Historical Ayutthaya, an hour north of Bangkok, is beckoning event planners with a new convention hall and ease of access from Thailandâ€™s main gateways.
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province â€“ better known as Ayutthaya â€“ was cast into the limelight in 2012 when the Thai government approved the destinationâ€™s bid to host World Expo 2020. Although Ayutthaya lost the bid, the global media had done its job and the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam was impressed into the minds of both local and international visitors.
Besides ancient allures at the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site, the province boasts the Rojana Industrial Estate where high-tech productions reside. Ongoing urbanisation works are also helping to reinforce Ayutthayaâ€™s readiness for business events.
Ayutthaya City Park, the destinationâ€™s largest shopping mall in operation the past two decades, expanded recently with a large convention centre. Simply named The Hall Convention Centre, the venue is about to begin courting international business events.
Somphon Rattchathapimolchai, CEO of Klong Suam Plu Co., operator of Ayutthaya City Park, said: â€śWe are the first and only to operate a hybrid lifestyle centre in the province. Our new 2,000m2 convention hall can accommodate hundreds of guests. We also offer four meeting rooms, as well as a large outdoor space for up to 10,000 attendees.â€ť
The Hall Convention Centre aims to capitalise on the provinceâ€™s rising popularity among business event planners. So far it has been serving the domestic market, with events coming from neighbouring cities such as Ang Thong, Saraburi, Pathum Thani and Bangkok.
Although new, The Hall Convention Centre has earned its outdoor events space a Thailand Mice Venue Standard certification from the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. With this, the venue can expect to see more business event enquiries, especially from overseas markets.
Somphon believes that the new convention centre will be a game-changer for the province. He noted that Ayutthaya presently draws mostly small and medium-sized events through the Ayutthaya City Park, where 80 events were held in 2018. Those events included concerts, product launches, consumer fairs and seasonal events. With the new venue, the province will be able to gun for more large and international events.
It has a conservative target of increasing events business by 20 per cent this year, which translates to hosting at least five international events. Within the next three to five years, Ayutthaya City Park aims to become one of the busiest convention centres in Thailandâ€™s central region, based on traffic and number of events.
Klong Suam Plu Co claims that Ayutthayaâ€™s location and transportation convenience are major factors that will attract multinational companies to use Ayutthaya City Park as a venue for their product showcases. It argued that Ayutthaya does not have the same traffic congestions that plague capital city Bangkok.
Business travellers landing at Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnavhumi Airport are able to reach The Hall Convention Centre within an hour by car.
Besides, with the closure of Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre for major renovations and Bangkok venues typically being overbooked, event planners can consider moving their shows to Ayutthaya.
Rinyaphat Chaiaukkarawitt, managing director of Neramit Event Co, observed that more events are spreading into the provinces, especially favouring popular shopping malls. Such events are mostly marketing activations aimed at consumers.
As such, Rinyaphat believes that a mall and convention centre combination is the way to go for future event venues.
Sumate Sudasna, managing director of Conference and Destination Management Co, expressed confidence in Ayutthaya rising up in Thailandâ€™s business events arena, largely due to its close proximity to Bangkok. Both cities are linked by highways.
Sumate opined that a single day meeting in Ayutthaya would be a viable option for companies based in Bangkok.
As Ayutthaya also offers many attractions and recreational facilities, planners have the flexibility to plan a programme as fun or as solemn as they wish.
An appealing way to bring groups to Ayutthaya is to cruise them over from Bangkok.
Fun additions to Ayutthaya include the Krunsri Night Market where one could don a traditional Thai costume for just 100 baht (US$3) and enjoy local food and beers.
The Ayutthaya Retreat may be favoured by hurried business event delegates. Built in Thai architectural style and boasting a soothing garden, Ayutthaya Retreat offers hotel rooms and a cafe that serves up healthy cuisine. It welcomes private social events too.
For staff retreats that include accompanying family, planners can consider the Rabbit Water Park. Foam parties can be arranged at this new theme park.