Story by SIRIMA EAMTAKO
While Pattaya has clinched the recognition as a MICE City alongside its counterparts Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, it’s up to industry players to further refine the destination’s image and sharpen its edge amongst the pack.
In recent years, Pattaya’s image as a destination of choice for MICE visitors, corporate travellers and families has been strengthened, and in the process has slowly lessened its somewhat sleazy reputation.
Pattaya is geographically located in the centre of five major industry estates and is near to Suvarnabhumi Airport and one of the country’s largest seaports, Laem Chabang. Coupled with its wide array of in- and off-site tourism and lifestyle facilities, the beachside city makes an ideal location for MICE events. “Pattaya has it all, except casinos and snow,” one stakeholder said.
Leading the MICE charge is the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH), built nearly 15 years ago by Royal Cliff Hotels Group managing director Panga Vathanakul, upon realisation that the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions industries have “a sustainable advancement” in Thailand.
Mrs Vathanakul told micenet ASIA: “To-date, PEACH is facilitating an average of three events per month – each with over 700 delegates. PEACH is versatile, offering column free halls for 7000 delegates and 40 breakout rooms of various sizes. For events with over 1000 delegates, PEACH can accommodate.”
PEACH is situated within the grounds of Royal Cliff Hotels Group, which offers four five-star hotels totalling up to 1090 rooms and 18 F&B outlets. In the last two years, the group has spent over one billion baht (US$33.6 million) upgrading guestrooms and facilities. All of its rooms and suites now offer IPTV system and free Wi-Fi, while meeting rooms provide video conferencing, Skype and high speed internet access.
Pattaya has been declared a MICE City alongside Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket by the country’s official MICE body, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, as part of its plans initiated in 2010 to highlight key Thai cities with comprehensive MICE offerings. These include nearly 50,000 hotel rooms and various types of MICE activities such as adventure tourism, history and culture, factory site inspections, green tourism activities, corporate social responsibility projects and luxury tourism products.
In 2015, if everything goes as planned, Pattaya will be made even more accessible to Bangkok by the Thai government’s Suvarnabhumi-Pattaya high speed rail line project. The travelling time between Bangkok and Pattaya will be shortened to 30 minutes, from the current 90 minutes by car. Within the city, a monorail project is being floated by the local administration in a bid to tackle the current gridlock traffic especially during rush hours and public holidays.
Thai Hotels Association Eastern Chapter vice-president Chatchawal Supachayanont said: “We expect to see a 20 per cent growth on the volume of MICE events for Pattaya city-wide this year. Businesses are now coming from all parts of the world in contrast to the past that saw Pattaya attracting only certain markets. But there is still room to grow more international events to make use of Pattaya’s one-stop MICE capabilities.”
Mr Supachayanont, who is also general manager of Dusit Thani Pattaya, said the government must help to reiterate that normalcy had returned to Thailand following years of uncertainty in order to build market confidence. “MICE events rely on confidence in the destination. So when the market is confident in Thailand as a MICE destination, we can then propose Pattaya and its full-fledged MICE offers as an alternative destination after Bangkok.”