Meetings now a lucrative industry
Updated: 2011-11-15 07:56
By Cang Wei (China Daily)
BEIJING - The tens of millions of meetings held across China every year are creating an economic value of nearly 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion).
According to a report released by the Alliance of China Conference Hotels on Sunday, the number of meetings and conventions held by companies, governments, public-funded institutions and social organizations is growing at an annual rate of 20 percent.
"Holding meetings has become a new industry, to which local Chinese governments paid great attention to promote their economies," said Xu Jingsheng, secretary-general of the China Tourist Hotel Association.
The report also shows that meetings held by companies account for 49.9 percent of the total, while those by social organizations account for 13.8 percent.
"China's economic growth gives a tremendous impetus to business conferences," said Wu Shaoyuan, deputy director of the conference hotels alliance, who is also one of the initiators of the report.
"About 220,000 meetings are held in Beijing every year," Wu said. "But many meetings held by governments and public-funded institutions are unnecessary and their number should be controlled strictly."
He added that December and January are the golden months when most meetings are held. Many government departments and public-funded institutions rush to spend their annual budgets entirely before the next year's Spring Festival, often in an attempt to extend an impression to the higher authorities and auditing agency that the money sanctioned "merely makes ends meet".
"The only conclusion arrived at in some of these meetings was the date of the next meeting," said Wang Fuchong, a famous Chinese economist, on his micro blog.
In addition, huge possibilities of prodigal spending lurked behind certain international meetings held in the country, said Liu Hongwei, deputy secretary-general of the China Convention and Exhibition Society.
"While meaningful international meetings can greatly promote local economies, some meetings merely function as reputation-building projects of local governments," Liu said.
According to him, the central government has since long put forward measures to cutting down the number of international meetings held in China. In February, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the agencies overseeing international meetings should use greater discretion in providing free transport and accommodation to the delegates.
Many Chinese cities have too many conference centers than are necessary, Liu said. "Many Chinese conference centers are struggling to survive as they often remain vacant, and I don't think the economic value of meetings held in China can reach 1 trillion yuan."
He suggested holding meetings on a smaller scale in the hotels. That will reduce the need for maintaining full-fledged conference centers. Organizers of meetings would focus more on the meetings' content and quality rather than indulge in extravagant spending, Liu said.
(China Daily 11/15/2011 page4)