Thailand consistently ranks as the number one choice for many tourists around the world when it comes to planning their holidays. However, the Kingdom considers the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) sector as being the most profitable and desirable, due to its high-spending potential.
The country envisaged the promise of business that this sector would bring and adopted MICE as its corporate strategy quite early in the game, well before its ASEAN neighbours were alert to the same. In Thailand, the government and the private sector work together in a spirit of co-operation to initiate top-notch MICE infrastructure and facilities, including international airports, modernised conference centres, hotels, tour guides and other such services. Associations such as the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA) and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) have been established for the prime purpose of ensuring smooth operations between international MICE operators and the Thai government as well as private sector companies.
MICE facilities are not confined to the capital city, Bangkok, alone. Although it is the hub for events and commercial activities – BITEC exhibition hall offers 50,000 square metres of space while IMPACT Arena is at a staggering 150,000 square metres! – TCEB and TICA have simultaneously worked on and developed major cities in all parts of Thailand: Chiang Mai, in the north, is one of the most sought after destinations for medical tourism and has a new convention centre which is one of the biggest in south-east Asia; Khon Kaen, in the north east, is one of the winners of IBM’s Smart Cities programme for developing MICE strategies; Pattaya, to the east, was actually the first Thai destination to attract international incentive business, while the island of Phuket, down south, remains one of the prime destinations for MICE travel.
Nor is Thailand putting all its eggs in one basket. Smartly – and still ahead of the game – it branched into building up the lateral to MICE, which is the wedding business, with the major custom coming from neighbouring India, well known for its lavish wedding ceremonies. Phuket alone sees almost 40% of the Indian wedding business coming its way, while Hua Hin in the west is fast becoming a favourite, mainly due to its proximity to Bangkok.
So how does Thailand pull off the magic each time? For one, the country is blessed with some spectacularly scenic locations. For another, the people who are at the helm of MICE activities here know that the trick is to constantly reinvent yourself. Therefore, Thailand offers multiple venues and the widest range of accommodation to suit every budget. Moreover, creativity is at constant play here; adventure camps, theme beach parties, creative team-building exercises, local permissions for some over-the-top conference highlights – the Thai authorities work well with the concerned MICE organiser to make sure that any incentive or conference group coming to Thailand has the time of its life.
More than anything else, and more than any other ASEAN country, Thailand is renowned for its traditions of hospitality and culture. This holds true even today; apart from the commercial angle, the Thais genuinely want any guests coming to their country to feel relaxed and cared for. It is this winning factor that keeps the visitors coming to the Land of Smiles.
By Punam Mohandas