Thailand turns its attention inwards, encouraging would-be corporate travellers to make the most out of its domestic cities
Even as Thailandâ€™s once thriving business events industry takes a harsh beating from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has remained in the thick of the action to ensure the Kingdom maintains a presence in the minds of decision-makers.
In the last few months, the convention bureau has implemented a Covid-19 Information Cente to help keep industry professionals up to date on government measures, infection count in Thailand and worldwide, and other critical developments; launched a MICE Venue Hygiene campaign backed by industry associations to certify venues; and unveiled initiatives such as Virtual Meeting Space and Covid-19 Free Meeting projects to help bring events online and equip suppliers with appropriate technology.
To further stimulate the industry, TCEB has additionally unveiled a new marketing campaign, I M PEOPLE FOCUSED, that gives event organisers access to US$500,000 worth of financial support and an equivalent value in complimentary products and services from participating partners.
The campaign is underpinned by the EASE UP Recovery Campaign, which will also include up to five million baht (US$158,843) in grants to industry members.
At press time, domestic business events are gradually resuming, instilling a sense of cautious optimism among industry players who have made changes to operations to ensure a safe return of activities.
Vitanart Vathanakul, CEO of the Royal Cliff Hotels Group, which owns four hotels and the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall, is encouraged by the resumption of domestic events across the country and at his properties.
â€śWe had to lock down temporarily like everyone else in Pattaya (during the height of the pandemic) for health and safety reasons, but we used that time to prepare ourselves.
â€śNow, we have launched the special Protection-C meeting package tp conform to hygiene standards, and we are encouraged to see the confidence our clients have in us to resume events at our venues,â€ť he elaborated.
Herman J Ehrlich, general manager of Conrad Bangkok, said domestic meeting planners can be assured of cleanliness standards â€“ pegged Hilton CleanStay and HiltonEventReady â€“ that Hilton has implemented.
Ehrlich also highlighted the launch of the Thai Chana app which helps to track the spread of Covid-19.
â€ś(It) is an excellent initiative that is easy to use. The entire country has embraced the efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 in an exemplary fashion which in itself is comforting and inspiring to visitors,â€ť he remarked.
While Thai event planners and hoteliers will only have the domestic market to serve for the time being, until international borders are reopened for all travel purposes, and it is positive to note that both the capital, and its surrounding regions, offer numerous options for small corporate meetings and teambuilding sessions.
Creative dining in and around the Thai capital
Post-lockdown, Bangkok is humming again with many wonderful dining experiences, suitable for smaller-sized team gatherings or company meetings.
These include Neo-Indian fine dining restaurant and urban farm Haoma, suitable for groups that are looking for a sustainable eating experience; as well as the Local Aroi dining experience by Local Alike.
Local Alike is a collaboration between Bangkok chefs and chefs from local communities around Thailand that hopes to inspire visitors to visit other regions in the country by tempting them with delicious food. Its eight-course meals are hosted in private local community venues and suitable for groups of 20 or less.
The bordering provinces of Bangkok also have much to offer.
For instance, the province of Nakorn Pathom, 2.5 hours away, is worth a look. In Nakorn Pathom â€“ which means first city â€“ domestic visitors can view the worldâ€™s biggest Buddhist stupa and have a feast at the epic street food market next door; as well as visit the European-style Sanam Chandra Palace.
Groups can also choose to stay at, or pay a day visit to Suan Sampran organic farm, which offers numerous sustainable and group-friendly workshops for teambuilding purposes.
Cultural heritage in Pattaya
Pattaya is more than a worn beach and party scene, as the coastal city is also home to some fascinating local experiences.
With Hivesters, visiting groups can delve into the areaâ€™s coconut industry by visiting the Takhian Tia community, located in the Bang Lamung district of Chonburi, approximately 30 minutes from Pattayaâ€™s city centre.
There, visitors can bike through the local coconut plantation, pick coconuts from coconut trees, try their hand at breaking open the freshly-harvested fruits, and sip coconut lattes while chatting with the farmers who know the fruit inside and out.
The Takhian Tia community is also home to the Hundred-Pillar House, a cultural site that preserves the communityâ€™s history. Workshops such as vegetable and herb gardening, as well as the making of a mahotara (a hanging bouquet made of kite or coloured paper used to decorate temple and houses), can be arranged.
Also not to be missed is the Sanctuary of Truth Museum. The gigantic all-wood construction, created by Thai craftsmen without using a single nail, stands at the Rachvate Cape of Naklua in Pattaya City. All these open-air experiences are social-distancing suitable.
Moving further afield Hua Hin
Hua Hin has risen to popularity post-Covid as a self-drive destination that travellers can easily reach from Bangkok.
Although it is known as a gentle resort town housing the Klai Kangwon Palace, the city is also a suitable meeting destination, offering the Holiday Inn Vana Nava Hua Hin which features 950m2 of flexible event space, including five function rooms and a large ballroom, all named after marine animals in Thai. The property also works for business guests with families, as it is linked to the Vana Nava Water Park and offers a kidsâ€™ club.
Also in Hua Hin is Air Space Khao Takiab, a restaurant that pays tribute to the aeronautic heritage of the beachside town. Prince Purachatra Jayakara, King Rama Vâ€™s 35th son, was the first Thai to fly on an airplane. He founded the air transportation system in Thailand, and also built the first hotel in Hua Hin and the famed Chatchai Market.
Today, a wooden model of the airplane he built â€“ reminiscent of the Wright brothersâ€™ creation â€“ hangs from the ceiling of the restaurant. The greenhouse-style venue allows lots of natural light, and is a suitable bookout venue for corporate lunches and meetings.
Hua Hin also sits next to Keang Krachan National Park, the countryâ€™s most extensive national park, which would appeal to more adventurous groups. Activities such as river rafting can be arranged, to foster teambuilding and work off lockdown-imposed steam. There are epic views to be had from the top of Kaeng Krachan Dam.
Accommodation-wise, Keang Krachan offers many riverside hotels and resorts which are suitable for small corporate groups.