The emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 and the opening of Myanmar will generate more high-yield visitors for Thailand by boosting its status as a regional hub for conventions and exhibitions, delegates attending a MICE event were told.
These emerging opportunities, as well as the accompanying challenges, were the primary topics of discussion at the first Thailand MICE International Forum (TMIF) 2012 held in Bangkok on 21 June 2012.
The one-day forum was attended by more than 200 Meetings, Incentive Travel, and Conventions (MICE) industry professionals and gave them an opportunity to catch up with the latest developments and trends in the industry at both the regional and international levels.
In order to boost growth and networking opportunities, TMIF 2012 also offered business matching sessions for MICE operators in Thailand and foreign buyers attending the forum. They included executives from India, Russia, Australia, Singapore, the United States and a number of European countries.
According to Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA) President Mr Sumate Sudasna, MICE arrivals to Thailand totalled 820,224 in 2011, while domestic MICE visitors totalled 1.9 million arrivals. Both are expected to increase significantly this year, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand is projecting a 10% increase in overall arrivals.
According to Thai Exhibition Association (TEA), the Thailand exhibition sector has been growing from strength to strength. “With world-class exhibition and convention centers in Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as international-standard professional service providers, we are certain that Thailand will be one of the most promising gateways for exhibition industry professionals to expand into ASEAN and other parts of Asia,” TEA President Mr Pravit Sribanditmongkol said.
According to Mr Edward Liu, President of Asian Federation of Exhibition & Convention Associations, “The conglomeration of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is foreseen to attract more events to ASEAN. European organizers are launching more mergers with and acquisitions of local organizers as well as replicating some of their own events in ASEAN, with Thailand being among their most-favored markets.”
Mr Liu noted that Thailand has a major demographic and industrial advantage, excellent infrastructure, competitive costs and excellent service standards. It also has a high level of expertize in organizing industry-specific exhibitions such as those catering to the tourism, energy, agriculture and automotive sectors.
Mr M. Gandhi, Managing Director, ASEAN Business, of the exhibition multinational UBM Asia (Thailand), said that the opening of Myanmar would also see more businesses from that country coming to attend the exhibitions in Thailand both as buyers and sellers. He noted that Myanmar lacked the hardware and software to develop its MICE industry, and would need to rely on help from neighbors such as Thailand for many years into the future.
Delegates highlighted Thailand’s numerous advantages, including the transportation linkages of the Asian Highway network that criss-cross through Thailand, linking Singapore and Malaysia to Lao PDR, and Vietnam to Myanmar.