TCEB: Bureau wins plaudits for calming MICE market jittersPublished: August 2009ThaiAsiaToday.com recently got the opportunity to chat with Supawan Teerarat (see photo,below), exhibitions director and acting president of the Thailand Convention & ExhibitionBureau (TCEB), a vitally important organization tasked with supporting development of thehighly lucrative MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) market in thekingdom, and reporting directly to the Prime Ministers Office.ThaiAsiaToday.com: Could you please give our readers a quick summary of how TCEBhas been dealing with the economic and political situation in the kingdom?
Supawan Teerarat (ST): Of course we have felt effects from the global economic andfinancial crisis, as well as the political situation in the country.We estimate that the number of visitors (to the kingdom) has dropped about 20%. I think thisis largely an effect of the global financial crisis. It doesnt only apply to Thailand, I think thepercentage I mention should apply to all countries right now.ThaiAsiaToday.com: Some of our readers may not be particularly familiar with the termMICE market, so perhaps you could provide some background for them in terms of TCEBsrole?ST: Yes, we use the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) label in Asia,but in other regions, other terms are sometimes applied, such as Business Events.In Thailand, we are certainly very lucky to have the bureau (TCEB). It is a government bodythat is fully in charge of the MICE market segment and fully understands the importantsignificance of this sector.Firstly, it should be noted that the person that comes to Thailand for a MICE event is totallydifferent from a regular tourist. Through MICE events, it is really the business traveler who isusing the platform of a corporate meeting or conference, or even business people whoparticipate in exhibitions or visitors to such exhibitions, who are all well qualified travelers toThailand. Thats why, in fact, the TECB was first established – to service these visitors.ThaiAsiaToday.com: When was the bureau established?ST: It was set up six years ago as the bureau responsible for attracting more businessevents to Thailand and win more international meetings and conferences, along withpromoting the brand of Thailand as the best possible choice of destination among organizersof MICE events.
BS: Would I be correct in saying youre focused on raising awareness?ST: We do a lot on education, security standards and have even been active in theestablishment of standard for so-called green meetings, so from that point of view, yes, wedo look to raise awareness.BS: Could you explain in a bit more detail for our readers how someone involved in a MICEevent differs from a regular tourist?ST: Yes, well I think you can say that these are very niche markets.Firstly, it should be noted that while a regular tourist might spend about 4,000-8,000 baht(US$117-234) per day, our qualified travelers (visitors to MICE events) often spend up to15,000-20,000 baht per day since they are here on business. Typically, these people dontspend on a personal level, rather, its their company that pays. And their experience will besteered by the activities they are joining during their stay.For example, if they are part of a group attending corporate meetings, like those typicallyorganized by large Information Technology (IT) firms, if they choose to hold the event inBangkok, there are likely to be some leisure activities tied in with the main focus of their stay.Since Thailand is now well known as one of the worlds leading tourist destination, when itcomes to incentives, the visitor is largely going to focus on leisure. They may also choose tohave a slightly different package, for example, which takes in a few other parts of the country.
Another significant group is those who are attending conferences and exhibitions. Folksattending conventions, dont only expect to attend the meetings, and will likely have otheractivities tied in, too, either pre- or post-event.For exhibitions – where buyers and sellers meet and where sellers can showcase their goodsor services – a new trend has emerged over recent years. In the past, those involved tendedto only come for the exhibition, but more recently weve seen that exhibitors and visitors maychoose to extend their trip around the event to allow for more leisure time, such as shopping,during the trip. Through research, we have seen that this is definitely a growing trend.BS: It seems as though there is a large push to stimulate domestic tourism – how does thatfit in with your remit?ST: Well, the main objective of our mission is to attract international travelers and encouragethem to come to Thailand. However, during the recent crisis, certainly the number ofinternational visitors was clearly down sharply, and rather than just wait for this return, thegovernment took the initiative of trying to encourage more Thais to travel within the kingdomrather than go abroad.This Domestic MICE campaign involves trying to encourage Thai organizations, beginningwith government bodies but then moving on to corporations, to hold their events in thekingdom rather than overseas.Essentially, when it comes to the domestic MICE market, we decided to break it down into 32sub groupings – each with the possibility of a special package, joining hand in hand withnumerous associations, federations and tourism groups, along with government support forthis campaign. Nevertheless, it should be stated that for our organization, it is theinternational aspect that is our main focus.BS: How have these various crises experienced over the last few years affected the MICEmarket recently and what has TCEB been doing to address this situation?
