Rebuilding MICE tourism, one event at a time

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)’s first large-scale, in-person event in over two years brought delegates to Hat Yai, Songkhla in southern Thailand for two days of experiential tours and conferences

Event brief
The PATA Destination Marketing Forum (PDMF) gathers destination travel professionals for inspiring and insightful discussions on marketing and managing tourism growth to lesser-known destinations.

The 2022 edition had to signal that global tourism is ready for a robust recovery, said Paul Pruangkarn, PATA chief of staff. “With travellers keen to explore and destinations ready to open, our conference programme focused on key issues facing destination marketing and management in post-pandemic recovery.”

“By bringing together such a diverse group of travel industry experts, we are convening both the public and private sector to share destination marketing best practices to support the sustainable recovery of the travel and tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region,” said PATA CEO Liz Ortiguera.

With Building Back Sustainably through Cultural Heritage and Community-based Tourism being the theme, lead partner, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), proposed Songkhla as host destination.

“TCEB bid for the event with creative ideas so that travel industry delegates and media could enjoy a new destination experience. The content was based on localised experiences to meet the needs of travelling millennials,” said Supawan Teerarat, TCEB vice president – MICE capabilities and innovation.

Event highlights

PDMF 2022 brought together 326 delegates from 22 destinations. Full-day technical tours saw participants travelling by road or over water to visit heritage attractions and local communities to understand and sample their way of life.

Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) and the Event Management Association Songkhla organised and managed the three tours. With community-based tourism (CBT) as the overarching theme, one group visited Songkhla Lake and Nod-Na-Lae Learning Center to experience local life and the Tha Hin community’s tourism offerings.

Another group’s Nature Meets Culture excursion combined a tour of the artefact-rich Folklore Museum with Koh Yo for a taste of the community’s lifestyle and food. The third group took in ancient temples, Singora Fortress and explored Songkhla Old Town on foot to understand its candidacy to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The conference at International Convention Center (ICC), Hat Yai featured 23 speakers and 11 topics covering best practices in destination marketing, including effective digital strategies and content marketing campaigns; quality over quantity in business events; gastronomic tourism; and creative CBT engagement.

Also popular, though not part of the official programme, was sponsor Steller’s cocktail party at The Library. Guests enjoyed fancy drink concoctions, while waiters juggled liquor bottles.

Challenges

PATA first announced PDMF in May, but as entry policies during the course of the year kept changing, organisers had to keep communicating them to all registered delegates.

Pruangkarn added: “We were committed to ensuring the safety of delegates and wanted to restore confidence that events can happen again. As this was our first large-scale event since the pandemic began, finding a balance between health and safety procedures and (producing) a seamless, engaging and enjoyable event programme was a big challenge.”

While TCEB liaised with PATA in Bangkok, planning and coordination at the local level were entrusted to partner organisations such as Prince of Songkha University (PSU) and its unit, Songkhla Convention & Exhibition Bureau (SCEB) and DASTA. The Tourism Authority of Thailand also helped.

SCEB oversaw the organisation of the event, collaborating with other sectors in Songkhla province – government, private, academic and local communities – for the successful staging of PDMF. SCEB also coordinated with the PATA and TCEB working committees.

Liaison officers and volunteers were recruited from PSU and three other universities in Songkhla. Delegates appreciated their enthusiastic assistance, especially given language limitations.

PDMF also adopted TCEB’s carbon footprint model and tool, where delegates contributed USD10 each to the offset programme to help balance out the carbon footprint of PDMF 2022, thus achieving its net-zero carbon event target.

Event PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2022
Organiser Pacific Asia Travel Association
Venue International Convention Center, Hat Yai
Date August 3-4, 2022
Attendance 326 local and international delegates

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