Under watchful eyes

The desire to hone in on the MICE segment is shining through in Thailand. Pagodas on an Inthanon mountain, Chiang Mai, Thailand, pictured

MICE sellers in Thailand are trading in the exchange rate tunnel vision for more broadly-informed strategies, intent on taking control where the opportunities arise, Michael Mackey reports

While the silver lining around Thailand’s depreciating baht is plain to see for MICE sellers in the kingdom, players interviewed are careful not to turn a blind eye to other salient factors that weigh on inbound MICE travel.

Sanguine about the performance of the MICE sector is Nopparat Maythaveekulchai, president of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, who said the bureau expects a 10 per cent increase in number of MICE travellers to Thailand next year, with “a lot of” demand from conventions and exhibitions.

Incoming MICE business will not be hurt by Thailand’s falling exports and flat GDP, he added, noting that the AEAN Economic Community, which supports more freedom of movement for people, will lend adequate support.

An issue which looms large in many Thai businesses concerns – the recent depreciation of the Thai baht – also presents possible upsides for the MICE sector.  The baht has recently rallied but is still down from 2015 and could weaken further if the Thai economy fails to pick up.

Commenting on the gains that this could bring, Nopparat said: “The purchasing power of the foreigners would increase (with the weakening of the baht). Foreign MICE organisers (would enjoy) cheaper rental of facilities (in Thailand).”

Similarly, Max Jantasuwan, group managing director, Events Travel Asia, was positive that the MICE sector will “do great” in the coming months until 2017 amid currency movements.

Sumate Sudasna, president of Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, had a more modest forecast.

“We believe there will be moderate to small growth in all sectors.

“It hasn’t become apparent that the attractive exchange rate stimulates decisions to hold events here, as other factors (take priority) and exchange rate gain is just an added benefit,” Sumate said.

Others agree that a more broadly-informed view is needed, especially when dealing with specific markets.

For example, Max pointed out that prompt response and competitive deals are key to securing MICE business from Russian buyers.

“We have been winning quite a number of Russian MICE business in the past six months,” he said. 

As well, rather than gunning for mass market leisure travellers from China, a massive emerging market, companies such as Events Travel Asia are decidedly focusing on premium MICE business from China.

“We do not want (to focus on) massive volumes of mass market leisure travel as we cannot compete in pricing,” Max explained.

He added that the company would be receiving a Chinese incentive group of 250 on their first trip to Bangkok later this month. 

Other trends being watched by the industry include oil prices and national economies.

Politics also need to be factored in, with some of those interviewed highlighting Thailand’s turbulent politics hindering inbound travel and a possible upswing from the American market post-elections.

{Taking Numbers}


Robert Rijnders, senior vice president and area general manager, Pattaya, ONYX Hospitality Group 

Robert Rijnders, senior vice president and area general manager, Pattaya, ONYX Hospitality Group

Lap up the flavours of AsiaMantra is a one-stop fine dining haunt featuring multiple open kitchens serving cuisine from various parts of Asia – from Thai and Indian to Chinese and Japanese. Now in its 10th anniversary, it has become a favourite stop for Sunday brunches and catch up sessions with family and friends.

Let the kids play

Harbour Land Mall provides a world-class indoor playground space comprising an ice skating rink, a trampoline park, a slide zone, and an area for activities such as cooking and t-shirt painting for children. Parents can enjoy great coffee in the sea vieRobertw café.

Take a moment for introspection

For relaxation and contemplation, I would recommend The Sanctuary of Truth. The architecture of its carved wooden facade and the surrounding views around sunset are a breathtaking sight. Being a space for quiet reflection is exactly what differentiates this oasis from the rest of Pattaya

Amari packs a punch

Night of Champions, a Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing)-cum-dinner package offered by Amari Watergate Bangkok, provides a strong entertainment lineup and an experience of local themes.

Guests are first transferred 40 minutes away from the hotel to a Muay Thai stadium and training camp on the outskirts of Bangkok.

On arrival, guests are greeted with cocktails and a demonstration of Muay Thai moves on an outdoor terrace.


A lion dance troupe leads them into the stadium where they are then seated at tables around the ring. Here, dinner is served while the event moves into full-swing.

An acrobatic display leads up to the main Muay Thai fight event, which ends with some razzamatazz when the winning fighters practise the traditional Dance of Champions ritual.

What makes the evening different is not only the ease and convenience of watching a quintessentially Thai sport over dinner, but also some of the fringe elements in the mix.

For example, guests are offered a short meeting with the chef and given mini-boxing gloves as a souvenir.

More intriguing still is the option to train with the boxers, which for Muay Thai enthusiasts may be the most compelling part of the experience.

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