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Hangzhou has amazed tourists for over 2,000 years

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It is now reaching out to UK, Germany, France and the USA

ITCM was a Media Affiliate of the IT&CM China MICE Exhibition in Shanghai and made the most of its visit by embarking on some of the excursions to local visitor attractions. One that was constantly recommended was Hangzhou.

On returning to the UK we found that, by coincidence, the city of Hangzhou had just appointed a representative in UK. It was Ziva Werber’s The Hotel Hotline. Ziva had just returned from visiting the client, so we were possibly in Hangzhou at the same time.

Ziva had been briefed on Hangzhou’s new tourism initiative to make itself better known on the international markets.

The Director of the Hangzhou Tourism Commission, Li Hong, had announced what he called ‘an open door policy’ to target the UK, Germany, France, the USA and other important territories.

Li Hong also went on to explain that the promotion is working in two directions. Not only is it targeting the foreign markets, but it also aims to encourage its own tourist industry to ‘boost its capacity and status in order to provide an even better product’.

The capital of the Zhejiang Province, the city is launching itself as ‘Unseen beauty, unforgettable Hangzhou’. ITCM can state, however, that ‘unseen’ can only possibly refer to the foreign tourist, because during our visit Hangzhou was thronged with very many large groups of Chinese being shown round its various attractions by guides holding flags so that their crowds didn’t get mixed up with others. The guides also had mini-mikes attached to their lips so that the people at the furthest end of their crocodiles of followers would not miss a word of their commentary. It was only a pity that ITCM was not able to follow the Chinese, otherwise we would have had a free introduction to every detail of the area. It is salient to point out that the city, which may not register as a name with many people outside China, has a population of 8m and in 2012 it welcomed as many as 80m visitors. Of these, 95% were Chinese.

The new tourist promotion initiative is telling the world about Hangzhou’s cuisine and medical tourism, but its meeting and convention facilities are also a major focus of attention.

Hangzhou is in the delta of the Yangtze River. To get an idea of its tradition and pedigree as a tourist destination, bear in mind that 800 years ago Marco Polo reported: ‘It is the finest and most splendid city in the world’. And even in his time it had already been an established city for over 1,000 years.

The focal point of Hangzhou is West Lake, fed from water running down from the hills that surround it. The slopes are picturesque green tea plantations. ITCM was able to visit outlying plantations and found, to our cost, that presenting green tea to foreign visitors is a well developed, sophisticated activity. We were ushered into a meeting room, where the different quality of teas was explained and where we were shown how green tea could be effective in keeping you healthy. There were also green tea tablets that were said to be able to achieve the same effects.

We bought some canisters of tea and found that our bill was over £200 and that credit cards were readily acceptable. We were ushered out through an Aladdin’s Cave of gifts and souvenirs, all related to tea and all way above the prices we had anticipated when visiting what we regarded as a remote rural district of China.

In walking to the car park, we took the opportunity to divert up paths on the side of the hills and were rewarded with delightful views of the women working within rows of tea bushes selecting the newest green shoots to make the best quality tea. They were picturesque in their broad-brimmed hats. Our strolls through the plantation and the views of the hillsides made the whole visit so much more worthwhile and memorable.

West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are three islands connected by causeways and it is a delight to walk beside the pagodas and gardens and to visit the temples. The city also has museums dedicated to its 1000-year-old traditions of growing tea and making silk and porcelain. There is a tomb dedicated to the memory of General Yue Fai, who lived from 1103 to 1141, with a colourful but fearsome statue. The whole tomb is a site of 4 acres, over 1.5 hectares.

The delegates in any corporate group visiting Hangzhou will have much to interest them in their leisure moments; and event organisers have a wide choice of international standard hotels able to accommodate events. They include well-known brands such as Banyan Tree, Four Seasons, Hyatt Regency and Sheraton.

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