In the days before Alibaba, the MICE business was a major driver of development in the Greater Bay Area. Right from the start of Reform and Opening, face-to-face contacts were necessary to grease the wheels of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Buyers would fly in from around the world to meet local suppliers, spending precious foreign exchange at hotels, restaurants, and karaoke lounges, before ordering vast quantities of goods from Chinese factories. The rise of e-commerce has curbed the industry’s growth, but Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions still generate sales worth billions of dollars every year for the 11 GBA cities, each of which has a Convention and Exhibition Center (or two) sitting proudly in a prominent location.
Shenzhen, the newly anointed Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, is about to open such a center that, its leaders hope, will redefine the industry. It’s called the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center.