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Back to the Future: World Trade Center Taipei Prepares for Its Second Time Hosting a WTCA General Assembly

Walter Yeh, President and CEO, WTC Taipei

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The 2020 General Assembly in Taipei is quickly approaching, scheduled to take place at the very beginning of March. WTCA Meridian Editor Alex Brown sat down with Walter Yeh for a brief interview on why Taipei decided to bid on hosting the GA for a second time more than 20 years later, and how the city has grown to become a bustling economic hub in Asia. 

1. Mr. Yeh—thank you so much for sitting with us today. And of course, thank you for your service on our Board of Directors. Can you take a moment to briefly introduce yourself and your role with World Trade Center (WTC) Taipei?

My name is Walter Yeh and I am the President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WTC Taipei. I’ve been with WTC Taipei for more than 30 years. It is my great honor to serve on the WTCA Board and work closely with so many fantastic colleagues and partners in the WTCA network. Throughout my career I’ve been assisting businesses to expand globally, and I’m committed to facilitating the development of the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry in our region.

2. Great. So, of course, WTC Taipei is no stranger to hosting a General Assembly (GA). Your organization hosted the GA before, more than 20 years ago in 1994. Why did you and your team decide to bid on hosting the GA again in 2020?

The reason why we wanted to host the GA again in 2020 comes down to our engagement in the network, the growth of the Asia Pacific region, and the opportunities available in Taipei. In 1994, the 25th GA held in Taipei celebrated the silver jubilee of the Association and it was a great success. We’re honored by the Board’s decision to host the GA once again in Taipei this year and contribute to the celebration of the Association’s 50th Anniversary.

Asia Pacific is one of the key regions driving the growth of the WTCA network. In 2012, WTC Taipei achieved "Best Practice" in all eight categories of the WTCA Certification Program, the highest number of Best Practice certificates the WTCA had ever presented to a single member. Given that engagement and reciprocity are among the core values continuously highlighted by the Association, we wanted to host the GA again in 2020, hoping to share what we’ve learned while deepening our relationship with our fellow WTCA members.

As a bustling Asian economic hub, Taiwan connects East Asia, South East Asia and the rest of the world. We believe that we have the talent, venue, services, city vitality, and industry opportunities that are needed for a successful GA. We believe the 51st GA in Taipei will increase the visibility of the Association in the region, attract new businesses to join the WTCA family, and enhance regional and global prosperity.

3. When we did our site visit earlier in May 2019 our team was quite taken with Taipei. It was exciting and dynamic, the food was delicious and the people were so friendly and welcoming. Economically speaking, it is also an important hub in the region, boasting multiple opportunities for Members and their local companies, suppliers, buyers, etc. Tell us a little about the sectors your event will feature, and some of the companies that will take part in the GA?

GA 2020 will focus on “Connecting Business to the Digital World.” The event aims to facilitate industrial exchange and prepare businesses for the advantages as well as challenges of the digital era. We’re hoping that businesses can benefit from the GA to be well prepared for the new decade.

We will organize B2B meetings to facilitate industrial cooperation and connections as well as enable attendees to learn more about the latest developments in doing business in Taiwan. The industry fields covered will include agriculture and smart agriculture; green technology; the Information and Communications Technology industry, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the “Internet of Things”; the medical industry and smart healthcare; smart cities; smart manufacturing; and startups and innovation.

To give you a sneak peek at our agenda, we are honored to have Mr. Michael Chang, CEO of Microsoft’s AI Research and Development Center as our keynote speaker to address the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation. We are also proud to share recent developments in smart solutions such as smart healthcare and smart agriculture. Leading companies and institutions from around Taipei will also participate in the GA to share their insights in those areas, including Taipei Medical University Hospital; Agricultural Technology Research Institute; MiTAC Information Technology Corporation; imedtac Corporation, Ltd.; and Hugreen Corporation Ltd.

You may have also learned from our weekly GA newsletters that we will be arranging company tours that will take our attendees to companies including Advantech, Brogent Technologies Inc., and iStaging to experience the latest IoT and somatosensory technologies.

Finally, one of the world’s top three bicycle trade shows, Taipei Cycle, will coincide with our GA on March 4. It will be a wonderful opportunity for attendees to explore the showgrounds and attend the forums of the show to see not only the latest bicycle industry developments, but also how we promote trade through international industry exhibitions.

