Thailand’s MICE stakeholders hold out hope that 4Q2020 will be turning point

Tourists visiting Wat Saman Rattanaram in Chachoengsao

Thailand’s business events stakeholders are expecting business to resume from 4Q2020, and they foresee that sustainability, alongside health and safety, will be key concerns moving forward, as well as the pick up in a physical-digital hybrid event format.

These were some of the observations revealed during an online webinar on April 23, hosted and moderated by David Barrett of DBC Asia. The panel featured four experts, who discussed the way forward for the country’s tourism and business events industry in this tough period.

Tourists visiting Wat Saman Rattanaram in Chachoengsao

David Litteken, senior vice president Asia Pacific Region, BI Worldwide, believes that the domestic market will make a come back first, starting with leisure travel, then corporate travel.

“We might see the return of domestic MICE in Australia and perhaps in China in 4Q this year. For Thailand, international business events delegates might come back between March and June next year,” he predicted.

Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice president, strategic marketing & business development, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), is also hopeful for the end of this year, and into 2021.

“Since March, TCEB has received 41 new business leads worth approximately 4.5 billion baht, with the majority coming from China, India, Singapore and Japan. Over 65 per cent of the enquiries are for 4Q2020, with the remaining for next year and beyond,” she added.

Moving forward, business events stakeholders also expect future events to be smaller, and sport a digital-physical hybrid as “digital will become an integral part of our business”, stated Sumate Sudasna, president, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA).

Additionally, as sustainability has been a hot topic among international corporate clients even before Covid-19, Nichapa believes that those who manage to integrate sustainability into their operations will emerge better from this crisis.

To encourage venues and operators to be more sustainable, TCEB and TICA have produced event sustainability guidelines and provided funds to support sustainability practices.

Litteken added that the crisis is a good opportunity to incorporate sustainability with health and safety practices. For instance, due to social distancing measures making buffets no longer feasible, food waste can be eliminated.

However, with all the bright sparks, due to the Covid-19 crisis, Litteken predicts that future contracts may be tightened, with more venues demanding larger upfront deposits. This is as force majeure comes into effect, with hotels and venues needing to be flexible in allowing event cancellations or postponements.

To help hasten travellers’ return to Thailand, panellists also agreed that the government should develop a brand new, unified marketing programme – similar to the successful Amazing Thailand campaign – with inputs from all tourism stakeholders.

“The next crisis is right around the corner… after this one ends,” Imtiaz Muqbil, executive editor, Travel Impact Newswire, warned.

“Thailand tourism and MICE industries need an introspective analysis to learn from the past and listen to those outside – such as NGOs, social activists and diplomats – to understand future challenges. Moreover, the country should resolve overtourism, environmental degradation, safety, labour, nightlife and entertainment issues to attract higher quality travellers that will lighten environmental impact and prepare for the more intense competition that lies ahead.”

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