Thinking outside the city: Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is gaining popularity among incentive groups

Incentive groups are starting to look beyond Bangkok as there are more opportunities to conduct a more diverse range of activities. By Michael Mackey

A movement out of Bangkok, led by incentive groups, is being noticed by industry sources. The reason for this change is the opportunity and scope it creates for more diverse activities such as those covering CSR, green, sustainability and wellness.

Despite Thailand’s MICE business in 2016 showing modest growth, Nooch Homrossukhon, director of the meetings and incentives department of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), told TTGmice that: “We are seeing more and more groups move out of Bangkok.”

These incentive groups head to Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Phuket, places dubbed MICE Destinations by the TCEB, as well as to Koh Samui and Krabi. This move is supported by the CONNECT Beyond The Capital Package, part of the three-pronged CONNECT campaign.

“With this campaign, we are subsidising airfares for groups moving out of Bangkok. We believe that there are many more groups moving out of the city that we are not supporting,” Homrossukhon said.

Homrossukhon reported that TCEB’s approach is working particularly well for business groups with between 50 and 300 people, namely insurance and pharmaceutical companies, although it is available to any industry event.

“We have welcomed (incentive groups) from all sectors (of the economy) and our key clients are still Asian,” she said.

However, TCEB and others in the private sector acknowledge that shifting events outside of Bangkok is not for everybody.

“Big groups choose to stay in Bangkok for logistical reasons – for the capacity and (ease) of moving people around,” Homrossukhon explained.

Sudasna Sumate, president of the Thailand Incentive Convention Association, told TTGmice that incentive programmes are the only type of corporate event that can feature secondary destinations.

“Meetings and conventions would still be best held at main destinations,” he said, but was quick to acknowledges the emergence of Chiang Rai and Krabi.

Krabi, on the southern coast of the country, is blessed with easy access owing to both local and direct international flight connections from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It also earns its popularity from a wide range of hotels of different rating and the availability of many land and sea activities.

Kritsanee Srisatin, founder and managing director of Stream Events Asia, who has fielded more requests for new destinations this year, said: “Krabi is (largely a) beach destination, (yet it is) suitable for corporate meetings and incentives. We have clients from insurance and financial companies – who have been to Phuket and Koh Samui – wanting to try new places.”

New destinations also allow for fresh experiences to be sold to business delegates, which support the increasing focus on activities that go beyond work and networking.

Kritsanee said conducting outdoor events on a private island, beach parties, and releasing mud crabs or working with the local community to learn about the culture as part of a CSR initiative are some “fresh ideas” that can be done in Krabi.

Events Travel Asia, which has also seen stronger interest in new activities done in fresh Thai destinations, has brought on board a new line of products. Programmes with wellness and sustainability angles are offered, such as an excursion to an organic farm with a health talk, before rounding off the session with a Thai cooking lesson.

Group managing director, Max Jantasuwan, said the programmes will be positioned as extensions of a Bangkok stay.

“The wellness programme can be done in Bangkok, or outside of the city if they have more time,” he explained.

Max opined that a gem of an experience can be found at the organic farm on the Sampran Riverside.

“We recently brought an American client there (for a site inspection) and (the representatives) loved it. The experience links to their business in natural products, health and wellness,” he said.

“They booked the place straightaway for their 300-pax incentive programme in April 2016.”

Max Jantasuwan, group managing director of Events Travel Asia

Max Jantasuwan, group managing director of Events Travel Asia, highlights three important local experiences

Taste Thai cuisine

The country’s cuisine ranges from fiery to saccharine. There are some amazing restaurants in Bangkok such as Blue Elephant and Mango Tree where one can get acquainted with Thai cuisine. There’s also The House on Sathorn which is a complex with a courtyard, bar and signature restaurants. It has four hospitality suites for private dinners.

Indulge in a Thai massage

Even world travellers will have to admit that no other massage styles can compete with the Thai one, which can either help set up a productive meeting or calm everyone down after a stressful one. Therapists can be brought to an event or delegates can choose to visit one at some of the cities’ many landmarks such as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. An invigorating twist-and-rub can be rather cheap too!

Immerse in Thai culture

Classical Thai culture such as temples and Khon (a genre of dance drama) have real colour and are widespread. Equally as vibrant is the street culture which is increasingly urban and hip. The country is also home to night markets where food, drinks and clothes can be bought cheap and local friends easily made.

In the belly of a floating behemoth

Hosting your next meeting on a superyacht is possible in Thailand

The Thai government is currently working on measures to make Thailand a hub for superyachts and their owners.

With organisers starting to see them as formidable resources for meetings of different types, these vessels look set to become more important for the events sector in the coming years.

Not only do these superyachts bring luxury to a meeting, they also offer something that meetings try for but have difficulty finding – peace and quiet, and a genuine sense of being away from it all – due to its unique setting.

Martin Holmes, general manager of yacht brokerage Lee Marine, told TTGmice: “The biggest advantage would be having a completely captive audience and being able to conduct the meeting in total privacy. Most superyacht also boast superior audiovisual and communication suites which allow for video conferencing. With onboard catering, a day can be planned to make maximum use of time on board.”

This has some great advantages for foreign event delegates.

“What better way to experience the beauty of Thailand than from the deck of a cruising superyacht? (Event attendees) can reconnect with nature and the sea and (organisers can) take people out of the normal office or boardroom environment,” said Holmes.

“Many superyacht are owned by company CEOs and they may whisk their senior management away for a few days to allow meetings to take place in an informal yet inspirational setting,” Holmes added.

Some hotels in southern Thailand, especially in resort destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui, offer these vessels for hire.

Holmes, who deals with a wide range of differently-sized vessels, added that because a superyacht is highly adaptable and suited for tropical cruising, they can be tailored to provide the exact experience a client is looking for. For example, it is possible to charter a superyacht for a day, or a week, and have the entire crew on hand to advise on an suitable itinerary.

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