Just the tonic

Pfizer rejuvenates Houjie

Just the tonic

It’s like a Boeing airplane scattering money above the town,” was how one hospitality industry worker described it. The 21CN Business Herald called it “the most magnificent annual meeting in history”.

The event in question was Pfizer’s China annual get-together and occurred this January in Dongguan – or more precisely in Houjie Town, a dsitrict of the city. Attending the event with Pfizer boss Jeffrey Kindler were 4,500 staff from the pharma firm’s Chinese operations. The US drugs company booked seven local hotels for six days to strategise on the China market.

An annual meeting of this size says something about how this multinational views the Chinese economy and its own industry’s growth prospects. Last year, the Chinese government launched a dramatic raft of healthcare reforms. Thanks in part to increased government spending on healthcare, profits in the drug industry were up 15.48% in the first nine months, estimates the Herald.

But the meeting isn’t just significant for what it says about the pharmaceuticals business. For Houjie Town, the event also marks a turning point – in this case in its own attempts at reinvention. Long known as an export-oriented factory town, Dongguan now wants to develop service industries like logistics, finance and exhibitions.

Houjie has 6 five star hotels, 8 four star and 12 three star, with a total of 4,000 rooms. That’s not to mention the 100 smaller, less salubrious hotels in the 126 square kilometre town. All in all, the newspaper reckons Houjie has “the densest area of star-rated hotels in the world”. (WiC thinks this may be a bit off the mark – Macau has 18,128 rooms in its 29 square kilometres – but Houjie must rank high.)

Its compact concentration of hotels seems to be one of its major selling points as a venue. An executive from Pfizer says the firm liked Houjie because its senior management could walk between the Exhibition Centre and the five star Carnival Hotel in two minutes.

The town’s citizens will be hoping the Pfizer event proves the first of many as it seeks to boost its service economy and lessen its reliance on exports.

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