Efforts to host and campaign for quality conferences may not bear immediate fruits, but Thailand has its eyes firmly on the prize
Itâ€™s a marathon and not a sprint for Thailand, which is expecting to reap long-term rewards from staking its claim as a major destination for association events.
While there has been no great rise in the number of association events, landmark conferences and summits in the country give signs of the countryâ€™s attractiveness to international organisers.
Moreover, the business events sector was in recovery mode last year after the chaos of the 2013-14 street protests, and 2016 is expected to be a year of consolidation rather than growth.
The Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA) president Sumate Sudasna, who noted that there was a small increase in number of business events held in Thailand this year over the last, said efforts to attract international associations had largely been driven by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
He pointed out that the TCEBâ€™s clearest successes recently were to host three â€śimportant events from prominent international meetings industry associationsâ€ť, namely the Professional Convention Management Association, the American Society of Association Executives and the Union of International Associations, which held its third Associations Round Table for Asia-Pacific at the Centara Grand in September 2015.
Sudasna also praised the Tourism Authority of Thailand for securing the World Travel & Tourism Councilâ€™s 2017 Global Summit, which will be held in late April.
â€śThat is a very significant industry authoritative body and having its events in Thailand will cement the countryâ€™s position as a leading destination for business events,â€ť he said.
Other successful association events that demonstrated Thailandâ€™s presence on the world stage include the 3rd Asia-Pacific Glaucoma Congress, the 11th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum Exhibition and the 29th Congress of the International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, a TCEB spokeswoman added.
She further pointed out that Thailandâ€™s 42 certified MICE venues were well supported by â€śan abundant ecosystem of talented business event professionalsâ€ť.
To market the destination for large-scale events, TCEB is offering the Convene in Paradise promotion running until next September, which provides one million baht (US$28,692) in support of conventions with a minimum attendance of 1,000 international delegates.
TCEB also recently held a campaign to encourage event organisers to look beyond Bangkok and explore the countryâ€™s diversity.
â€śBangkok is still the preferred choice due to the convenience for international arrivals as well as its infrastructure and facilities, while Chiang Mai has also gained notice and is becoming more prominent on the map,â€ť Sudasna explained.
TICAâ€™s own role in attracting associations comes in the form of the Convention Promotion Seminar, which is held every two years.
â€śIn 2015, it was organised in Chiang Mai and some leads were generated from that event,â€ť Sudasna said.
But he cautioned that association events involve long periods of planning time, adding that it could take years before campaigns by industry bodies like TICA or state agencies like the TCEB yielded results.