Already a darling of wellness tourists, Thailand is now working to attract corporate events focused on the business of health and those keen on mentally and physically rejuvenating elements in their events.
Thailand is transforming herself into a land of healthy smiles as she emerges from the pandemic, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) setting a goal for the country to become the ‘Medical and Wellness Resort of the World’ by 2024.
The Thai government has also picked up on the wellness trend, listing wellness tourism as one of 12 targeted S-curve industries that will form the foundation for the country’s burgeoning Eastern Economic Corridor project.
According to Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Thailand’s globally recognised containment of the pandemic has also given rise to an outstanding opportunity for the development of business events in the medical, health and wellness sectors.
“To help realise this, TCEB is now working with the Ministry of Public Health, the TAT and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation to organise the Thailand International Health Expo 2021 from July 16 to 19 in Bangkok to showcase Thailand’s innovation in medical products and services, and to launch a business matching platform, both online and onsite, for entrepreneurs and buyers in this sector,” he shared.
Paul Hawco, corporate director of wellness at Dusit Hotels and Resorts, also sees Thailand’s shift from being primarily a spa destination to a health and wellness hub as a potential catalyst to build renewed interest and trust in the country’s business events sector.
“As more and more guests increasingly filter their travel experiences through a holistic wellness lens, MICE organisers and participants will increasingly become interested in destinations that have an authentic and holistic approach, and have confidence in countries with a proven track record in preventative measures and systems to deal with post-Covid expectations,” Hawco stated.
A growing trend
Business and personal challenges brought on by the pandemic, especially loaded upon the shoulders of C-suite executives, have led companies to realise the importance of caring for the well-being of their staff so as to ensure optimal performance.
“Companies around the world and in Thailand are trying to find ways to build wellness into their human resource tools,” observed Bruce Ryde, general manager and brand strategist at Kamalaya, Koh Samui.
The wellness sanctuary, known globally to wellness enthusiasts, has been getting more corporate enquiries. As a result, Kamalaya now expects corporate demand – from Thailand and overseas – to account for almost one-third of its business in 2022.
As Thailand recovers from its second wave of Covid-19, Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, which opened its doors in October 2020, has seen a pick-up in domestic meetings; clients are specifically requesting programmes with wellness elements.
“Instead of doing an indulgent cooking workshop, one of our recent clients asked if we can do a healthy cooking workshop. So, we offered our Middle Eastern vegan cooking workshop. Guided by our hotel chef, the group learnt to make hummus,” shared Aaishah Bohari, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
Another company, intent on fitness activities, arranged a post-meeting virtual cycling session for its executives, she added.
From helping companies adapt to the new normal with personalised programmes and online courses, enabling teams to de-stress and cope with the upheaval of the global pandemic, to wellness-themed meetings, Thailand’s hotels are sculpting a healthier landscape for business events.
Kamalaya is conducting Embracing Change programmes via its Kamalaya Connect platform, aimed at helping large companies build change management competencies as part of teambuilding objectives. The programme has seen strong support from local businesses, as well as global NGOs and medical professionals.
Kamalaya’s Embracing Change workshops are different from other similar programmes, stated Karina Stewart, founder and chief wellness director. “(Our programmes) are about embracing change within yourself – your behaviour, so you understand the people you’re making decisions about,” she elaborated.
Companies have also chosen to weave Kamalaya’s tailored personal development programmes into their incentive packages, resulting in a pick-up in wellness incentive programmes.
“Pre-pandemic our corporate derived mix was around seven per cent. We see that building up to between 10 and15 per cent in 2022,” Ryde said.
Hawco observes a new model emerging: smaller bespoke offerings and events, with higher levels of flexibility enveloped in a greener approach, something Dusit Hotels is now developing as part of its business events offerings. This follows the hotel group’s introduction of #meetwell@dusit, a proactive wellness approach taken for meetings that support optimal performance.
“People now expect to continue their healthy lifestyles and wellness routines when they are away from home. Business event attendees and organisers will expect nothing less,” said Hawco.
Wellness-themed meetings at Dusit properties include breakout sessions with breathwork and stretching, nutrition-based menus and minibars, and supplementary holistic activities like environmentally-friendly silent concerts, gong baths on the beach, and a variety of physical and mental health sessions, workshops and classes.
“These elements help participants replace fatigue and stress with a calm head, sharp mind and a growth mindset, resulting in higher team engagement and productivity. We see an amazing opportunity to drive tourism while also exporting the approach of what is a highly relevant wellness offering. Thailand as a wellness destination can kickstart tourism in general,” he concluded.