Hangzhou, China is rapidly emerging as a new center for technology and tourism.
The city of Hangzhou, China is poised for a breakout as the country’s newest hub for business travel and luxury tourism. An hour south of Shanghai, this historic city was recently thrust into the spotlight as the host of September’s G20 summit of world leaders, and in 2022, Hangzhou will also host the Asian Games, the third Chinese city to do so.
In advance of the G20 summit, several new luxury hotels arrived in the city. The Hangzhou Marriott in Qianjiang New Town opened this summer, along with the Sheraton Grand Hangzhou Binjiang. The new Midtown Shangri-La opened in March, featuring an in-house craft brewery. In July, United Airlines became the first US airline to offer direct flights to Hangzhou.
The city is also building out its cultural cachet with attractions like the Folk Art Museum, opened in fall 2015. The museum was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for the Hangzhou campus of the China Academy of Art.
Tourists will soon have one more ultra-futuristic attraction to look forward to. Space travel company KuangChi Science (widely considered the Chinese answer to SpaceX), is investing $1.5 million into a space-themed park in Hangzhou. Aptly dubbed “Future Valley,” the park will include a high-altitude balloon that will take tourists into near outer space and a futuristic living room.
While the park will likely require several years of construction, it’s a sign that the city’s policies are working. “Our mission is to develop science and technology that create a future life ecology,” KuangChi president Liu Ruopeng told China Daily. “We have chosen Hangzhou because it is a city that embraces innovation and tolerates failure.”
As it develops, Hangzhou is also placing a premium on its environmental credentials—a huge selling point for tourists, given the pollution marring several Chinese cities. The city launched an ambitious tree-planting project for the G20 summit, making this the first summit to implement carbon neutrality. Hangzhou also offers the world’s largest bike share program.
New developments are also emphasizing sustainability more than in the past. In 2017, the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) will break ground on a mixed-use development that will include offices, residential and retail spaces. Called the Zhejiang Gate Towers, the structures are designed to fulfill current LEED Gold standards and will be the tallest structures in Hangzhou once completed.
Hangzhou’s start-up scene is home to an impressive amount of entrepreneurs. In Dream Town, hundreds of start-up companies like Lifesmart, which develops smart home appliances, or PingPong, a cross-border e-payment company with dual headquarters in New York and Hangzhou, fill incubator space.
Many of these companies have taken advantage of generous government subsidies—the city is providing up to $15 million to encourage startup growth, according to city officials. “Without these kinds of subsidies, you only rely on private money, and you wouldn’t see so many technology start-ups happening today,” said Ning Tao, a partner at venture capital fund Innovation Works in a September New York Times article.
The same conditions have also allowed technology giants to flourish. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company with a record-setting IPO in 2014, was born in and is still based in Hangzhou. A robust infrastructure of factories and freelancers also help to fuel technological development in the city, as does an influx of entrepreneurial graduates from local schools like Zhejiang University’s business incubator.
Hangzhou is also preparing to develop its creative industries, extending support to cartoonists and gaming industries alongside tech companies. The city hopes these will be important drivers of growth: According to the South China Morning Post, the city’s cultural and creative industry contributed 22% of the region’s GDP in 2016.
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