INDUSTRY GROWING AT 18% A YEAR; INTERNATIONAL DELEGATES 814,000 (EXPECTED) IN 2007; REVENUE GENERATED IN 2007 56 BILLION BAHT;
TOP THREE INCENTIVE MARKETS ARE HONG KONG, INDIA AND SINGAPORE, WHILE MIDDLE EAST AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ARE THE
business soars to new heights
Thailand's Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) business continues to blaze ahead,
despite a year of political uncertainly, and looks set to register overall spending growth of 20% this
It is a remarkable achievement for an industry that is typically hard hit by any external factors
that can see business events groups cancelling at the drop of a hat.
This was the case at the beginning of the year as the
sector was hit hard by cancellations in the wake the New Year
bombings, but since then it has recovered tremendously and
displayed a resilience that will set it in good stead for years to
According to the Thailand Convention & Exhibition
Bureau (TCEB), Thailand will welcome a record 814,000 MICE
delegates in 2007, up 18% from the 677,500 in 2006, and they
will inject an estimated 56 billion baht in foreign exchange
revenue into the Thai economy.
TCEB board chairman MR Disnadda Diskul said that
MICE revenue increased 20% on last year with major source
markets coming from Asia, Europe and Australia.
TCEB figures show that the ASEAN region provides the
bulk of convention delegates, with Malaysia leading the way
followed by Singapore and Indonesia, while numbers from
Japan jumped 110% and Korea catapulted 360%.
Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai remain the
preferred choice of MICE delegates while Krabi, Hua Hin and
Chiang Rai are gaining in popularity.
"Overall, the meeting and incentives industry has shown
a constant growth rate of 20% to 25% per annum,"
MR Disnadda said.
"This is due to the industry's strengths in terms of greater
accessibility, room renovation and the expansion of new conference halls, exhibition centres and
transportation and public utilities.
It also includes our unique culture and the famous Thai cuisine as
well as a diversity of activities and tourist attractions.
Incoming Trade Exhibition
Association of Thailand president
Patprapee Chinachoti forecast
that over the next ten years Asia
will be divided up into three
centres for trade exhibition
business; China, India and
Southeast Asia, where Thailand is
well positioned with 210,000
square metres (sqm) of space to
be the regional hub.
He said TCEB will promote the nation's tourism campaign, the Royal Initiative Discovery, to
demonstrate Thailand's unique advantages for the meetings and incentives market as well as for
"It (the campaign) will create new jobs and generate income for people and entrepreneurs in
related businesses, resulting in increased business opportunities to serve the MICE industry,
particularly investment and additional jobs," he added.
Exhibition space expansion fuels
Thailand has taken major steps towards achieving
its goal of becoming the exhibition hub of
Southeast Asia this year by opening new venues,
and expanding existing facilities that will enable
the Kingdom to compete with its regional rivals.
Backed by expected industry growth of up to
15% this year, according to the Thailand Exhibition
& Convention Bureau (TCEB), investors are
confidently pouring in millions of dollars in
anticipation of a bright future.
Add to this its geographical location, strong
accessibility, affordability, high hospitality
standards and attractive destinations, the trade is
gearing up in an attempt to construct effective bids
for major regional events.
Incoming Trade Exhibition Association of
Thailand president Patprapee Chinachoti forecast
that over the next ten years, Asia will be divided up
into three centres for trade exhibition business;
China, India and Southeast Asia where Thailand is
well positioned with 210,000 square metres (sqm)
of space to be the regional hub.
He added that the focus going forward would
be on high-yielding international trade shows, with
its first target a bid for International
Telecommunication Union 2010, last held in Asia
in Hong Kong in 2002.
Hardware to support these goals was
recently supplemented by the opening of 10,000
sqm of space at Centara Grand & Bangkok
Convention Centre at CentralWorld.
Moreover, the Bangkok International Trade
and Exhibition Centre is planning to almost double
its exhibition space from 36,000 sqm to 70,000
sqm, or possibly even 100,000 sqm.
IMPACT Exhibition Management also added
a new banqueting facility, the 3,500 sqm Royal
Jubilee Ballroom earlier this year, and has
unveiled plans to build a 400-room four-star hotel
on its grounds.
"We have been considering it for a while.
something that makes sense and it is something
that we were going to do sooner or later," said
IMPACT managing director Paul Kanjanapas.
"Financially, it is the right time to be going ahead
with the project; it makes good business sense.
This is often difficult for the private sector, which
continues to face obstacles.
Swiss International Air Lines general
manager for Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia,
Vietnam and chairman of the Thailand Board of
Airline Representatives Brian Sinclair-Thompson,
said: "In other Asian countries such as Singapore
and Kuala Lumpur there are incredible incentives
to fly into those markets.
In Thailand there is
nothing like this.
