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Suzhou aims to profit from 2010 Expo

2009. 1 July

by Zhou Jing
( Suzhou is expecting a surge in visitors and business opportunities when the World Expo opens in neighboring Shanghai next year.

"We are really looking forward to the opportunities that the 2010 Shanghai World Expo will bring," said Liu Jie, director of the Media Center of Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP).

Despite being hit by the financial crisis, Suzhou remains one of China's most prosperous cities. Although June is not the city's busiest tourist season, the streets are still packed with tourists, investors are still visiting the city in significant numbers, and the 2010 Expo is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy.

Liu said that city government and SIP have begun to prepare for the Expo since early 2008 and have been hosting promotional events and exhibitions in neighboring cities like Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou.

To attract Expo visitors to make the one-hour trip to Suzhou they are emphasizing the city's cultural heritage, exemplified by its world famous gardens, and the economic progress achieved in the past 15 years since SIP was established as a joint venture with the government of Singapore.

"All Expo visitors are potential customers. We plan to seize all available opportunities," said Liu.

Suzhou International Expo Center (SIEC) has been seeking to establish itself as one of China's key exhibition service providers. Not satisfied with languishing in the shadow of Shanghai's reputation as an international exhibition hub, the city has sought to carve out its own niche.

Shanghai has forged strong links with European countries, particularly Germany. For a number of German exhibition organizers, notably Hannover Messe, Messe Munchen and Messe Dusseldorf, Shanghai is now their Asian exhibition destination of choice.

SIEC is looking to replicate the success of its neighbor by building similar relationships in the United States. A number of leading US companies, including SMG and Freeman, have opened discussions with the SIEC with a view to focusing their activities around Suzhou.

Just 120 km from Shanghai, Suzhou is confidently predicting the Expo will give the city a massive economic boost. It is estimated that more than 50 million people will travel to Shanghai for the Expo – and around 35 percent of them are expected to visit surrounding cities, according to SIP.

With a reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in China, Suzhou sees itself as ideally placed to capitalize on the influx of business visitors to the Expo.

Located in the middle of the Yangtze River Delta, the most developed area in China, Suzhou is adjacent to Shanghai to the east and Zhejiang to the south, faces Taihu Lake to the west and the Yangtze River to the north. With a 140km long stretch of the Yangtze, the north-south Grand Canal and the Nanjing-Shanghai Expressway running from west to east, Suzhou easily accessible by all forms of transportation.

The city received 21.9 million overseas tourists and 52.7 million domestic visitors in 2008. It has 148 star-rated hotels, including 56 graded as four stars or above.

There are many famous historical attractions located within the old walled city. Suzhou ranks third after Beijing and Xi'an in terms of the number of nationally-recognized cultural sites.

Surrounding Suzhou are more than 200 ancient water towns offering delightful views of canals and ancient Suzhou architecture. The most famous water towns including Luzhi, Tongli, Zhouzhuang, and Qiandeng are nationally recognized and protected heritage sites.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park, the largest cooperative project ever undertaken by China and Singapore.

The idea of developing a modern industrial town to transplant the lessons learnt from the Singapore economic miracle was first raised in 1992. After discussions it was decided to jointly develop a modern industrial park in Suzhou. The China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (CS-SIP) was launched on Feb. 26, 1994 when then Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing and Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew signed an agreement to jointly develop the park.