The emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 and the opening of Myanmar will generate more high-yield visitors for Thailand by boosting its status as a regional hub for conventions and exhibitions, delegates attending a MICE event were told.
These emerging opportunities, as well as the accompanying challenges, were the primary topics of discussion at the first Thailand MICE International Forum (TMIF) 2012 held on June 21.
The TMIF was organised as a side-event of the 7th Annual General Meeting of Asian Federation of Exhibition & Convention Associations (AFECA). Its key coordinators were the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau in cooperation with Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA), Thailand Exhibition Association (TEA), Thailand Marketing Association (TMA) and Thai Airways International.
Complementing the two events, the Asian Exhibition Council (AEC) of the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE) also conducted its mid-year meeting.
The one-day forum was attended by more than 200 MICE industry professionals and gave them an opportunity to catch up with the latest development and trends of the industry at both the regional and international levels.
In order to boost growth and networking opportunities, TMIF 2012 also offered business matching sessions for MICE operators in Thailand and foreign buyers attending the forum. They included executives from India, Russia, Australia, Singapore, the United States and a number of European countries.
The MICE industry is one of the fastest growing segments within the tourism industry generating millions in revenues for cities and countries. It is the most important component of Thailand’s visitor mix because of the high-spending visitors it generates.
According to TICA President Mr. Sumate Sudasna, MICE arrivals to Thailand totalled 820,224 in 2011 while domestic MICE visitors totalled 1.9 million arrivals. Both are expected to increase significantly this year, when the Tourism Authority of Thailand is projecting a 10% increase in overall arrivals.
According to Mr Pravit Sribanditmongkol, President, Thai Exhibition Association (TEA), the Thailand exhibition sector has been growing from strength to strength.
“With world-class exhibition and convention centres in Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand, as well as international-standard professional service providers, we are certain that Thailand will be one of the most promising gateway or exhibition industry professionals to expand into ASEAN and other parts of Asia,” he said.
According to Mr Edward Liu, President of AFECA, “The conglomeration of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is foreseen to attract more events to ASEAN. European organisers are launching more mergers and acquisitions of local organisers as well as replicating some of their own events in ASEAN, with Thailand being among their most-favoured markets.”
Mr. Liu noted that Thailand also has a major demographic and industrial advantage, excellent infrastructure, competitive costs and excellent service standards. It also has a high level of expertise in organising industry-specific exhibitions such as those catering to the tourism, energy, agriculture and automotive sectors.
Mr. M. Gandhi, Managing Director, ASEAN Business, of the exhibition multinational UBM Asia (Thailand), said that the opening of Myanmar would also see more businesses from that country coming to attend the exhibitions in Thailand both as buyers and sellers.
He noted that Myanmar lacked both the hardware and software to develop its MICE industry, and would need to rely on help from neighbours such as Thailand for many years into the future.
Delegates highlighted Thailand’s numerous advantages, including the transportation linkages of the Asian Highway network that will criss-cross through Thailand, linking Singapore and Malaysia to Laos, and Vietnam to Myanmar.