Hotel Bookings for the Canton Fair: Welcome to Guangzhou! When researching a hotel for the Canton Fair on the internet, pay attention to how far the hotel is from the fair, and whether they provide bus service to and from the hotel to the fair daily. There are a list of these hotels on the Canton Fair website as well. You can book a room through Expedia or any other travel service, but I recommend booking.com because you don’t have to pay to reserve the room.
Meals and Breakfast: When booking the room, I chose the option that included breakfast for two each day which we highly recommend. You can use a hotel messaging service through Expedia or other online travel service to communicate any special requests with the hotel, such as early arrival late check-in or to arrange for car service to pick you up at the airport. I found this method of communication to be easier than speaking directly to the hotel over the phone.
If you will be arriving after midnight, be sure to let the hotel know so they don’t cancel your room. You may need to purchase a room for the day prior to ensure you can check in if arriving during the middle of the night. The room was very clean and spacious and included all the normal amenities you would expect, including an umbrella and kettle for tea. However, there wasn’t a coffee maker. Most hotels have great coffee service at breakfast.
For the first Canton Fair Experience we attended the 125th Canton Fair. Our participants flew in from the United States and from all over the world! Everyone made it safely to China and flights were relatively smooth with a few delays here and there. What’s nice about going with a group is that we picked up all of our participants from the airport and they were able to message us via wechat for guidance if they ran into any trouble along the way. We provided our participants with the correct chat services and VPNs to install, as well as travel recommendations, as well as private car transportation to and from the airport. We want their first (or subsequent) trips to China to be as stress free as possible.
Our group is hosted at the Soluxe Hotel in Guangzhou China, a great place to stay. One of the main things of why we chose the Soluxe Hotel, is it’s one of the 20 or so hotels that allows you to register and get your buyer badge here, so you’re not waiting in line at the Canton Fair. Plus we have our incredible kick off party and special dinners here together. Lots of people who come are wondering what this big group of people is doing here together. But we have been working together for 2 months prior to the fair, so we’re like family when we arrive and see each other.
One thing that’s nice about staying at one of the hotels that that’s listed on the Canton Fairs website, is that, they’ll provide shuttle service to and from the fair and then they also provide registration, your badge registration right there at the hotels you don’t have to get in line the day of the Canton Fair and spend, an hour or more, just waiting to get your badge.
When checking into the Soluxe, they’ll give you a card with the hotel’s address on it in Chinese. This is very handy for taxi drivers. No matter where you stay, be sure to ask for one of these cards. On the inside of the card at the Soluxe they also give awesome places to visit around Guangzhou. We particularly enjoyed Pati Bar Street, which is an area of restaurants with an outdoor view of the Pearl River lit up at night. Quite the dining experience and only a short taxi ride form the hotel. We got a brochure that includes the schedule for the shuttle to the fair, and then also a map of the parking lot showing you where the bus will be located because, it’s a huge complex and it’s very important to know where your bus is, when you set out to go find it.
And then, and then also included is the registration timing at the hotel the days and the times when you can register at the hotel. So, you know this is all very helpful especially for our first timers, coming to the fair not really knowing what to expect it’s nice to have your hotel take care of those items for you.
Buyers badge and Visa: One of the things that you’re going to need before you come to the show, is you’re gonna need to register, and get yourself a buyer’s badge invitation, and an invitation to come to the fair, from either a manufacturer or from the fair itself.
That will need to be done before you get your visa, which will be required for your application. You’re also going to need a passport, when you register for your buyers badge, and a business card. You will also need a 4 by 5, I believe, or a photo that you would have used it’s a size for a passport, to present to the hotel staff or the badge registration staff, in order to get your buyers badge for the fair. The hotel provides this photo service if you need it for a small charge. Now once you get your buyers badge, it is good for up to 10 years. So, once you do this process it’s good to return to the fair, through multiple phases and multiple years.
If you registered online, when you get to the hotel registration, the photo and business card that were uploaded to the website prior to coming to Guangzhou, from the United States, will already be in the system. So, you’ll just tell them that you registered online and fill out some paperwork there and they will just need your physical business card there. So, again the process relatively simple, took about five minutes, the Soluxe Hotel did a great job getting us registered.
The Canton Fair: It doesn’t take expertise in economics to know that China manufactures a whole lot of stuff. Just look at the label on your computer, floor lamp and shoes. It’s just remarkable how important three and a half decades after Beijing first launched market reforms, that the country’s dominance in global manufacturing and endures.
Being here in Guangzhou, you see how this has affected the youth of China, and they’re coming out early to conferences just like this to get involved. With China now producing 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 70% of the mobile phones, and 60% of the shoes, it’s no wonder things have changed here. Alibaba, the Chinese multicultural ecommerce and retail internet giant, with operations now in over 200 countries, is now the world’s largest retailer. Its online sales and profits surpassed all US retailers, including Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, combined since 2015.
