Time for rebirth

Max Boontawee Jantasuwan, president of the new Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Thailand chapter and founding CEO of Events Travel Asia Group, says the pandemic is presenting his industry peers a chance to rethink and refresh their business

What is the mission of SITE Thailand chapter?
We share the same mission as SITE Global, which is to grow the number of business cases for incentive travel through global connections, education and advocacy.

Thailand and the rest of the region have so many interesting incentive travel products due to the vast array of available experiences, but we need global associations like SITE to be channels that promote and bring the attention of international audiences to Thailand and Asia. SITE Thailand also functions as a bridge between the Thai and regional private sectors to link them to the global incentive network and marketplace.

These are challenging times for travel and businesses. What is the current incentive travel situation in Thailand?
The hospitality and MICE industries are definitely taking a hit due to the Covid-19 situation and as a result, we are at a complete standstill as every country is doing their best to curb the virus spread.

However, this gives us a chance to think about what’s next for the hospitality and MICE industries in Thailand.

How was Thailand’s inbound incentive performance in the last six months before Covid-19?
Before the pandemic, we had a fantastic pick up on Thailand’s inbound events throughout the year in 2019. We were actually expecting 2020 to exceed what we had achieved for 2019 as we had already secured a few events for 2020. We were receiving more enquiries on 2020 events even before 2019 had ended. It seemed we were on the brink of a potentially good year for the industry until Covid-19 occurred.

Immediately, at least 80 per cent of our clients wanted to postpone to a later date, while the other 15 per cent considered cancelling. The remaining clients adopted a wait-and-see approach since their events were later in the year.

During this time, the Thai MICE industry also started our Postpone, Don’t Cancel campaign to encourage our clients to remain positive and work hand-in-hand with us to survive these difficult times.

How is the SITE Thailand chapter supporting TCEB on its planned recovery initiatives?
As incentive travel is one of Thailand’s top MICE contributors and sources of income to the country, having SITE Thailand on hand to link the global incentive planners and our incentive products and experiences will be a real boost. SITE Thailand, in collaboration of SITE Global, will work on many TCEB projects to support the industry.

If the situation improves, SITE Thailand will assist with co-creating the upcoming TIME 2020 (Thailand Incentive and Meeting Exchange) project to make it more interesting for international buyers. Other plans include talent development projects that would be underscored by many certification programmes.

Could you offer some words of encouragement for event planners during this unprecedented time?
Change is a word that we have been using and hearing on a daily basis after we were forced to slow down. This is a good time for us to reflect and brainstorm on how we can adapt whatever we have to create something new that can cater to the current situation.

This is also a unique opportunity for us to “restart” ourselves and (learn) to adapt to challenges and make them work for us.

No matter how gloomy the future may seem, I am positive that we will survive (and can) further enhance the hospitality and MICE sector in Thailand. After all, as event planners, we are experts in managing unplanned challenges!

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