A bird’s eye view of Sanya City, which aims to build itself into China’s capital of MICE.
SANYA City in tropical Hainan Island is emerging as an attractive host for the conference and exhibition industry with its golden beaches, sparkling water, lush tropical forests and year-round sunshine.

"The MICE industry has become a big boost for the local economy," says Tang Sixian, deputy director of Sanya Tourism Development Commission. MICE stands for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.

"As most MICE groups coming here are high-end multinationals who seek luxury accommodation, Sanya’s hotels and resorts have been developing fast in recent years."

The city has more than 200 star hotels, offering more than 30,000 guest rooms. Counting various seaside bungalows, villas and holiday flats, the number exceeds 50,000.

"Sanya provides all levels of accommodation from luxury high-end hotels to budget inns," the director says. "And the city is ready to build itself into the country’s capital of MICE."

Each star hotel has extensive MICE facilities and resort activities, including ballrooms of various sizes for different meetings, booths for simultaneous interpretation, function rooms, mini cafes, billiard rooms and other facilities.

Beach meetings, pool-side meetings and even yacht meetings are luring MICE.

To attract more corporate groups, the local government is working hard to promote Sanya’s image as a MICE destination in China.

"Branding is the key," says Tang. "Good wine also needs a good grapevine."

In recent years, Sanya has hosted international events, including the Miss World pageant from 2003 to 2007, the Mr World finals in 2006, the yearly Hong Kong-Sanya International Yacht Race, the Tour of Hainan International Road Cycling Race and this year’s Miss Bikini competition.

In future the city will be the finish of leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, as it has won the bid to be the only stopover in Asia. A port and facilities are under construction.

"Through these events, Sanya has definitely promoted itself onto a larger stage. It’s the best way to let more people – travelers or MICE groups – get to know the city," says Tang.

Transport and infrastructure improvements are underway. The railway and expressway that loops around the city along the coastline is scheduled to be finished by 2013. This will greatly shorten travel times and facilitate the city’s link to neighboring cities and the provincial capital of Haikou.

Sanya’s fishing port and cargo port are to be relocated to the city’s west, 40 kilometers from the downtown, to make way for the mega passenger port to be completed by 2013.

A 60,000-ton and a 250,000-ton yacht port have reached the blueprint stages. Sanya has a 100,000-ton yacht port built in 2006, China’s first yacht port.

"With all these transport projects and extensive hotel facilities, Sanya has big ambitions to be the biggest MICE market in the country," Tang says.

The city hosts around 7,000 business meeting groups each year, making it among the tops in China.

"But it still needs improvements," says Tang. "We are addressing problems such as how to lower prices while adding quality and integrate our local culture to attract MICE visitors."

The most urgent task for Sanya is to set up an international convention center, he says.

"It must be comprehensive and multifunctional, with advanced equipment in various meeting venues and an organization for exhibitions," Tang says.

"But it will take time."

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