Mice hit by manpower shortages
The Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) segment in Thailand is seeing a strong rebound this year, but local operators are struggling to prepare enough manpower to serve the market, says the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (Tica).
"Most destination management companies [DMCs] have been suffering for years and had to lay off employees," said Sumate Sudasna, president of Tica. "Now that the businesses have started to recover, we cannot replace the employees fast enough."
Mr Sumate said the strong growth stemmed from the relative speed of Thailand's reopening, when compared with regional competitors.
The Mice business is recording positive momentum, particularly for meetings and incentives, he said.
"There are a lot of events planned for the end of this year because of years of pent-up demand," said Mr Sumate.
He said estimated revenue in the fourth quarter might reach 60% of the same period in 2019, a year the industry described as being "overwhelmed".
The current market has not fully recovered because the Chinese have not returned, which has been attributed to the nation's zero-Covid policy.
There has been an influx of Mice visitors from Singapore and India, as well as travellers in the sector from Europe, Australia and North America, said Mr Sumate.
With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit planned for Bangkok next month, he said many five- and six-star hotels were fully booked, which prompted Mice groups to reschedule their meetings and incentive trips until after the event.
Mr Sumate said a wide range of food and activities in Thailand remain appealing for clients in the corporate segment, in addition to the weak baht that benefits foreign arrivals.
He said even though Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan could reopen in the fourth quarter, they may need more time to promote the Mice market as this segment typically has to plan trips months or years in advance.
Although the reinstatement of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha might trigger another round of protests, Mr Sumate believes the situation will be under control and should not negatively impact the industry.
"The most concerning factors are global inflation and the prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict," he said.
Chuwit Sirivajjakul, executive director of the East Asia region for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said China is showing positive signs, with a large corporate meeting with 400 participants scheduled to take place in Thailand next month. However, the Chinese company organising the meeting has encountered difficulty finding DMCs in Thailand to help manage their activities here as operators are still recovering from the pandemic, he said.