GICEC: Strategically Growing Local Chinese Exhibitions

Event Africa Contributor 11/04/2019 Industry News
GICEC event africa iceberg

The Event Africa, in partnership with The Iceberg, presents a case study on the Tanzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre, aka GICEC.

Guangdong Tanzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre capitalises on its intellectual resources and has purpose-built a venue to serve local industry by enabling trade on a global platform.


South African-born Joey Pather has made a name for himself as the CEO of GICEC, which recently celebrated its second anniversary. “Our business has been around for just a little over two years. This region is famous for industry and we have a number of core industries but we believe that there was a purpose and a need to build a venue that will be a good platform for our industries to the rest of the world, and to bring the rest of the world to this region to see how we do it,” he says.

Their strategy was a phased approach, ending in a purpose-built venue that serves local industry and attracts international partners, businesses and collaborators. “From a venue’s perspective, we had a three-pronged approach on how we looked at the market. We looked at the local market, we looked at the national market and we looked at the international market,” Pather explains. “When we looked at the international market, we decided to partner with Deutsche Messe, our consulting partners, and that served us very well in terms of attracting a market in Europe, the USA and Africa.”

Built for Industry-Specific Events

The core industries in the region are ceramics, sheet metal, furniture and home appliances, and GICEC caters to these sectors through its design, capabilities and functionalities. “It’s a very modern convention centre, and it has all the latest technologies included, says Mark Schloesser, Vice President Commissioner, Deutsche Messe. “Most of all we have a floor load capacity of 10 tonnes per square metre, which makes it highly usable for heavy industries. One of the first machines we exhibited here was a tunnel drilling machine weighing 110 tonnes. And this was the first time in China that this machine was displayed at an exhibition venue.”

Enter the Robotation Academy

As part of the GICEC strategy and commitment to China’s 2025 development strategy, the centre launched the Robotation Academy. “It is a subsidiary of ours, we developed it, built it and it is housed in our venue,” says Pather. “With it, we’re marrying the two industries. We’re marrying the manufacturing industry with innovation and whenever we have an event, exhibition or conference, we always link to what’s happening in our world or in China.”

“The main purpose for establishing the Robotation Academy is to help local manufacturers to improve their efficiency and their productivity in their manufacturing processes,” adds Dr Wei Wei, General Manager of the academy. “Currently we have 22 partners, and among all the partners we have 14 from Europe. We also have eight local partners from China.”

Attracting the World

According to Kenny He, Chairman of GICEC, the venue attracts many international fairs. “We love the platform for local people to connect with international businesses,” he says.

“In terms of venues, nobody can match what China has done in the past decade,” adds Mark Cochrane, Regional Manager, UFI Asia Pacific. “China has invested more in building high quality exhibition venues across the whole country. According to UFI’s database, there are now more than 120 purpose-built exhibition centres in China just like GICEC.”

Far-Reaching Effects

The effects of the exhibition industry on China’s economy are massive. Pather explains that when China launched its 2025 strategy, the key focus was to move away from the mindset that all the nation does is manufacturing. “We said, we have intellectual capital within the region, and we want to start becoming innovators and creators and not just manufacturers.”

“In terms of our positioning, we wanted to build an exhibition platform that could showcase industry in the city,” he says. This they hope to do by building a city known for its exhibitions in the long term. And the demand is huge, according to Gary Liu, Managing Director, Hannover Milano Fairs China Ltd. “We have some very important industries like home appliances and furniture, and iron and steel. Here we have China’s largest nonferrous metal treating centre and the largest metal stainless steel centre.”

Feeding into Global Trends

One of the major trends in the global exhibitions sector is that of mergers and acquisitions, and above all, collaboration. GICEC is on the forefront of this as a trendsetter, says Craig Newman, President of the Global Association of the Exhibitions Industry (UFI). “This in itself is great because it brings expertise from all different walks of life around the world together to grow and develop product within that region. I’m also seeing a lot of venues like GICEC investing more in their own exhibitions, driving their own local industries within the region.”

“On one hand the venue has to care for the local market, creating the platform for the industries, and on the other hand it also serves the international event organising community by giving them the chance to bring their products into the country that really focus on the needs of the local industry,” adds Mark Schloesser of Deutsche Messe.

“We talk about innovation, development, but number one is always to listen to the clients, the industry, the stakeholders for what they really want and develop together with them,” says Hans Stoter, Executive Director, Nanjing Stuttgart Exhibitions Ltd.

The Future is GICEC

Exhibitions are catalysts for industry growth and healthy competition. They champion innovation, and the multiplier effect is far-reaching, says Pather. “Only now are people starting to measure what the real effects of exhibitions are.”

“We’re very pleased with our achievements so far, but like any company, we still expect to grow,” he adds. “Our chairman expects that as a business we will grow, our shareholders and state-owned assets want us to grow, and we have a lot of work left to do going into the future.”

Mark Cochrane has spent lots of time visiting markets and educating goverments at a national and provincial level on the importance and impact of exhibitions on economies. “But we don’t have to do that in China because the government has long recognised the importance of the exhibition industry at the national level, at the provincial level, and even at the city level,” he says.

“Our vision – and if you look at our strap line ‘connecting the world’ – we take literally,” Pather concludes. “We want to bring together local partners, local industry, international partners and customers, and create a platform that links them. We want to facilitate business. That’s our main role. And the government sees that as our role and I believe that in the last two years we’ve been able to fulfil that.”