Sporadic political conflicts have become commonplace in Thailand, but MICE business continues to flourish as the country grows into a formidable MICE destination.

by Sirima Eamtako

Thailand is once again facing on-and-off political conflicts, but the MICE industry has managed to strive to maintain business confidence, thanks to the country’s wide variety of destinations and convenient access.

Sumate Sudasna, president of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, said it was status quo for the Thai MICE industry, even as three large groups of protestors campaigned against the government at press time. Sporadic marches were witnessed at different sites on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, causing occasional traffic disruptions as they reached out to other parts of the city for more supporters and to mount pressure on the government.

“The protestors, despite causing mayhem during their campaign marches on different streets in Bangkok, were contained within limited areas. This allowed the Thai MICE service providers to still handle clients normally,” commented Mr Sumate, who is also managing director of Creative Destination Management, one of Thailand’s top 10 destination management companies.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the demonstrations in Bangkok remained normal as of November 15, 2013, and were mainly taking place at the Democracy Monument, Phan Fa Bridge and Makkawan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Avenue respectively. The mobilisation of demonstrators in some other parts of the city might disrupt traffic at certain times, the statement warned.
But life in Bangkok and all other areas of Thailand continued as per normal, the TAT’s statement stated. “Tourist attractions and activities as well as businesses in Bangkok and other provinces are not affected, and continue as usual.”

No MICE events were cancelled as a result of the fresh rounds of protest, including the ITU Telecom World 2013 held from November 19 to 22. However, some local events such as product launches and company anniversary celebrations were postponed.
Pullman Bangkok King Power general manager Marc Begassat said inquiries continued to pour in, although he expressed concerns that the protests, if prolonged, would eventually undermine clients’ confidence in Bangkok as a MICE destination.
However, the hotel still went ahead with its on-going marketing and promotion initiatives to win more international MICE business, with plans for overseas tradeshows and sale calls remaining intact. “We cannot stand still. We have to do something to make sure that the market knows of our existence,” Mr Begassat added.

While Bangkok is generally the main destination for international MICE events in Thailand, clients can choose to hold business events in other key Thai destinations equipped with MICE facilities, including Pattaya, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Phuket.
The TAT has provided a THAI LIVE CAM stream on www.livecam.tourismthailand.org with real-time street view videos of several popular Thai destinations such as Chiang Mai and
Koh Samui.

Meanwhile, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has flagged Chiang Mai as a promising MICE City, following the opening of the Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre this year.
The newly-built, three-billion baht facility is by far the largest convention centre owned by the government in Southeast Asia with a capacity of 880 exhibition booths and 3000 seated convention delegates.

Being equipped with its own dedicated MICE centre and a reputation that is loosely termed the economic quadrangle, Chiang Mai will also stand to gain from infrastructure such as the Asia’s R3a road and high speed train projects, according to TCEB.

However, industry players said Chiang Mai still lag behind other destinations in terms of air access. Despite its recent expansion, its airport mainly serves domestic and some regional flights, whereas Phuket is increasingly attracting more medium- and long-haul flights.
Phuket Airport, which is facing saturation point due to a huge increase in new flight routes and arrivals, is being expanded to handle 12 million passengers a year, up from about five million now. The airport, which recorded more than nine million passengers last year, serves international flights from Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan) with new services coming in from India, the Middle East and the UK.

The lack of a dedicated MICE centre in Phuket is compensated by large facilities offered at upscale accommodation and venues, including Laguna Phuket, Le Meridien Phuket, Hilton Phuket Arcadia and Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket.
According to Events Travel Asia managing director, Max Jantasuwan, Phuket is ideal for business events or conferences of up to 400 delegates. Beyond that, groups must be split into several batches or opt for Bangkok or Pattaya.

Bangkok and Pattaya are served by more than 70 international airlines operating flights through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. From the airport, Bangkok city centre is approximately 30 minutes by car, and Pattaya about 75 minutes.
Once ideal for single tourists, Pattaya has become a destination for MICE and families in recent years due to an increase in internationally-branded accommodation, unique tourist attractions, shopping facilities and high-end restaurants.

PEACH – Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall at Royal Cliff Hotels Group provides the beachside city’s largest MICE facilities for up to 8000 delegates, with more than 1000 guestrooms and suites, as well as another 1500 rooms in surrounding hotels.
Amari Orchid Pattaya, Central Grand Mirage Pattaya Beach Resort, Dusit Thani Pattaya, Hilton Pattaya and Pullman Pattaya Hotel G are also popular MICE options in Pattaya.
For MICE groups looking for a respite from the city buzz, Hua Hin, three hours southwest of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, is ideal. Excursion and off-site venues are aplenty in Hua Hin, including the popular Hua Hin Vineyard, three man-made floating markets, a retro-theme Thai market and a theme park.

Dusit Thani Hua Hin offers the town’s largest convention hall for 800 people in theatre-style and 1100 in cocktail-style. micenet ASIA understands that the owner of InterContinental Hua Hin is planning to build the town’s largest convention hall in a plot of land close by, where a new upscale property is currently under way.