Chiang Mai flexes its meeting muscles and reveals why it is more than ready to welcome corporate events and incentive groups.
Chiang Mai, one of Thailand’s five MICE-designated cities, is heavily marketing its international-standard conference facilities, unique experiences and cultural immersion programmes to attract more medium-sized corporate groups from South-east Asia.
Nooch Homrossukhon, director meetings and incentives department, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), told TTGmice that one of Chiang Mai’s key selling points is the city’s Lanna heritage and ethnic tribes that reside in the mountainous areas. Moreover, Chiang Mai’s natural landscapes and eco-tourism sites allow for “fun, educational, and adventurous teambuilding and incentive activities”.
Vorapong Muchaotai, deputy managing director, DMC & Event Thailand, agreed: “Chiang Mai has many DIY and culturally immersive activities such as making paper from elephant poop and umbrella painting. This is why I believe Chiang Mai is one of the best locations in South-east Asia to combine both CSR activities and meetings.”
He added: “Many Singaporean clients have moved (their meetings) to Chiang Mai after the volcano eruption in Bali, as the city is good value for money and its jungle welcomes adventurous types.”
“For clients that are looking for something traditional and like the mountains and natural atmosphere, I’ll recommend Chiang Mai. Where budget is concerned, Chiang Mai is cheaper than Bangkok and Phuket for medium-sized groups of around 200 pax,” said Kanes Bunlaksananusorn, managing director of Pheonix Events Group.
Meanwhile, for Horizon Village & Resort, teambuilding programmes on the property are interwoven with local culture, such as Thai dancing class, Thai cooking class, or the making of herbal candles that guests can bring home as a souvenir. If so desired, clients can even grow rice, as the property has its own four padi fields. The 46.5-hectare Chiang Mai Horizon Village sits 10km from the city centre, and bills itself as a one-stop shop for corporate groups.
Nantanittaya Sesaweech, its assistant managing director, enthused: “Chiang Mai is so different (in terms of culture) from Bangkok – there are padi fields, buffaloes and cows. Similarly, we target to provide experiences that are unique (and can only be found in Chiang Mai) to groups.”
Aside from organising teambuilding activities, Horizon Village & Resort boasts its own Lanna-style convention hall named Hor Kum Twee. The 640m2 function space has capacity for 500 pax theatre-style, and 400 pax for banquet seating. The property also offers a Grand Ballroom which can hold up to 800 pax theatre-style, as well as 12 other smaller function rooms that can hold between 10 and 300 pax.
Nantanittaya shared: “We prefer to host medium-sized groups of between 200 to 300 pax. This is because we only have 209 rooms, and if there are more than 400 guests for example, some of them would have to stay in the city centre and travel (to the village).”
To grow the property’s business events revenue, Nantanittaya will be conducting more of her own sales calls as well as participate in more of TCEB-led roadshows.
When asked how much she thinks the market will grow by, she confidently replied: “Probably 10 per cent, as I have received a lot of enquires from China and Hong Kong.”
Since the debut of Chiang Mai Exhibition and Convention International Convention (CMECC) in 2013, the city has hosted a total of 20 international conferences as of 2016.
CMECC has 521,600m2 of exhibition space across several halls, and 29 various meeting rooms. The largest hall – made up of three interconnected halls – offers 8,000m2 of space which can accommodate more than 10,000 people. Besides CMECC, Chiang Mai has at least 10 hotels, mostly in the city centre, that can hold events for up 1,200 delegates.
For instance, the Le Meridien Chiang Mai has its own convention centre for up to 1,400 attendees.
Kulthida Pimol, the hotel’s assistant director of sales, told TTGmice: “We welcomed our biggest group so far in February 2018 – it had 1,200 pax. We’ve also hosted medical and IT companies, and in just January and February alone, MICE business has grown by 15 per cent year-on-year.”
Within South-east Asia, Singapore is the top business events market for the hotel; China tops the overall market. Kulthida explained that this was because “Singaporeans are familiar with Thailand, and there’s been more interest in Chiang Mai thanks to better facilities, myriad activities and easier logistics”.
The property is also targeting companies based in Kuala Lumpur, and as such has stationed a representative in both destinations.
To grow the city’s reputation farther among South-east Asian corporate groups, DMC & Event Thailand’s Vorapong indicated that there was a need for more direct regional flights, as South-east Asians could conduct meetings or incentive trips without taking up too many work days.
He is currently targeting groups from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, and hopes to do business with the Philippines in the future. Vorapong also works closely with industry partners such as SilkAir and Shangri-La to bring agents on fam trips to Chiang Mai.
“Chiang Mai has risen in popularity. The city is a new destination for meetings, particularly for groups that have already been to Bangkok,” Vorapong concluded.