Trust and quality to drive meetings
and incentive industry
The Thailand incentive and meetings industry is
growing at up to 25% annually, according to
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB),
and as the sector expands, so does the need to
develop new markets.
Regional markets in North Asia and South
Asia remain the major sources of incentive and
meeting business, with Hong Kong, India, and
Singapore the big performers in the past 12
Outside of the traditional markets, TCEB is
planning to concentrate on the emerging markets
of the Middle East and Russia, building them out
of their established interest in Thailand as a
tourism destination, according to TCEB director of
incentives and meetings Malinee Kitaphanich.
Ms Malinee was instrumental in launching
the highly successful "It Must Be Thailand"
campaign, which invited 94 meeting and incentive
planners from China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia,
Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK, and
the US to experience Thailand.
"It really demonstrated the commitment from
both the Thai government and the private sector,"
"TCEB hosted the event with full support of
industry partners such as the luxury Eastern &
Oriental Express for exclusive transfers from
Bangkok to Hua Hin where all planners were
spoiled with a wonderful luncheon onboard and of
course surprising shows throughout the
TCEB, still in its relative infancy as an
organisation, is striving to build confidence in
Thailand as a meeting and incentive destination.
"Our main goal is to ensure trust and highquality
events to enable us to position Thailand as
a top destination for meetings and incentives,"
said Ms Malinee.
"We have many attractive qualities, such as
our hospitality industry, our dedication, our spas,
meditation, dining, well-being and lifestyle.
Convention business poised to expand
Thailand's geographical position at the crossroads
of India and China is poised to benefit the
country's convention sector as the economies of
the two countries expand at a tremendous rate.
A slew of new facilities, plus numerous
refurbishments set to take place over the next two
to three years, will help Thailand cope with the
expected additional demand.
The convention sector in China and India is
booming, but industry experts say the
infrastructure, especially in India, does not meet
Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention
Centre at CentralWorld (BCC) will be a natural
beneficiary, with general manager Michel Horn
confidently predicting that "it is with venues like
BCC that we will capture more of these larger
events from other destinations within the region.
To grab its share of the growing convention
market, the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall has embarked on a one billion baht
expansion to increase its capacity from 5,800
delegates to 8,000.
Thailand is a great choice for the UK
Out of Europe, the UK is currently No. 1 conference and incentive travel market for Thailand, with Germany a
close second. Thailand, considered to be an 'exotic' destination, has for several years been a very popular long
haul destination for UK event planners, with its natural resources and variety of locations. The only drawbacks
for UK MICE planners is the lengthy travel time to get to Thailand and the time zone difference. Despite various
setbacks which have beset Thailand in recent years, business has bounced back quickly after each challenge.
Today, Thailand continues to be popular with UK offshore meeting and incentive travel planners. Despite strong
competition and recent limited MICE promotion and marketing, Thailand remains on top. According to the 2006
Top Ten Most Popular Long Haul Destinations survey conducted in the UK, Thailand ranked No. 6 in terms of
volume group business and No. 4 by number of room nights. The most recent challenge to beset Thailand – the
military coup – caused a short-term loss of confidence in the destination and reversal of good progress Thailand
was making. It remains to be seen how well Thailand will do during 2008.
It is not difficult, from a UK standpoint, to see how much better Thailand could do without the political issues, and
with the right sort of promotion. There is great potential for the future of Thailand's MICE industry.
TCEB Representative, UK
Thailand's MICE industry:
Going for growth
With the political turmoil of last year and an uncertain
outlook, we forecasted a fairly bleak 2007 for a
healthy MICE industry in Thailand.
Contrary to expectations, we had a reasonably good
first half-year as international meeting and incentive
travel planners continued to bring their events to the
Phuket has fared exceptionally well for
us, with Bangkok being a little slower to secure
The second half of 2007 has not been as buoyant.
Corporate decision-makers regionally, as well as at
home, have held back their conference plans during
the run up to the predicted December 23 election.
is not unusual for a destination to show a slowdown
in corporate events during the preceding six months
of a general election.
The long-haul MICE feeder markets to Thailand are
performing far better than those closer to home.
Customers geographically farthest from us are less
attuned to the political climate here.
A highlight of our 2007 event calendar was the
Diethelm Travel Thailand 50th Year Golden
Anniversary reception held on the 57th floor of CRC
Diethelm Events orchestrated the party,
which was attended by the who's who of Thailand's
We managed to work our magic,
given the available budget, and stage a unique
Another highlight for us this year was our appointment
to handle the Thailand Convention & Exhibition
Bureau's (TCEB) educational trip for 94 corporate
event planners flown in from ten key markets
We created a programme of two nights in Hua Hin
sandwiched between one night in Bangkok before
This turned out to be a super showcase
with our business partners demonstrating what
Bangkok and Hua Hin have to offer.