First-timers to the Canton Fair should know that an item of priority is a business card. You will not receive catalogs from the vendors or suppliers without providing a business card. The best things to include on your business card are the following:
What is the Canton Fair? Well, it started in 1957, and it’s now the largest tradeshow in the world. Held twice a year, in April in October, in three phases, each phase consisting of five days. This is where over 60,000 Chinese manufacturers come to show off their latest wares to over 200,000 buyers from around the world.
The Soluxe Hotel provides for the bus transportation service to and from the fair. It’s about a 10 to 12 minute drive and you arrived at the A building of the Canton Fair. Then you’ll go through security, a long line where you put your bag on a belt and scan your buyers badge.
You may be wondering what to wear to the fair, people wear everything from shorts to suits. We recommend you go with something business casual that is comfortable for you to walk in all day. The complex is air-conditioned and at times can get a tad bit cold and others a bit hot.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking all day long for days in a row. And nothing can ruin your day more than shoes that cause blisters to the point where you cannot walk. I packed an additional pair of shoes in our roller bag, and I sometimes changed shoes midday to make sure I could keep going.
It’s interesting the different halls there some are more aggressive than others. The suppliers in some sections are actively trying to sell to you and coming out into the walkways and trying to get you come into their booths. As opposed to some of the other halls.
One of the first things that you should do when you arrive at the fair is pick up the buyers guide, which is just inside the front door. The Canton Fair complex is huge, as you will see! It’s really important to come here with a game plan. If you come with a group like ours, we help you to identify potential products and validate them so you know exactly what you’re looking for when you get to the fair. The signs at the fair include generic titles of appliances and electronics, they are so broad and there are so many products that finding the niche products you search for are harder to hunt down than you think. Most first-timers attend the fair are coming here hoping to stumble across a great product idea. But what you soon realize is that most of the items are already available on Amazon or other sites, so you’re really here to find a partner/manufacturer that you can work with that can customize a product specifically for your brand. Many people who’ve been to the fair before and understand this concept may spend one or two days checking out new products, and then head out to the factories to meet with existing manufacturers.
Come to the fair with a set number of products you’re interested in and have an idea of what price you will need on the item to be able to make a profit after all the fees that will be imposed with shipping and seller fees. They expect you to negotiate, so engage and build a relationship, that is what the Canton Fair is all about!! We spend a lot of time teaching our participants how to do this in the pre-fair coursework so they come prepared to do this here at Canton. So for the first day, you may want to just take it all in, then reassess at the end of the day to see which vendors you’d like to go back and visit in more depth.
Most of the vendors you meet have workers that speak fluent English, so communication is usually not a problem. When you find a product you like, talk to the sales rep about their company. Identify whether they are a factory or trading company, where they are located, what kind of certifications they have, and some basic pricing and minimim order quantities of the product you’re interested in. If you’d like to alter the design, talk to them about design options. Take pictures of the products and the booth and quickly develop a rapport with the sales rep, to see if this is someone that you could work with in the future. If it looks like a fit, take a selfie with the rep and use that picture on follow up communications with them after the fair. Steven wrote a book called the Canton Fair workbook. Available on Amazon to help you determine what questions to ask and that you can write down their booth number and use the book to staple their business card and take a picture with them. This also helps you organize your thoughts after the fair.
Bring a roller bag to use to put all of the catalogs in. While you’re screening the manufacturer to find out if their products meet the requirements in your target market, they’ll be screening you as well. They’ll ask where your sales channel is, what products you’re already selling, and your sales volume. Many manufacturers are more interested in brick-and-mortar type businesses than e-tailor’s because that’s where the big orders are. We teach you to be one of those wholesalers in our course so when you talk with these manufacturers, they’ll be very interested in connecting with you as soon as you start the conversation. Some vendors will outright tell you they retain the rights to sell their products directly on Amazon and other platforms in the US.
Squirrel Syndrome: You will see many different products that you’re interested in. It’s hard to have the knowledge to ask which specific pieces, whether you can change the color on the item, branding, what is the minimum order quantity. Pretty much every manufacturer you talk to says yes, yes, yes! That they can do whatever you want. Keep in mind that these are often sales reps that speak great English hired just for the fair, and a lot of the manufacturers really can’t do the things that you want. This is why we teach you how to ask the right questions, to figure out which manufacturers are able to produce the products the way that you want them, and which ones are just talk.
You should have a good idea of the questions you want to ask before you arrive. We cover this in our Canton Fair Experience course to prepare you. You want to be sure that each one of the products being displayed, that they’re able to really craft what you want. And how you want to make it. Colors, changes, and so forth.
You will want to have a system to manage and organize catalogs and business cards you receive. We use the Canton Fair workbook, it includes questions to ask and a place to staple the business card, with a combination of numbered and colored stickers. You can rank various pages of the workbook as you meet new manufacturers and write the booth number at the top of each page. Use the pages to record the specific information relative to each supplier and product. We recommend only provide your business cards and accept catalogs from suppliers that have products you are interested in. Others handed their cards out to everyone, I can’t imagine trying to sort through that.
When it’s time to head to lunch there are plenty of food options in the lower level of each building. The eating options are mostly fast food variety. There are several Chinese options as well as a McDonald’s and a Papa John’s. Each restaurant had simplified menus, with pictures to point and order your food to simplify the process.
There are many dinner options in China and at the Soluxe hotel. The Soluxe Cafe, on the second floor is an international style buffet restaurant and is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. This is where we had breakfast every morning as a group prior to boarding the bus. Breakfast is included with our rooms when booking through the Canton Fair Experience. There is a great variety of both local and Western cuisines in this restaurant, something for everyone. The food was very good and a service is attentive. There are a couple other restaurants in the hotel as well as a Bavarian pub located on the first floor.
There are several local restaurants just to block or so from the Soluxe. There’s even a McDonald’s within walking distance, if you need a comfort from home. I will say that one of the nice things about eating at the buffet, at the hotel, as opposed to going to a local restaurant, is that you don’t have to worry about reading or speaking Chinese.
Communication is one area you can’t overlook when you travel to the Canton Fair. Your evenings will be spent researching, using research applications if you need them. Without a VPN, you will not have access to any of these websites.
We recommend ExpressVPN or Betternet Both worked flawlessly from both the fair and the hotel’s Wi-Fi as well as 4G on our iPhones. There are quite a few other VPN services available that work in China so check online. Make sure that your hotel has free Wi-Fi. The Soluxe had good internet access, but don’t expect the speeds that you’re accustomed to back in the US.
Be sure to contact your cellular provider to add some sort of international plan to your phone, so you don’t end up with unexpected charges. We used Skype-to-Phone or wechat for all of our voice and video communication back to the US, utilizing ExpressVPN and Wi-Fi. This allowed us to talk as long as we wanted without it counting towards our cellular plan.
Download Google Translate app to your phone. As well as the offline files for simplified Chinese, which is used in mainland China. This came in handy with taxis and restaurants where no one spoke English. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave and have all of the apps that you need on your devices. As they will not be available once you arrive in mainland China!
Payments in China: You may come to China expecting to use your American Express, Visa or MasterCard, for a majority of your purchases. However, outside of the hotel, most places only accept cash or wechat pay. ATMs are available in the main halls of the Canton Fair and at most major hotels to get RMB if needed. All of the eating places at the fair, including the coffee shops, accepted Yuan only. So plan ahead for how much cash you’ll need. And don’t plan on using credit cards other than at your hotel.
Banking options for placing orders with manufacturers at the fair. We actually don’t recommend placing orders while at the fair, instead aim to get great information from suppliers and follow up after you get back home. The prices you get at the fair are usually not their best and you haven’t negotiated anything. This is best done after the fair or during a factory visit.
Tianhe Park. About 100 feet north of the Soluxe Hotel there’s a beautiful park.The fair will occupy most of your time. But if you have an extra day or one of the evenings after the fair. Take in some of the culture of China. Guangzhou is really a fascinating place! Tianhe Park is a true gem and is so close to the Soluxe there’s no excuse to not check it out. The park is filled with verdant trees and palms along the main road surrounding the lakes. There’s plenty of places to birdwatch and there are numerous areas with local performers. You’ll see people along the trail playing various games and just enjoying the surroundings. We also take our participants on a city tour and Pearl River Cruise. Two things not to be missed in Guangzhou.
If you’re a little more adventurous, the Chimelong Holiday Resort is Guangzhou’s top tourist attraction. Featuring three world-class parks. A big Safari Park, a world-class circus and Asia’s largest water park. It’s about a 26 minute ride from the Soluxe but well worth it.
For those that enjoy sightseeing check out the Shamian Park, about 25 minutes from the Soluxe in central Guangzhou. It’s a scenic foreign settlement with old buildings built by foreigners from different countries. There’s a row of bars and cafes on the southwest side with beautiful views of the Pearl River.
Of course, the Canton Tower, the landmark of Guangzhou City. At nearly 2,000 feet the views are amazing. It’s the second tallest tower in the world and only a 13 minute ride from the Soluxe Hotel.
A staple in the life of China and in Guangzhou is the local market. Of course you’ll find supermarkets and department stores in Guangzhou. But not far from them, you will always find the local market or shopping alleys. Cut off from the noise of the vehicle traffic.These pedestrian streets are not necessarily just for shopping. Folks come here to socialize. These are the essential meeting places for the local community. I was amazed at how much they could fit into these little stores. Some of them had pretty much everything you would need in a household, packed into a small area. Others were small specialized stores for specific products.
Safety: It is nice walking around the local area and seeing parents and grandparents out walking with their children. And just spending quality time. For blocks and blocks around the hotel north-south-east-west you can walk and find all these little small shops and restaurants and see people out for lunch, eating and walking and children out walking. It’s completely safe.
That’s it for now. I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful. Feel free to add your own tips in a comment at the bottom. Or send us your questions. And please don’t hesitate! Join us at the Canton Fair in China!