Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Building on Regional Advantages (Taiwan Review)

Countless international businesspeople have become intimately familiar with venues such as the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC) in recent decades as the Republic of China’s capital cultivated a global reputation for excellence in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry. Now cities and counties across the nation are seeking to emulate this success by constructing new facilities and expanding MICE services—efforts that are being aided and promoted by the central government’s Meet Taiwan program.

The initiative, which is overseen by the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, aims to enhance the quality of industry services and strengthen Taiwan’s brand in order to turn the nation into one of the world’s leading MICE destinations. “The program is an integrated strategic marketing plan to promote the overall image of Taiwan’s MICE sector, and it includes cities such as Taichung as well as Taipei and Kaohsiung,” explains Philip Huang, director of the Taiwan MICE Project Office, which was set up in 2006 under the ministry and manages Meet Taiwan.

One aspect of the program involves the development of human resources. “We’ve created training programs with syllabuses based on the needs of stakeholders within each geographical region,” he says. “In 2013, we held approximately 70 professional courses across the island.” Meanwhile, since 2013 the program has been offering support to the special municipalities of Taipei, New Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung and Tainan as well as Hsinchu City and the counties of Chiayi, Hualien, Pingtung and Yilan. “We not only provide local governments with professional advice, but also assist with advertising,” Huang says.

The annual Taiwan MICE Awards, which are arranged by the Taiwan MICE Project Office, highlight the overall growth of the industry. “Many of the winning events have been held outside of Taipei,” the director notes. For instance, the Taiwan International Orchid Show (TIOS), organized yearly in the southern city of Tainan since 2004, won prizes at the awards ceremony in 2013 and 2014, receiving the Gold Award for Exhibition Visual Design and the Bronze Award in the Exhibition Group A category, respectively.

“One in every six orchids sold around the globe is from Tainan, and TIOS is one of the world’s top three orchid shows,” says Yeh Ting-chun, a member of the Tourism Service Section in Tainan City Government’s Tourism Bureau. Yeh believes that the city has much to offer as a MICE destination due to its diverse mix of ecological and heritage sites. “Last fall, the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents held their annual overseas convention in Wu Garden, and participants said the city’s abundance of culture and traditional atmosphere are big attractions for people from Hong Kong,” she says.

While the municipality is renowned for its cultural sites, Tainan City Government also recognizes the need to complement these advantages with modern facilities, and its plan to build a convention center big enough for 600 standard booths near Tainan High Speed Rail station was ratified by the central government in 2012. “Tainan City Government and the Bureau of High Speed Rail [BOHSR] have jointly started recruiting corporations to invest in the development, and the city government is considering buying land from the BOHSR so it can accelerate the process,” she adds.

Jun Shinohara, director of sales and marketing at Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Tainan, believes such infrastructure improvements are essential if the city is to host more international conferences. “Tainan has huge potential to attract both domestic and overseas visitors,” says the Japanese native. “But air links, public transportation services, and the number of guest rooms and conference venues must be expanded.”

Although Tainan’s airport was upgraded to international status in 2011, the city has lost MICE business to Kaohsiung because the latter is easier to reach from overseas, Shinohara says. Nonetheless, he is optimistic about the potential for growth in the short term. “Currently, less than 10 percent of our total room revenue comes from MICE, but we’re targeting 10 percent and more in the near future,” he says.

While Tainan is seeking to capitalize on its abundance of cultural sites, Taichung is boosting its MICE sector by taking advantage of local industrial clusters. Taichung and Changhua County in central Taiwan are home to more than 1,000 companies involved in the making of bicycles and bicycle components. Many of these enterprises are original equipment manufacturers that produce frames, wheels and other items which are then sold by North American or European brands.

The global importance of this cluster is demonstrated by the success of Taichung Bike Week (TBW), a business-to-business trade show that facilitates meetings between local suppliers and international buyers. TBW, which started out as a series of ad hoc gatherings in 2004, has been a formal event since 2007...

To read the rest of the article, which appears in the March issue of this government-published monthly, click here. I took the photo above around 13km inland of Wu Garden, just after dawn one summer.