Surat Thani is gearing up for business travel, hoping to lure Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) visitors as it looks to recover from the pandemic.
Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya said the province is a unique tourism location with the infrastructure to serve as a Mice destination.
TCEB has declared five Mice cities in Thailand: Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Pattaya, Phuket and Bangkok, with Nakhon Ratchasima and Songkhla provinces recently promoted by the bureau this month.
On July 1, the agency introduced a new domestic Mice aid package that subsidises tour agents, organisers or hotels for each event, including 15,000 baht per group for a one-day activity and 30,000 baht for two days, one night.
He said 428 of 500 targeted groups, mostly in Mice cities, already requested the subsidy, which altogether generated more than 38 million baht.
Surat Thani province ranks fifth for tourism income with annual revenue of around 120 billion baht.
There is seamless transport to both Surat Thani and Samui airports, said Vitaya Whangpatanathon, president of Tourism Council of Surat Thani.
The province also has meeting facilities, such as a new auditorium at Surat Thani Rajabhat University that can accommodate up to 3,000 attendees.
Ruengnam Chaikwang, president of the Thai Hotels Association southern chapter of the east coast, said hoteliers in Koh Samui are reducing their prices by 70% to attract the domestic market, moving away from the island's reputation as an expensive destination.
According to the association, as of Jan 1 there were 690 hotels on Samui, of which more than 30 out of 390 registered hotels provide meeting rooms for 30-500 people.
Vorasit Pongkumpunt, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said the maximum expenditure of tourists was about 2,000 baht per person per day for stays of two nights, but Mice travellers spend more than twice that and stay at least three days and two nights per trip.
"During the global outbreak, tourists who travel as groups become even more important for Koh Samui," Mr Vorasit said.
Some 90% of international tourists who travelled to the island prior to pandemic are independent tourists, while the rest are groups, including Mice travellers.
Maintaining an equal ratio between those two segments is the long-term plan for a sustainable market, he said.
If international tourism is allowed, operators in Koh Samui and the TCEB will offer special packages to attract business travellers from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.