The IBTM China exhibition just concluded in Beijing last week saw an increase of hosted corporate buyers, from 6% last year to 30% this year, amounting to over 280 hosted buyers who attended the only Asian leg of the trade exhibition this year.
However, Nicole Ci, project manager of the event confirmed that the overall number of hosted buyers did not differ much compared to last year. The organising committee had been more stringent in selecting the hosted buyers. “There have been the same travel agencies attending year after year, and they may not bring anything different to the table,” said Ci. “We were looking at a more diverse selection of brands and agencies, especially from the overseas markets.”
Among the brands who had their corporate head of events hosted at IBTM China included Danone Nutricia, Ikea, DBS Bank, Lenovo and NTUC Income. Mandy Torrens, senior exhibitions director, IBTM, said the targeted sectors remained pharmaceuticals, automotive and finance. “We have our own business development team going out to find who are the top buyers in each country, we also work with lots of partners, coordinators who are like third parties, there are different sources, sometimes it can be someone [who is] well-known in the industry,” said Torrens.
IBTM had tapped into its proprietary matchmaking software to set up over 6,500 appointments during the Beijing exhibition, with an average of 27 meetings per exhibitor, the highest in three years, Torrens said. She added that more than half of the meetings were mutually matched between the exhibitors and the buyers but the subsequent spontaneous meetings taking place would have hiked up the number of meetings. Shane Hannam, portfolio director of IBTM, agreed that the exhibition in China would be more driven by technology in the future, both in audience engagement and its content.
He pointed to IBTM’s flagship event in Barcelona next November, which will feature keynote speakers formerly from SpaceX and Disney, besides having VR, AI and facial-recognition technology incorporated into the attendee experience. “There has been a huge increase in appetite for technology globally. Just being here in Beijing this week, we can see it in everyday life. It’s really coming through in the events industry, we are certainly bringing the global expertise of IBTM further into China, it is something we will be keen to develop,” Hannam said.
While the exhibition saw a large number of mainland-based exhibitors, there was only a select number of overseas exhibitors including the Korea Tourism Organization, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau and the New Zealand International Convention Centre. The latter venue is expected to be completed late next year. Kenneth Pereira, its international sales manager said New Zealand has been on the radar of Chinese event planners beyond being a destination for incentive trips. South Korea, meanwhile, has only re-entered the scene following the ban of Chinese group tours in 2017.
On international association meetings, Noor Ahmad Hamid, regional director, APAC, International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), said China’s profile in this frontier is rising since it has played host to global events such as the 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing, 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou and Fortune Global 500 Summit in Chengdu. China has hosted over 6,000 meetings certified by ICCA since 1961, with tech-related events dominating the roster compared to medical-related events for other markets.
“In the association world, we don’t look at associations as a tourist destination, but as a knowledge-based community,” said Noor Ahmad. China’s competitiveness in hosting international events however depends upon grooming local talent, strengthening the local association meeting network with its global counterparts, and picking up on global trends such as the One Belt, One Road initiative, said Noor Ahmad. The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade currently serves as an umbrella body for over 10,000 associations across national, provincial and district levels.