China Paradigm interviewed Benoît C. Thebaut, the co-founder of Stelliers and Riviera Events to get some insights about such business as an event agency in China, talk about technology trends in the event management, and to clarify the general situation of hotel industry in China.
Benoit C. Thebaut, a ‘lucky’ entrepreneur in the hotel industry in China
Benoit is experienced in hospitality, logistics industries, and event management. Talking about Benoit’s background, he born and raised in France, he has been working for Air France Cargo as the Chinese sales representative after his master’s degree in marketing. Benoit was looking for job opportunities in Venezuela at that time, but out of some coincidence, he arrived in Shanghai in 2003. Looking back, Benoit is happy that he chose China to develop his career.
With extensive marketing knowledge and communication experience in the logistics industry, in 2005, Benoit has founded Riviera Events with his best friend, Stephane de Montgros. Benoit talks a lot about the achievement of their event agency in China has achieved and the importance of well-coordinated teamwork. Apart from this, as a result of accumulated knowledge and connections, Benoit together with his friend Stephane founded one more company, called Stelliers, in 2014. Stelliers is the only accolade in Asia that honors the dedicated professionals and the most talented hoteliers in China.
Benoit always appreciates his “good luck” in grasping the right chance and being accompanied by his best friend and business partner at the same time. When talking about a reason why he chose this industry and this career, he declares that it was actually about being “at the right place at the right moment”. They were not doing this purposely at first, but step by step, Benoit has become one of the most well-known figures in the hotel industry in China.
Riviera Events and Stelliers, two key players in the hotel industry in China
These two companies are both key players in the hotel industry in China, although they have different focuses: Riviera functions as an event agency in China, for which hotels are an integral part of their clients; while Stelliers is a reward platform for the most talented hoteliers in China.
As both companies are co-founded by Benoit and his friend, they have a clear division in running these two businesses: Stelliers was founded in 2014 and looked after mainly by Benoit’s partner. For Benoit himself, the major concern is about Riviera Events. It is an event agency in China, with a focus on event planning and management:
“We are a full event agency in China. When you do an event, you might require support with guests’ databases, media coordination and so on. We try not to take care of that. We want to focus on the event management and the production of the event.”
With the development of their business, hotels are no longer the major clients for them, they used to be 80% of their business, but nowadays, it only represents about 30%. It is not to say that Riviera is shrinking, on the contrary, their clients are becoming more diverse including technological companies, these companies could also come to them for a conference and ribbon-cutting event management.
Events as networking tools in China, outward extension from a single point
In explaining why there are many other types of clients coming to them, Benoit has shown his trajectory in business development. At first, he just collaborated with nightclubs and alcohol brands for organizing parties; then, after several ups and downs, he decided to find a more stable business pattern, which later led them to take hotel events into account;as a result, he regarded those events as network tools in China, for example, when a hotel organizes a client appreciation:
“Like we literally have our clients inviting 300 of their best clients. So, when you do an event for a hotel—let’s say client appreciation—and they invite a Fortune 500 company. These people are also potential clients for us.”
Benoit appreciates every opportunity to get exposed to more clients, therefore, sometimes they also help clients with event management on a low budget.
“Let’s say if an ad company such as Google comes to us and they ask us to do a backdrop for three hours from Shanghai, we’ll support them in doing so because we also value the bigger events they give us.”
Instead of setting his sight just in short-term benefit, Benoit cares more about the outward extension from a potential point. With this objective in mind, Riviera is not only an event agency in China but also a reliable partner for various clients.
Technology trends in the event management, “managing an event is like directing a movie”
There are various technologies involved in event management and many of them have been more common among general attendees. In the past, taking photos may just be the duties of professional journalists or movie directors. However, when you enter an event today, almost everyone on site is taking selfies. Although the most popular social media could be various in different countries, people are definitely able to post their selfies and other relevant pictures online with hashtags. Apart from general social media, technology trend in the event management is also manifested in live streaming:
“Live streaming is a very important part. The idea of live streaming is obviously that you have a room with 300 people, but you are able to share that life with much more than just 300 people who are able to experience the whole event not just through pictures.”
It is common for an event agency in China to do live streaming on particular platforms. It is also effective to have KOLs to do the live streaming for the event because they already have a considerable audience base.
Lastly, although the technology trend in the event management is becoming more significant, Benoit also reminds every event agency in China of the guests’ experience. It is good to bring technologies in events, but the technology has to be convenient for guests: even though agencies are trying to be creative and tech-savvy, it is also important to make sure that everyone in the event will be comfortable with the technologies.
Listen to this episode here: