BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – As the 16th edition of IT&CMA (Incentive Travel and Convention Meetings Asia) opened here in Bangkok, political turmoil around the parliament has cast a shadow on Asia’s biggest MICE show. Even if safety is not at all jeopardized for people and visitors in the metropolis, the crisis is likely to further damage Thailand’s battered image.
Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) as well as show organizer TTG Asia Media immediately issued a statement emphasizing that current political turmoil in Thailand did not affect in any ways the event itself or business for the delegates who came from 40 countries. “Current political events take place far away from IT&CMA. None of the hotels hosting our delegates are located around the parliament,” assured TCEB president Natwut Amornvivat.
IT&CMA takes place until October 9 at Bangkok Convention Centre, Central World- right in the middle of the commercial district-.
It&CMA organizer Darren Ng from TTG Asia stressed its confidence on the future of the event in Thailand. “We are delighted to be here and we are committed to see Thailand continuing to host the show for at least another four years,” he declared.
Thailand’s previous political crisis in September, which culminated with an imposed state of emergency, had little impact on IT&CMA participants. “We registered only six to seven cancellations on a total of over 360 delegates when the State of Emergency was imposed,” said Ng. “But most of them reinstated their participation as Thailand normalized its political situation by the middle of last month.”
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who has only assumed his position for three weeks, vowed on Tuesday not to repeat the error of his predecessor by not calling a state of emergency or by resigning.
Although the show must go on, new political developments are likely to further damage the image of Thailand in a near future. “ We will definitely feel the effect of the political situation. But there is little we can do,” said Amornvivat. “ Our most effective answer is to communicate immediately on the reality of the situation. For example to explain that violence is contained into one specific area, that an eventual State of Emergency has nothing to do with what some Western countries might think. We support our statement with a testimonial video campaign showing MICE delegates in Thailand telling about their experience in the country. The clip has run up to six times a day on CNBC Asia which is one of the most viewed channel among Asian travelers.”
Amornvivat also said that the precedent political crisis already had some negative impact on Thailand MICE industry. “Confirmed events still take place but we experience some organisers on the verge to cancel. For them, we eventually stepped up our financial support by doubling the incentives we offer to MICE organisers. And it worked very well!” said the TCEB president.
Amornvivat feels, however, less confident about the future. “It will certainly be harder for us to convince MICE organisers to come to our country as we have experienced a string of negative events over the last two years,” he admits. “If I do not expect major changes for 2009 events, I still fear that we will have to be even more innovative and supportive to compete for new events planned in 2010/2011. However I am confident that we will succeed,” said Amornvivat.
For 2009, TCEB expects that Thailand MICE will attract 540,000 delegates compared to 400,000 for 2008.