The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) organised a forum for the first time in Hong Kong recently.
Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice president – business, said that such a platform would be more effective for exhibitors and orgnanisers to comprehend the current market structure in Thailand, especially regarding details of the 4.0 economic model launched to drive the growth of the innovation economy in the kingdom.
“Thailand has always been known as a tourist destination, the fact that we are getting stronger in business attractiveness, and as an investment zone, gives us a very good and clear [idea] on which direction Thailand is focusing on, so this presents as a good opportunity to tell the world [about us],” Yoswee told CEI. She is convinced that the MICE sector serves as a gateway and a ‘tool’ to drive more foreign investment in Thailand.
The government has poured in US$44 billion into the Eastern Economic Corridor scheme, an initiative closely aligned to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR), launched by the military government to develop the country’s logistics infrastructures such as the upgrading of the U-Tapao Aiport in Pattaya and a high-speed rail linking the tourist city to Bangkok.
Meanwhile, a high-speed rail track currently under construction will connect Thailand to Laos and Kunming in China as part of the OBOR initiative. “We have to build our own ‘Silk Road’ so that we can open up for international visitors to come in,” said Yoswee.
Exhibition visitors from Thailand’s closest neighbours—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam—have increased exponentially from 2013 to 2017, according to figures provided by TCEB. “[Since] trade shows is for business purposes, exhibitors and organisers would love to have their products and services penetrate as many countries as possible, and CLMV have been on the map as emerging economies for such a long time,” Yoswee explained.
TCEB has launched the ‘Thailand Extra Exhibition’ support scheme last year to draw in foreign organisers and exhibitors. Features of the scheme include financial subsidies for both new and existing shows, as well as the Premier Exhibition Access Programme. The visitor scheme, launched about four years ago, will be updated next year under the ‘Bio Appreciation Campaign’ to provide accommodation benefits to the visitors.
Kanakporn Damrongkul, director of exhibition department, TCEB, confirmed that all 11 shows launched in Thailand this year benefited from financial support while four of the shows made use of the Premier Exhibition Access Programme. Furthermore, all of the shows utilized the ‘Connect Business’ programme under the Thailand Extra Exhibition Scheme that provided matchmaking support for organisers and exhibitors to attract their audience.
“All of the subsidies for exhibitors go directly to the association, but we provide indirect support to grow the show; the benefit goes back to the show owners who launch shows in Thailand,” said Damrongkul.
On the incentive travel front, Yoswee said TCEB has introduced seven bundles since two years ago for organisers to pick and choose their programmes. She acknowledged that the boating incident that killed 50 people in Phuket last July was “unfortunate” but unlikely to affect the sector.
“We haven’t seen any reduction in terms of incentive groups from China,” said Yoswee. “That marks a difference between regular tourists and MICE travellers, because the latter belongs to organised groups with special campaigns run by professionals who need to comply with certain regulations. Because [these are] business groups, they need to stay alert and [be willing to change] to ensure that the experience can be delivered in a safe environment."