacific World Shanghai, agreed. She said: â€śKunming (the capital city of Yunnan province) has been playing host to China International Travel Mart (CITM) for many years now. This has certainly helped to develop the cityâ€™s capabilities as a convention and exhibition destination.â€ť
To support the cityâ€™s growing convention and exhibition demand, the Kunming International Convention & Exhibition Centre underwent renovations in 2010. It welcomed CITM 2011 with new facilities. Eight function halls and public dining areas were refreshed; a ballroom that can accommodate 700 guests was built; and security features at the venue were enhanced.
Kunmingâ€™s stronger convention and exhibition appeal is reflected in its calendar of events in 2012. It will host the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Expo in April, Water Saving Expo in May, South Asian Countries Commodity Fair in June and the Biennial Conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health in October.
Meanwhile, hotel development across the city is picking up pace. Three five-star hotels, including two Howard Johnson properties, were completed at the end of 2011, while a 405-room Sofitel-branded property will open in the city in early-2014. InterContinental Hotels Group will open three properties in the city â€“ 540-room InterContinental Kunming (2012), 235-room Holiday Inn Kunming City Centre (2013) and 400-room Crowne Plaza Kunming West (2014).
Karen Tan, vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels China, said that at least 11 new mid- to high-end hotels with an inventory of under 4,000 rooms were expected to enter the market between now and 2016. These exclude sites that have been earmarked for hotel development.
Benny Chung, general manager of Grand Park Kunming, welcomed the arrival of new hotels.
He said: â€śThe increase in well-known brands in the marketplace will raise the quality of accommodation in Kunming and improve its profile as a destination.â€ť
Hotel rates in Kunming, which have been lower than other Chinese provincial capitals for years, have finally started to mirror national growth despite the influx of new rooms. Illustrating the rise in the cityâ€™s room rates, Pacific Worldâ€™s Wang said the cost of accommodation now ranges from RMB600 (US$94) to RMB1,100 per room night, compared to RMB400 to RMB600 in the past.
Grand Park Kunmingâ€™s Chung said room rates were likely to see a gradual five per cent year-on-year growth, while CITSâ€™s Luo was confident of a 10 per cent increment.
Chung believed that â€śhotels with strong branding in the international and local market would be able to continue commanding higher ratesâ€ť.
Another shot in the arm for Kunming comes in the form of a new airport. Operations at the Kunming Xiaoshao International Airport started this year. International airlines connect directly from this airport, positioning the city as one of Chinaâ€™s key international air hubs.
Expected new routes include additional direct flights to the US and Europe, and frequencies of domestic connections will also increase.
Corporate event planners looking for unusual experiences will find interesting options elsewhere in Yunnan province.
Located 35km north-west of Kunming is the provinceâ€™s largest and oldest organic farm. Hao Bao Qing Organic Farm grows vegetables, rears livestock and offers innovative education programmes. The farm could feature as a day programme for small corporate teambuilding groups hoping to accomplish eco-friendly objectives. It has a small hotel too, with rooms located in the main building and carved into the hillsides, so an overnight stay is possible.
For corporate groups with more exquisite tastes,Â Brilliant Resort & Spa in Kunming may be considered. As a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, planners can get a clear idea of what to expect from the resort. Resort features include hot springs, a luxurious spa and landscaped gardens. Guests can participate in yoga and tai chi classes, as well as tea ceremonies and tours of its own Tea Museum.
Grand Park Kunming