Bangkok is not only experiencing a full recovery post-flood;
MICE is now a key and stable source of revenue for the Thai capital.
BY SIRIMA EAMTAKO
Bangkok is swinging back to a surplus of MICE business as Thailand enjoyed a 7 per cent year-on-year growth in the number of foreign MICE visitors last year. The figure is expected to grow by 10 per cent to 940,000, generating revenue of US$2.93 billion in 2013.
The Thai capital, though hindered by some of the country’s toughest crises including the mid-2010 political turmoil and late-2011 flood scare, was back in full swing when it hosted the four-day 2012 Rotary International Convention in May.
Nothing was spared to showcase Bangkok’s ability to host one of the world’s largest conventions. Coupled with the government’s 270 million baht (US$8.7 million) financial support, some 30 public and private organisations were roped in to ensure a welcoming experience throughout, including visa and customs facilitations and the mobilisation of 35,000 Rotarians between 56 participating hotels and the main event venue – IMPACT Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Bangkok continues to attract more large-scale MICE events, including the ITU Telecom World Exhibition for 20,000 international delegates to be held this November.
This June, Bangkok hosted the Herbalife Asia Pacific Extravaganza which was attended by more than 23,000 delegates from 12 countries in the region. Between Bangkok, Bangalore and Seoul, the Thai capital was chosen to host three Herbalife mega events simultaneously for a total of 55,000 regional independent distributors.
“The Bangkok event is the largest of our three extravaganzas held in Asia Pacific this year,” Herbalife Asia Pacific senior vice-president and managing director William M. Rahn said.
Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) president Nopparat Maythaveekulchai expected the event to generate US$60 million in economic impact to Thailand, in addition to highlighting the famous Thai hospitality, food and culture.
The overall outlook of inbound MICE business to Bangkok is bright, according to Centara Hotels and Resorts senior vice-president sales and marketing, Chris Bailey. “MICE demand for Bangkok in 2013 is as strong as 2012, which saw business shifted from the flood period. A lot of confirmed bookings and enquiries are for association gatherings.”
Pullman Bangkok King Power general manager, Marc Begassat said: “The confidence in Bangkok as a meetings destination is 100 per cent back. Thailand is once again perceived as a stable country with a good economy.”
He said that the hotel sees business coming from all sectors including automobile, pharmaceutical, higher education institution and non-profit organisations with groups averaging at 150-250 guests. However, he noted that while the hotel receives a lot of enquiries, it faces stiff competition not just from hotels within Bangkok but also in other Asian cities including Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai.
The hotel resorted to appointing three additional sales personnel earlier this year, joining the existing team of 10-12. The dedicated MICE sales team members are tasked to attend to all MICE business matters, from enquiries and bookings to managing post-event relationships.
“[This is to] show the market that Pullman Bangkok King Power is serious about making their business events a success,” said Mr Begassat.
MICE is considered one of the stable revenue generators for most hotels in Bangkok.
“(To win) MICE business is hard, but once sold, everything is included. Hotels earn not only from room revenue, but all revenue that comes with it such as F&B spend,” said Mr Bailey at Centara Group, which operates two of Bangkok’s largest MICE hotels – Centara Grand at CentralWorld and Centara Grand at CentralPlaza Ladprao – each offering access to the Bangkok Convention Centre.
According to TCEB’s 2012 data, international MICE visitors attending events stayed for an average of five and a half days with an average daily contribution of US$36 per person. Five-star hotels charged an average daily rate of 4956 baht (US$159) per room per night, according to a Jones Lang LaSalle report released in January.
The capital has an inventory of some 636 hotels and 70,000 rooms, according to Thai Hotels Association president Surapong Techaruvichit. His figures exclude non-licensed hotels, serviced residences and guesthouses, which when combined can bring the total supply to over 100,000.
More MICE hotels are added to the supply. Last year, Bangkok saw openings of the 240-room Okura Prestige Bangkok, 230-room Sofitel So Bangkok, 344-room Sofitel Sukhumvit Bangkok and 407-room W Bangkok.
Hotels with MICE facilities slated to open between this year and the next include the 281-room Centara Watergate Pavilion Hotel Bangkok, 287-room Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, 300-room Holiday Inn Bangkok Sukhumvit 22 and 290-room Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok Sukhumvit.
“The Hilton Sukhumvit Soi 24, which will open in Q3 this year, will have exciting meeting and function facilities complete with innovative food and beverage offerings,” owning company TCC Hotels Group senior executive vice-president, Wayne Buckingham said.
In terms of off-site venues, micenet ASIA understands that IMPACT Exhibition Management has been awarded a contract to manage and operate the Thai Post Building, dating back to 1880s, on Charoen Krung Road and close to three of Bangkok’s most popular MICE hotels – Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok and Shangri-la Bangkok – on the riverside with easy access through BTS Sky Train network.
The government is also addressing the traffic congestion in Bangkok. The MRT Subway Network will see four more extensions opening over the next two years while BTS Sky Train is also undergoing expansion. Both systems are semi-linked; BTS is linked directly to the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link, a 15-minute Express Train connecting the city centre to the airport served by over 70 international airlines.