Hello, Qingdao! Hello, SCO!
Home to Tsingtao Beer and home appliance giant Haier, Qingdao is becoming a more attractive place to run important multilateral events.
In June, the coastal city in east China's Shandong Province will host the 18th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the world's most populous regional organization.
The SCO accounts for over 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, nearly half of the world's population and over 20 percent of global GDP. Its eight member states are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
Since the creation of the SCO in 2001, the summit had been held in China three times, twice in Shanghai and once in Beijing. Qingdao is the third host city.
"Being chosen as the host means something," said He Wenju, who works as a tourist-guide trainer.
He said it was recognition of the competitiveness of Qingdao, including in public security, the environment and facilities.
Having served as a volunteer 10 years ago when Qingdao hosted the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he knows how such events can make the city better.
"I saw huge improvement in the city's roads and greenbelts, and citizens took more pride in their city," he said. "After the games, Qingdao became better known and tourists swarmed in to look at the Olympic sailing center and other nearby places."
Now, similar changes are happening.
Just as He observed, exterior building lights have become more beautiful, the roads have been renovated with lines newly painted, and people can pay for bus fares with WeChat.
Zhang Jiangting, secretary of the Qingdao Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, said hosting the summit offers Shandong and Qingdao new opportunities.
"We took into consideration both the summit's needs and people's needs for better lives, and combined the hosting with improving the city's environment and improving urban construction and management," Zhang said.
The summit will not only boost Qingdao's tourism, trade and convention and exhibition sectors, but also promote the growth of new growth sources and improve its development quality, he said.
"Experience shows that hosting important international events will noticeably boost a city's development, especially in its tourism sector," said Cui Dezhi, head of Qingdao's tourism development committee.
The effects of hosting the SCO summit have already been seen during the past weeks, as the city's tourism consumption during the three-day International Workers' Day holiday surged 19.22 percent year-on-year to 7.32 billion yuan (1.15 billion U.S. dollars).
The growth was faster than the 14 percent increase in the city's tourist consumption for the full year of 2017.
"The high season for tourism has come earlier this year because of the summit. It is foreseeable that the number of inbound tourists will see explosive growth," Cui said.
As a frontier of the country's reform and opening up policy, the city is also taking the opportunity to enhance economic cooperation with countries in central and south Asia.
With the support of the Ministry of Commerce, Qingdao is building a demonstration zone for China-SCO local economic and trade cooperation, according to the municipal commercial authority.
Apart from the eight member states, the SCO also has four observer states and six dialogue partners.
Last year, trade between Qingdao and SCO-related countries rose 12.5 percent to 39.02 billion yuan.
By the end of last year, Qingdao had invested 500 million dollars in 74 projects in those countries, while they had signed contracts to invest 475 million dollars in 226 projects in Qingdao.
The city is also making preparations for an exhibition of imported products from SCO-related countries to boost imports. So far, eight countries have signed up.