Sumate Sudasna: Back in form

Sumate Sudasna, president of Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA), is confident in the country's appeal as a top business events destination. He discusses how the industry is prepared to rise to meet new demands, as the world regains its travelling momentum

What is your outlook for Thailand’s MICE industry this year?
The year 2022 is the beginning of the comeback. I think Thailand is in a good position to win business. We have reopened our borders, and have clear health and safety procedures in place. However, while countries have announced border reopenings, conditions apply and facilitations vary, so different markets will have different timelines for returning to Thailand.

Regardless, we have confidence that business events will return substantially this year.

What are some of the challenges TICA and its members are facing right now, as a result of the pandemic?
The challenge of staying afloat is past, with the damage from the pandemic felt in varying degrees. In preparation for tourism comeback, our biggest challenge now is having to deal with resignations and rehiring of experienced staff who have left the industry.

This is the period where MICE positions are being filled, which means that business operators have to deal with understaffing issues. The silver lining is that this will help strengthen Thailand’s approach in providing efficient and professional services underpinned by our renowned Thai hospitality.

How is TICA working with its members to overcome these challenges to hasten recovery?
Our members are well aware of the challenges ahead, and to their credit, they have navigated these past few years as best as they could. With the help of TCEB (Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau), many local companies have sponsored key personnel to participate in various training and industry certification courses.

How will TICA work with TCEB to further position Thailand as a preferred international business events destination?
Throughout the pandemic, both TICA and TCEB have constantly been in contact with media and event planners – sharing market intelligence, maintaining communications, and organising the recently-concluded fam trip post-lockdown; it was the first fam trip post-lockdown.

The trip was meant to show how ready Thailand is to welcome and accommodate international events, and it also reveals how eager our source markets are keen to hold events in Thailand once again.

What opportunities do you see in the near term for TICA and the business travel industry at large?
TICA has gained more members during recent years, and at this point, I feel the business events industry is ready for a reboot and restart. With the easing of protocols, I anticipate the healthy materialisation of business in due time.

Corporate meetings will take the lead, followed by incentive travel, while international conventions and trade exhibitions will take a slightly longer time to return. I cannot stress how important business events are to help drive Thailand’s economy.

Many destinations in South-east Asia have opened, and it is increasingly competitive now. What is Thailand’s strategy for standing out and winning business?
I believe Thailand will be even more appealing as a business events destination, as we have been recognised for our successful efforts in managing the pandemic. This, buoyed by TCEB’s marketing and communications efforts, new MICE infrastructure, facilities and attractions, Thailand will continue to be a favoured destination for both decision-makers and future delegates.