The business travel segment is expected to recover with 23.2 million travellers in fiscal year 2024, but it won't reach 2019's level until 2025 or 2026 due to global economic uncertainty, according to the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
TCEB president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya said the agency will focus on driving international exhibitions, mega events and festivals due to their rapid growth, while international meetings, incentives and conventions are still slowly bouncing back.
In the 2023 fiscal year, which ended in September, the Mice industry generated 101 billion baht in revenue from 17.4 million business travellers from both the foreign and domestic markets, said Mr Chiruit.
In the international segment, international exhibitions generated the most revenue, reaching 17.7 billion baht, which was higher than the level recorded in 2019, said Duangdej Yuaikwarmdee, director of exhibitions at TCEB.
Mr Duangdej said the robust growth was derived from the enthusiasm of corporations to restore their revenue by prioritising trade following the pandemic, rather than through the organisation of meetings or incentives for employees.
He said this trend would continue as the agency anticipates 10% growth in international exhibitions in 2024, generating around 19.5 billion baht.
Leading markets would include Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, along with India, China and South Korea.
The agency will focus on luring exhibitions among S-curve industries, as well as new flagship industries including creative soft power, food security, mobility, and health tech.
While China was previously the country providing the most international visitors in this segment, this market would not regain the top spot in the near future, as economic challenges were still disrupting travel demand there, he said.
However, he hoped Thailand's temporary visa-free scheme for Chinese tourists would benefit this segment to some extent.
Mr Chiruit said with global economic pressure and geopolitical conflicts continuing to affect the growth of international visitors, especially from the long-haul market, TCEB will accelerate domestic Mice to help mitigate risks from uncontrollable factors by incentivising domestic meetings and incentives.
In 2023, domestic Mice attracted 16.5 million visitors, generating 50 billion baht.
Mr Chiruit said the domestic Mice market rebounded more slowly than expected, as the majority of exhibition suppliers and organisers pivoted to international events instead.
He said the agency also asked the cabinet to allocate a central budget for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2024, as the 2024 budget has been delayed.