Dusit International proves that Bangkok is still open for business by hosting its annual workshop in the protest-hit capital city as planned, writes Caroline Boey
Bangkok made the headlines in November last year when protesters returned to the streets over an amnesty bill that would have pardoned Thai politicians, including exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Although the bill was overturned, the protests, led by the opposition, continued.
While the demonstrations were peaceful, it posed a conundrum for business events scheduled to take place in the coming months and the dates of the Dusit workshop would have coincided with the announced January 13 shutdown of Bangkok.
With many of the 100 attendees having to fly to Bangkok to attend the workshop, Dusit International had to carefully weigh its option to proceed, postpone or cancel the workshop.
Catherine McNabb, vice president sales and marketing, Dusit International, said: “After reviewing multiple potential scenarios, we were confident that our team would be safe travelling to/from and staying within the confines of the hotel as we had an extensive security plan in place.
“As a Thailand-based company, it was important to show our solidarity with the city, that despite any political uncertainty, we believed the city would bounce back. As hoteliers, it was important to walk the walk. If we were advising our clients that the city was safe to visit, that tourists and foreigners were not the targets of any demonstrations, then this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just that.”
The three-day workshop included overseas speakers such as Liu Ping, CEO of China Star; Ananya Narayan, executive vice president, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Preferred Hotel Group; Jens Thraenhart, co-founder & president, Dragon Trail; Robin Lokerman, president Asia-Pacific MCI; and Baki Colpan, contracting & reservation manager, Pegas Touristik.
Dusit International eventually had to make some programme changes to work around the ongoing protests. The initial plan was to hold a number of presentations and the Awards Gala Dinner away from Dusit Thani Bangkok. But due to road closures and the desire to save time, all activities were kept in-house. Catering, audiovisual requirements, planning and event design were taken care of by Dusit International and Dusit Thani Bangkok.
Day one of the workshop included free time to explore Bangkok at leisure.
The demonstrations aside, the teams planning and executing the activities for the workshop were faced with the challenges of any meeting planner – budget constraints, developing a programme relevant to a mixed audience, and securing the participation of overseas speakers to add value to the event.
Although the workshop ran smoothly, the protests did impact the Awards Gala Dinner. McNabb said: “Our Awards Gala Dinners are always themed, and this year by coincidence, we chose the theme Distinctly Thai. We wanted to hire some costumes so we would have a few participants in full Thai regalia. But we had a hard time finding the costumes as many shops were blockaded by the rallies! Luckily we were able to borrow costumes from the dance troupe that entertained us that evening.”
Guest speaker Liu during her presentation commented how much she enjoyed the Thai style of protests – peaceful, colourful, with lots of food and music. She took photographs from D’Sens French Restaurant on the 22nd floor of the hotel, which offers clear views over the demonstrators’ camp set up in Lumpini Park and immediately blogged on her website that Bangkok was as vibrant and welcoming as ever.
Dusit International Annual Global Sales & Marketing Workshop
Dusit Thani Bangkok
January 12 to 15, 2014
No. of participants
100 from Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia
Many, including setting priorities for the year, reviewing performance strategies, expanding revenue generating channels, sharing best practices and welcoming new members of the growing international team
Determining if it would be safe to convene in Bangkok with the ongoing anti-government protest and threat to “occupy” major road intersections in the capital and shut it down on January 13