Finding its MICE voice

Khon Kaen has proven itself capable of handling large trade exhibitions, and is now transforming into an all-rounded MICE destination

The up-and-coming Thai city has both the hardware and software to handle corporate groups

Designated as one of Thailand’s five key MICE cities since 2013, secondary city Khon Kaen is on track to live up to the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s (TCEB) expectations of evolving into a more well-rounded business event destination.

Khon Kaen was chosen for its strategic location, close to the Indochina and Mekong Subregions, both of which hold “bright futures” for the Thai city’s business events sector, Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of TCEB, said. In addition, the north-eastern region of Thailand comprises 19 provinces and one-third of the country’s population, which also represented “huge room for business opportunities”.

The up-and-coming Thai city has both the hardware and software to handle corporate groups

“It is our policy and mission to grow the MICE industry, to help distribute income to regional areas apart from Bangkok,” he added.

As such, TCEB’s current marketing activity for Khon Kaen is centred on promoting the up-and-coming Thai city’s capabilities through roadshows held in Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“TCEB has been leveraging MICE shows in neighbouring countries as a platform for the city to gain exposure in these potential markets. Since last year, Khon Kaen city officials have joined us at roadshows,” Chiruit said.

In addition to roadshows and relevant marketing activities, TCEB has also launched a guidebook, which can be used as a marketing tool for the city by DMCs and suppliers.
Since the opening of Khon Kaen International Exhibition and Convention Centre (KICE) in 2017, a number of shows have been held. For example, the Khon Kaen Coffee Bakery Ice-Cream & Franchise is a cloned event from Bangkok that attracted around 10,000 delegates from both Laos and Thailand in August 2018.

From February 28 to March 3 saw the 2019 E-San Industrial Fair take place. The largest show for industrial and agricultural machinery in the country’s north-east also saw the participation of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in the form of pavilions. The three countries, and China, also sent trade missions who visited the show for business talks.

“All these events are proof of Khon Kaen’s location as a gateway of business into the Indochina region,” Chiruit said. He added that another B2C event, by the Thailand Chamber of Commerce, would also be relocating its fair to Khon Kaen for the first time.
The Thai city has also expanded its repertoire from exhibitions to the conferences and meetings segment.

For instance, the city played host to the PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2018 in November. The event welcomed over 300 delegates, and comprised fam trips which showcased what other activities the city could offer for corporate groups.

According to ICCA statistics, Khon Kaen hosted seven international conferences in 2017 and 2018; attracting around 2,600 delegates. Previously in 2015 and 2016, Khon Kaen only hosted one international conference per year.

Aside from KICE, other business-ready hardware Khon Kaen offers include several hotels with facilities capable of hosting meetings.

The Pullman Khon Kaen Raja Orchid has a ballroom that can hold 1,800 pax theatre-style, while Charoen Thani Khon Kaen has a similar space that can hold 1,300 pax theatre-style. Each property also features 10 breakout rooms, and both have hosted international conferences before.

Elsewhere in the city, Central Plaza Khon Kaen has a hall capable of hosting 3,000 pax theatre-style, and is also connected to a shopping centre. There are also smaller properties that offer six to 10 meeting rooms for smaller-sized groups of between 250-300 pax.

When asked about the difficulty in marketing secondary cities, Chiruit shared: “The challenge is how to convince event organisers about the readiness of such a destination, especially when it’s less well-known when compared to the other more popular Thai destinations of Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.”

He added that event planners also had to be assured the city has infrastructure and facilities that were business events ready, and are able to cope with the scale of events, especially international ones.

In Khon Kaen’s case, Chiruit reiterates that the up-and-coming Thai city is definitely business events capable.

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