There are only so many new destinations you can open up – even if you are a country like Thailand, blessed with a natural beauty, a pristine coastline and islands that feel like dream havens. So what does a destination do for some smart marketing of its tourism products that have been traversed quite frequently by the global traveler? The word is ‘redefine’.
Back in the mid-1950s during the Korean war, the American GI’s found Pattaya, a sleepy village on the Gulf of Siam, for some quick rest and relaxation. The R&R changed the whole outlook of inbound tourism and Pattaya became the nectar that was sought after. It then spread to Bangkok, the capital city. As tourism grew, new destinations were opened – Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Trang, Khon Kaen, Koh Chang, Koh Lanta, Hua Hin and Cha’am. It fuelled the growth of luxury hotels, beach resorts, wellness spas and when the MICE industry took notice of Thailand as a destination that had a future, along came the conference venues and exhibition halls with thousands of metres of meeting space. The MICE deluge followed and Thailand was inundated with small, medium and large conferences and corporate incentive groups ranging from 50 to 15,000 delegates. Thailand found itself as a tourism force to reckon with. Now the challenge is to sustain that growth and create new opportunities for its tourism industry stakeholders.
It is not difficult for Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) to do that. Primarily, like all Thais, all you need is that mega-watt smile. For me, a veteran traveller to Thailand for 35 years, that Thai smile makes my day. Anywhere and at any time, it uplifts your spirit. However, TCEB is going beyond the obvious.
Redefine: imagination. Hold a meeting in the open air, among green lawns and trees, with the tweeting of birds and servings of iced coffee and fresh coconut water.
Redefine: the view. Go up to the new Mahanakorn Observation Deck – a meeting space on top of the world.
Redefine: memory. Take a boat ride on the Chao Phrya river to the Praya Palazzo, a heritage property refurbished to its historical splendour but equipped with modern dining and meeting facilities. The Rama II Memorial Park where the corporate incentive participants can dress in traditional Thai costumes and round off with a traditional Thai lunch. An excellent venue for incentive groups to meet in a traditional Thai ambience.
Redefine: the body. The Golden Windmill Salt Spa where the various herbal salts with turmeric allow you to indulge yourself and rejuvenate your body and uplift your spirit. At Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Park with several activities that include making hand-made products from coconut and eating lunch that you cook according to your sign of Water, Fire, Earth or Air. This after a languid country boat ride through the narrow canal meandering it way through thick green foliage.
Redefine: the old. At Sook Siam, created to replicate the floating villages with their many wares inside the newest shopping destination, the Icon Siam.
Redefine: the undefined. At Bo.lan, the eclectic restaurant that works only with organic and sustainable products.
Redefine: luxury. The Sukothai in Bangkok – an oasis within a concrete metropolis where you could float your Loy Krathong flower set with a burning candles and incense sticks among the lotus flowers in the water body within the hotel. Where you can pluck the herbs of your choice from their garden ask the chef to use them for your favourite dish. At Karmakamet, a store that is also a restaurant and a meeting venue, surprises await around the corner.
MICE is being redefined in Thailand. TCEB is spearheading the national development carrying industry focus and community development to drive the magnitude of MICE in its game plan. In 2019 TCEB won 11 international conferences, attracted 17 new trade shows and 12 mega-sized meeting and incentive groups that attracted over 100,000 delegates. Meetings accounted for 249,371 travellers, incentives totaled 274,093 participants, conferences amassed 228,592 delegates and exhibitions grew by 20.02 per cent to 215,772 attendees. In 2020, the number of MICE visitors to Thailand is expected to increase by 11 per cent to 1.386 million.
Nichapa Yoswee, TCEB’s senior vice president business leads a dynamic team that is transforming Thailand into a refreshingly new MICE destination. I am impressed with Thailand Redefined. It is a lesson for all established destinations to emulate and present themselves anew.
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