For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: JIMMY XIE
China Travel Service, CA
Here’s the scene. The street is closed off to public in front of the Shangri-La China World Hotel in Beijing. Inside, over 700 attendees with a global electronics company are gathering in the grand lobby to depart for a dinner by the Great Wall of China. When it’s time to leave, 60 couples walk out the front door where they’re greeted by 60 drivers standing beside new Audi coupes.
“Everyone else, the silver and bronze winners, had to walk to the 24 buses—in the alley,” says Jimmy Xie, GM of Los Angeles-based China Travel Service. “It was impressive, all the Audis were black. Shiny.” Often working as a 3rd party planner, Xie has hosted groups from the Three Tenors to 600 IBM delegates for an international technical conference. “We can put these types of events together very easily,” he says, “because Beijing has so much history bringing people together. Like, 5,000 years of history…. We are one of the richest cultures in mankind.”
Emphasizing his point, Xie describes that most U.S.-based groups want to visit five venues in particular: The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Imperial Tombs, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. For VIPs, he can gain privileged access for 50 pax within the Forbidden City, inside the living quarters and private gardens of Ming Dynasty emperors.
There are other classic group activities such as dining on Peking Duck at the world famous Quanjude Restaurant, available for 500-person buyouts; the Kung Fu show at Red Theater, galas at the magnificent Great Hall of the People, etc. And since the end of the 2008 Olympics, the Beijing Olympic Park is popular for experiencing authentic local life.
Xie loves this. “Life in China is so much different than the U.S.,” he says. “In Beijing, if you walk into a park at six in the morning, there’ll be a 1,000 people practicing Tai Chi, or singing or dancing. It’s so beautiful and you feel healthier right away.” Xie says groups often ask for private Tai Chi lessons and Chinese Acrobat/Kung Fu shows in the many parks. “People in Beijing get used to going to the park and they can’t stop. It clears your mind and prepares you for business.”