Looking forward to 2008, I am forecasting a much
better year for Thailand's MICE industry.
growth, a wider choice of products, with new
hotels and resorts opening, plus ramped up
promotion by TCEB and the Tourism Authority of
All the right ingredients for a healthy MICE industry
Scheduled for completion in
March 2008, the project will add a 7,000 square
metre (sqm) pillar-free hall, nine breakout rooms
and a 1,600-sqm-reception space.
Though construction of Chiang Mai's 3,000-
delegate convention centre has been put on hold,
hotels are picking up the slack.
The 281-room Shangri-La Hotel Chiang
Mai, is due to open in December 2007, and will
offer a 1,400-sqm ballroom for 1,200 guests and
Le Meridien Chiang Mai, opening in April 2008,
will offer a 1,050-seat Grand Convention Hall.
Currently, The Mandarin Oriental Dhara
Dhevi, Chiang Mai Plaza, Holiday Inn Chiang
Mai, and The Empress Hotel, offer sizeable
function spaces, and on the horizon is Best
Western Chiang Mai's rooftop function room with
a 360-degree view of the city.
After years of debate, the private sector is
taking the lead on the Phuket Convention Centre.
Capital investment firm IHG Funds announced in
August that it would establish a two-billion-baht
fund for its construction, which will include a
3,000-delegate convention hall.
The site will be
selected this year, with the hunt for investors to
kick off in early 2008.
BANGKOK CONVENTION CENTRE
Centara grabs centre stage
Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre
at CentralWorld (BCC) became the new kid on
Thailand's MICE block on 19 July, when it
hosted its inaugural event, the International
Bangkok Film Festival.
The latest venue to grace the Kingdom's
Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and
Exhibitions (MICE) industry is expected to
command the attention of regional and
international business event planners due to its
proximity to five-star hotels, shopping and
entertainment, right in the heart of the city.
adjoining 505-room Centara Grand hotel is
expected to open in April next year.
"BCC is a part of a total integrated venue
including a hotel, convention centre and
lifestyle retail and entertainment complex," said
general manager Michel Horn.
"We are in the central business district
area and surrounded by thousands of
additional hotel rooms, all within easy walking
distance of BCC.
This is a unique proposition
for Bangkok, and positions us apart from our
The convention centre covers 5,403
square metres (sqm) and can accommodate
5,500 delegates in theatre configuration and
3,000 in a classroom set up.
The venue's 970
sqm World Ballroom can host 1,100 delegates
for cocktails or banquets of up to 700.
also offers 15 Lotus Suites for a combined
breakout-room space of over 1,600 sqm and
eight food and beverage outlets offering Thai,
Japanese and International cuisine.
BCC's first true test came when it recently
welcomed 5,000 delegates to Asia Pacific's top
MICE trade show, the 15th IT&CMA.
"This event will be the showcase for BCC
as a new international venue for exhibition and
conventions, and to prove Thailand as a MICE
hub in Southeast Asia," said Mr Horn.
The event is utilising all of BCC's total
space of 10,000 sqm.
MICE in Thailand:
Future hub or past glories?
I wonder how many people have noticed that this government
has managed to appoint the best team ever to lead tourism in
We presently have:
• Minister of Tourism who understands sustainability and
tourism capacity management
• a newly appointed Permanent Secretary that has an
admirable "can-do-today" attitude
• a TAT governor who has brought back the aggressive
marketing mentality of the 1980s and 1990s in her
• a new TCEB board that has lots of travel and tourism industry
• an energetic TICA organisation in both education and
So why then is Thailand still not the MICE hub we all dream
of? Indeed, why is it actually losing the battle against many
new and even older MICE destinations in Asia?
I believe it is for several reasons.
The present politics plays
an undermining and ambiguous role.
Planning is still not
Vision remain short-term.
Last but not least,
teamwork between stakeholders is patchy.
The result is that
the big TCEB budget can support bidding efforts but still does
not convince most professional decision-makers.
However with these distinguished team leaders, it is now up
to the private MICE industry to stop moaning and groaning
and join hands.
We need to create a "TEAM THAILAND"
where all players listen to their coaches and win their individual
That way Thailand as a whole will triumph in the marketing
war between Asian MICE destinations.
Past glories are not enough.
Innovation and creativity are the
modern keys to glory and this requires committed efforts by the
private sector to come up with new destinations and themes.
We need to find new "wow" effects and to take a modified
approach to the use of Thai culture as our unique selling point.
Leadership is action, not position.
So where is the person
who can get all the stakeholders to do what they seemingly
don't want to do: cooperate as "TEAM THAILAND" in order
to accomplish what they all want to achieve – Thailand's
status as the MICE hub of Asia?
I pray that the future TCEB director-general has those
Bert van Walbeek
CEO, The Winning Edge