Songkhla aims to become a multicultural MICE city

PDMF delegates visited the reclining Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai temple

Songkhla, the capital of Songkhla Province in southern Thailand, is positioning itself as a multicultural business events city to accelerate economic growth and boost its status as a hub of border trade, services and investment.

Songkhla qualified as a MICE City in 2020, and international events received a fillip with Thailand’s unfettered reopening in July. Recently, the PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2022 was hosted at the International Convention Center (ICC) Hat Yai, the largest events venue in southern Thailand, from August 2-4.

PDMF delegates visited the reclining Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai temple

Situated on the campus of the Prince of Songkhla University, ICC Hat Yai’s 3,000m2 convention hall seats up to 3,500 people theatre-style, while another large hall across the central foyer can be used for meals. The sprawling and modern and venue is also certified under the Thailand MICE Venue Standard and ISO 20121.

In welcoming the 300-plus delegates, Songkhla Convention and Exhibition Bureau (SCEB) pointed out the hosting of the forum showed that Songkhla has the potential to support international business events.

In addition to meeting venues, business events can be enhanced by
including community-based tourism (CBT) and experiential activities in the Songkhla Lake area. Besides learning how communities such as Tha Hin, Koh Yo and Khao Singhanakhan live, corporates and delegates can participate in fishing, agricultural, cooking and handicraft activities using local raw materials.

Additionally, interesting attractions include Songkhla Old Town (vying for UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition); the Folklore Museum at the Institute for Southern Thai Studies; and the largest fully-reclining Buddha statue in the world as a backdrop for a memorable group photo.

Although global hotel brands are not yet present in Hat Yai, there are several Thai four-star properties with event spaces.

Centara Hotel Hat Yai’s Sukhontha Hall can accommodate 200 people for gala dinners and 450 for a standing reception, and can be divided into three smaller meeting rooms. Nearby, Buri Sriphu Boutique Hotel offers a separate convention centre with 10 function rooms that can hold up to 2,000 people.

But there are challenges for Songkhla as a new business events destination.

Currently, the only direct international flights are from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, by budget airlines. Most access is via Bangkok, or a three-hour road trip from Penang. English isn’t widely used yet, and transportation of groups may require a fleet of 10-seater minibuses instead of larger vehicles, but the upside is that smaller programmes with split itineraries are feasible and more enjoyable.

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