Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Thailand has ramped up local business events capability, boosted its Thailand 4.0 economic development target focusing on the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and launched their latest initiative, reviving international arrivals through Phuket.
The number of international MICE travellers dropped by 62.6 per cent in 2020 from 2019, while revenue decline was 68.2 per cent. Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) statistics for 1Q2021 show a 99.9 per cent plunge from full-year 2020 in both travellers and revenue.
“This year, we’re producing e-learning courses in MICE with various themes such as incentive travel, professional and sustainable event organisation, community development and English for MICE,” said Supawan Teerarat, TCEB’s senior vice president development and innovation.
TCEB implemented Thailand’s first E-MICE marketplace to give business events entrepreneurs and the supply chain more business opportunities through Thai MICE Connect into five regions to meet demand from corporates, associations and government organisations.
There are 16 categories and 59 segments from business events ecosystems and stakeholders. Currently, more than 10,000 suppliers, destinations, venues, organisers and service providers are participating, with viewership exceeding 150,000 in this second year.
“This platform can also help corporates or DMCs to plan their MICE programmes faster. Our Roadshow programme helps entrepreneurs, supply chains and communities from first-tier and second-tier cities to showcase their community for incentive trips, pre- and post-tours for meetings, conferences, exhibitions and festival events. Participants are taught how to promote their services and products and attract buyers,” Supawan added.
On the economic front, aviation and logistics and four other industries were targeted in 2020 through LOG-IN Event located in Pattaya. This year, LOG-IN Next will support all 12 strategic industries under the government’s plan. The expansion is partly due to collaboration with more industry stakeholders.
“Under the new phase, our collaboration for tradeshows in the strategic industries will be extended to other cities in EEC, such as Rayong and Chonburi,” said Nichapa Yoswee, TCEB’s senior vice president – business. “Our targets are existing shows which will be supported to expand their profile and new shows in these industries. They are eligible for extra financial support. Of course, we require overseas PEOs to team up with local Thai partners when bringing in or organising the shows.”
Thailand has also kickstarted inbound tourism with the reopening of Phuket on July 1. Seen as a fillip to corporate meetings and incentive travel, the Phuket sandbox model allows vaccinated visitors from low- and medium-risk countries to stay without quarantine or minimum duration. However, to visit other cities, they must stay in Phuket for at least 14 days. Foreigners must fly direct to and from Phuket with no transit in Bangkok if staying for fewer than 14 days.
If the scheme works, it may be extended to other cities such as Chiang Mai, Krabi, Surat Thani (Phangan, Koh Tao, Samui), Pattaya, Phetchaburi, and Buriram.
However, travel agents contacted said they don’t expect great take-up in the business events segment. They cited the application process and criteria – two weeks to obtain a certificate of entry from Thai embassy, two weeks’ prior stay in a ‘safe’ country, series of tests while in Phuket and quarantine on return home – is too onerous.
Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications at Singapore-based Dynasty Travel, said: “The pandemic has fuelled the desire to travel; however, there are additional cost factors such as mandatory quarantine, PCR tests for Covid-19 and high insurance costs to consider. These factors have deterred travel at this juncture.”