In DeSouza Associates, Event Management

Having recently returned from a medical conference in Shanghai (followed by a short vacation to Xi’An) Lida wanted to share a few ‘nuggets’….

I arrived to a very wet Shanghai in mid-June and it rained heavily the next day too. The weather improved and it turned sunny and of course it was lovely and warm. So, beware of rain at this time of year.


I decided to take a taxi from the airport to my hotel, the Regal Shanghai East Asia Hotel, as I had a very heavy case and would not have managed the train. My journey was uneventful, although a little long, due to the heavy traffic, bear this in mind when working on events in Shanghai, especially if there are specific appointments and time frames to adhere to. I would of course strongly recommend not taking an ‘unauthorised taxi’; you just don’t know what you’re getting in to.
Tip: have the name of your destination hotel plus address in Chinese with you and hand this to your taxi driver – this is a must.

The medical conference venue was the Regal Shanghai East Asia Hotel – a 4 star conference hotel and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the bedrooms, food offerings and generally the service (the Hotel was suggested by our local PCO). Overall, the hotel was perfectly acceptable and worked well, with just a few quirks, which I can tell you about in case you are considering using this hotel, which is located at the Stadium.

The head of Sales, Eric, was particularly helpful and went that extra mile; I had a few challenges, so he was put to the test! The one thing I will flag up however is that only a handful of the hotel staff spoke English, which was a challenge. The explanation maybe that this is a 4 rather than 5 star hotel, however it is worth bearing in mind. As I mentioned above, we worked alongside a local PCO and with regards to English speaking staff, once again, only my main contact was fluent in English. One or two members of their team did speak a little English, but it was poor.

The conference evening food offerings were excellent and there was a whole array of dishes. For lunchtime on days 1 and 2 of the conference, we required lunch boxes as we were continuing the scientific programme over lunchtime seminars. These were most disappointing indeed – a basic sandwich without the trimmings although on day two they did also provide some chips! They ran out of the vegetarian option on day 2, possibly due to the fact that the main offering was a tuna sandwich (don’t get me wrong, I love tuna, but not everyone does). Thank goodness we opted for a buffet lunch on day 3 (we didn’t have a lunchtime seminar on that day) which was lovely.

As one would expect, the price of certain items are very cost effective in China. We sourced our conference bag (a high quality computer bag) in the country and also had our Programme/Abstract Books printed locally.

Shanghai obviously has an abundance of sights and sounds to enjoy and our delegates made the most of the free time available to get to know the City. A walk along the Bund is a must and most delegates availed of the opportunity.

For my return journey to the airport, I booked a transfer via the hotel which was very good value at RMB68 and it only stopped at one other hotel, so not too long a journey.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I also took a flight to Xi’An for a few days after the Conference to see the ancient city and of course to go and experience the Terracotta Army – just amazing. I stayed at the Hilton in Xi’An which is inside the old city walls and a very nice hotel indeed, in a great location, just a few minutes’ walk from the city walls. You can hire a cycle (which is easy to do) and view the whole of the wall and the sights from the wall. I must confess I didn’t do this but next time I will!

The Shanxi Museum is a great place to soak up all the history of this Province and is incredibly informative and has some amazing, ancient artefacts – I could have spent longer there. Other highlights were the Hot Springs, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and gardens nearby (which had some amazing statues) and Muslim Street.

I just want to let you know that we had an incredibly frightening taxi ride back to the airport for our flight back to Shanghai – the taxi driver kept falling asleep at the wheel! We had a normal and uneventful taxi ride to the hotel so thought nothing of taking a taxi back to the airport for our return flight to Shanghai however my learning experience would be that next time I will order a transfer from the hotel instead! For local journeys around Xi’An, taxis are absolutely fine, not at all expensive and are metered.

A penultimate note; be aware that flight delays are incredibly common in China so if taking connecting flights, do give yourself sufficient time.

In summary, a most interesting experience and a successful Conference (which in the end attracted far higher numbers than we had anticipated) but do factor in the cultural differences, which could impact on the conference organising process.

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