Of all the convention and exhibition super structures built in China’s rapidly growing cities, the Zhuhai International Convention & Exhibition Centre has to be the most strategically positioned.
The complex features two luxury hotels – the Sheraton (with an opening date set for October 28) and St Regis, due for completion in June 2017. In addition there is an opera house, a concert hall and upscale apartments all looking out to Macau’s Taipa and Hengqin Island, which is part of the new Shizimen CBD and being developed by Chinese authorities as a hub for education, non-gaming leisure, tech and finance industries.
Instead of being merely the hallmark of an up-and-coming city, Zhuhai International Convention & Exhibition Centre (ZHCEC) – which includes 30,000 sqm of exhibition space, a 2,000 sqm plenary hall, ballrooms and 35 meeting rooms – forms the core of what is planned to be a new regional destination with a special appeal for MICE organisers in Asia.
All this will gain worldwide attention when a 50km sea bridge linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau nears completion in the next two years. This will give the three Pearl River destinations the potential to form a single bloc when it comes to attracting international MICE groups.
As the bridge begins to take shape, a marketing agreement between AsiaWorld-Expo, on the Hong Kong side of the Delta, and ZHCEC is already under way. “One conference in two destinations” is the theme of the campaign.
The gleaming new face of Zhuhai comes under the new Shizimen CBD, of which the centerpiece is the ZHCEC complex, and bears the all-important State Council approval. As if a political blessing from Beijing wasn’t enough, Zhuhai was rated one of the Top 10 “Happiest Cities in China” in a survey carried out by an official state media outlet.
As five-star hotels and casinos took shape in neighbouring Macau, the city of Zhuhai played a quieter role on the west bank of the Pearl Delta as a base for light engineering, manufacturing and golf resorts. The opening of the convention centre in October 2014 symbolised change not only for Zhuhai, but potentially Macau with the rise of Hengqin.
Alongside the centre and facing Macau is the 545-room Sheraton – Zhuhai’s first international five-star. Towering over the complex will be 65 floors of Grade A offices topped by the St Regis, which is nearing the finishing stages of construction. Adding to the accommodation choices next door is Huafa Place with 450 long- and short-stay apartments.
There is also a 1,200-seat European-style opera house and an 800-seat Grand Theatre where the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performed last November, a month after ZHCEC opened. Both venues are aimed at raising Zhuhai’s cultural profile, and they are also available for hire by event organisers.
Major shows in the ZHCEC’s exhibition building include the first Zhuhai International Automobile Exhibition RemaxAsia Expo, which brought 453 exhibitors and 13,000 print-trade visitors. The 30,000 sqm of ground-level exhibition space can be divided into six halls and there is another 3,000 sqm of outdoor spacde available.
On the second level, the 4,500 sqm Grand Ballroom is one of the largest pillarfree facilities of its type in China, and can be divided into nine junior ballrooms at 500 sqm each. Behind the scenes, the kitchens serving the ballroom are equally impressive at 4,000 sqm and have served groups of 5,000 with the capability for up to 6,000.
Opposite the exhibition building is the convention centre with five levels of conference and meeting space, including a function hall and Grand Hall. The outdoor area between the two sections stretches to the front of the convention centre and towards the opera and concert venues.
Venues already bridging the Delta
Little time has been lost in a joint marketing deal being struck with a venue near the start of the Hong Kong section of the bridge being built across the Pearl River Delta.
AsiaWorld-Expo, on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, is collaborating with Zhuhai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in a “One Show, Two Cities” promotion. This will enable organisers to hold a conference at one venue and give delegates the option of excursions or events at the other. All this, however, will fully swing into action once the bridge linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau is expected to be completed in 2017.
“This will help us seek greater opportunities to deliver a total MICE solution in what will be a one-hour metropolis radius in the Pearl River Delta region,” says Enid Low, chief strategy officer at AsiaWorld-Expo.