4. We know your team has been hard at work preparing an incredibly enriching and meaningful program. And at the top of every Member’s mind is, of course, the all-important B2B matchmaking opportunities for their local-company delegations. Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the detail behind this part of the programming?

Sure! A major highlight will be the B2B Meeting Sessions on March 3. WTC Taipei will serve as a matchmaking-services platform for all participating WTCs and their member companies to help them find potential cooperation partners in Taipei and around the world.

As one of Asia’s logistic hubs, Taipei is a leading global trader and a key player in the global supply chain. We are renowned for our strong innovation capability and high performing industrial clusters. Taiwan is also the world’s 18th largest exporter of merchandise. Ranked fourth in the Asia Pacific for Global Competitiveness, Taiwan is known for its ease of doing business and is one of the best destinations for investment. So, we are inviting all fellow WTCs to organize a business delegation to Taipei and attend the B2B meeting sessions. We believe everyone can find great business partners in Taipei.

After registering to attend the GA, remember to sign up for the B2B Meeting Sessions and tell us what you are interested in procuring or offering. Our team will help match your interests with potential local companies and we’ll let you know who you’re going to meet before the meetings take place on March 3. All GA attendees are also welcome to download our official app to look for potential candidates and make their own appointments via the app platform (look out for more information in an upcoming GA newsletter).

We understand organizing a business delegation is not an easy job. So to encourage our fellow WTCs to invite more local businesses to participate in the GA, we are working with the government to offer travel incentives. Please contact our team at info@wtctaipei.org for more details about the incentive criteria.

5. And then of course there is the fun stuff! Tell us a little about the receptions and the gala you have planned. Everyone loves a party!

I have to say, the Welcome Reception and the Gala Dinner are definitely parts of the GA that you will not want to miss! During the Welcome Reception, we will provide authentic Taiwanese food and refreshments, and you will get to see Taipei’s creativity and cultural energy. Prior to the reception, you can join a tour of the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park known as the creative hub of Taipei.

At the Gala Dinner, in addition to the great food and refreshments, you will be amazed by how well technology complements the performing arts, and participate in the conclusion of the WTCA’s 50th Anniversary. That’s all I can say right now — you’ll just have to come and see it in person. Again, we are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to host this milestone event here in Taipei.

6. I also understand there is a lot more to the island than just Taipei, with some truly beautiful sights and attractions in the area for our Members and their accompanying guests to visit. What kinds of activities and excursions can Members look forward to if they decide to spend a little more time in Taiwan outside of the GA?

There are things to see and do in various cities all over the island. Thanks to the High Speed Rail (THSR) and frequent flights, in addition to an extensive train and bus network called the Taipei Metro (MRT) and Railway (TRA), going from Taipei to other cities such as Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Hualien and the offshore islands of Taiwan is fast and convenient.

One of the cities you must visit is Tainan. Located just under two hours away by THSR, the city is renowned for its 300-year-old history and amazing street food. To the east of the island is the world famous Taroko Gorge National Park located in Hualien. Also just two hours away by train from Taipei, the park is known for its hiking trails, skywalks, and mountainous scenery.

Taiwan is also known for its culture and festivals. For example, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is named one of the “14 Festivals To Attend” by Fodor’s Travel, and is called “the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world” by the Discovery Channel. Additionally, you can relax in a traditional tea house and experience a traditional tea tasting and ceremony with a tea master. The next tea master could be you.

And last but not least you can find temples almost everywhere, playing an important role in Taiwanese religious culture and in people’s daily lives. With more than 15,000 temples in Taiwan, these temples are not only a place of worship, but they also serve as community centers to interact with others. The most recognizable temple in Taipei, Longshan Temple, was originally constructed in 1738 and is easily accessible via the MRT’s Longshan Temple station.

7. Well I know from working with your team that this is going to be a GREAT GA. Is there anything I left out? Anything else you would like to add?

Taipei is an energetic and creative city that will never stop amazing you. Ideas and innovation are what this city is all about. Not only does Taipei offer business opportunities, but it also provides access to regional and even global opportunities. We’ve prepared a full agenda of surprises and fun activities that will surely make anyone fall in love with the city. So if you haven’t registered for GA 2020 yet, do it now!

8. Great—thank you so much for your time. I know so many of our Members are looking forward to what we are certain will be a fantastic GA!

Thank you! We look forward to hosting it as well. See you in Taipei!