ST: Well, last year (2008) the MICE market as a whole managed to generate 55 billion bahtin income from 600,000 participants. While it is extremely difficult to assess this yearssituation, particularly in light of the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, we expect that about500,000 visitors will attend MICE events in the kingdom, which is likely to generate in theregion of 40 billion baht.BS: What kind of marketing initiatives are you involved in?ST: We conduct a good deal of international marketing, participating in major events relatingto the MICE market, as well as organizing roadshows, in tandem with the Board of Investment(BOI) and the Department of Export Promotion (DEP). This is to provide foreigners with aclearer picture and promote greater confidence in the kingdom in terms of travel.It is not just a case of promoting our quick decision campaign, but also to reassure our targetmarkets that Thailand is once again a peaceful country where we more than welcomebusiness travelers to return and do business. The quick win aspect is aimed at encouragingthose can understand how the situation has evolved to feel comfortable with holding theirevents in the kingdom. Its fair to say that we have been focusing on short haul, which meanspromoting Asia as a destination over other continents.BS: Where are a lot of your marketing efforts targeted?ST: Due to the importance of new media, where we once might have bought more ads intrade magazines and so on, now we are conducting a lot of campaigns online, using socialmedia and networking, for example.BS: Can you please tell our readers a bit more about your Green Meetings initiative?ST: By definition, climate change and global warming is an international issue. Its not onlythe government, but virtually all business sectors that are now working towardsencompassing environmentally friendly initiatives within their activities.
In the past, I have to say that the MICE industry created an awful lot of waste, particularlywithin the exhibitions sub-sector. Once an event was finished, typically a lot of the displayswere just discarded or even thrown away. So one of our missions as a partner in developingthe idea of Green Meetings has been to work as a partner in promoting new ways to deal withsome of these wasteful practices. This may involve organizing a brainstorming session, forexample, with an organizer or venue.The Green Meetings guidelines help to reduce the incidence of waste within these businesssectors, or ensure that more of it is recyclable. This has largely focused on Bangkok, but weare dedicated to spreading the message into the provinces.We have already worked with various stakeholders in the preparation of the guidelines andwe are now looking at sharing them among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Itsamazing how many ways you can contribute – in some ways you are doing so by being solelyonline.BS: Thats good to know! What other methods do you use to spread your message furtherafield (overseas)?ST: Since it would be far too costly to set up specific offices overseas, we tend to appointrepresentative companies, essentially marketing companies, that obviously tend to be locatedin places we consider to be major target markets. In Asia, we have them in China, India,Malaysia and Vietnam, for example, while in Europe the main ones are located in UK(London), Germany and Spain. This set up allows our representatives to establish a moredirect link with customers or potential customers.BS: Could you provide a few more specifics regarding TCEBs efforts towards developingvenues in other parts of the country?
ST: Yes, were looking at promoting events in some Unseen parts of Thailand in a variety ofvenues, too, such as Khon Kaen University (in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen), aswell as Nakhon Sri Thammarat (in the South), Pattaya and Phuket.BS: How do you provide support directly to your various stakeholders?ST: Both by means of financial and non-financial support.Right now we are offering some direct financial initiatives, for example, to organizers in theform of subsidies. This may be based on the number of persons attending an event, forexample. The $100 per head initiative, for example, allows a trade partners to receive up to$100 per head, if bringing along an extra 50 people to an event. On top of that, there is anextra night, extra smile promotion, which encourages participants at events in the kingdom toextend their stay either side of their main function.BS: Can you let our readers know roughly when you see things bouncing back when itcomes to the MICE market?ST: We expect the industry to have fully recovered by the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010.Statistics reveal that the number of visitors to MICE events worldwide have actually fallen bybetween 10-20% since the global economic downturn began to have a major impact.BS: And what, in your opinion, are the main factors that are already leading manybusinesses to reconsider the kingdom again as a venue for their MICE events.ST: They remain more or less the same, starting with a good deal of recognition forThailands value for money (VFM). The other thing organizers and visitors still recognize isthe kingdoms hospitality, or indeed Thainess, which is certainly unique in the service sector.Thailand is a major manufacturing base on a practical level, but also remains a populardestination due to its cultural values. The airport is one of the busiest in the region, while thecountry also now boasts a comprehensive transport infrastructure. The many hotels and
restaurants mean that there are entry points no matter what your budget.The cultural aspect will always make Thailand an attractive destination, and we would like toreassure people that the kingdom is a peaceful country, where you will enjoy a warmwelcome.We have financial and non-financial initiatives aimed at organizers and visitors, so really weshould be your first port of call when looking to organize a MICE-related event in Thailand.BS: Thank you very much and all the very best with your efforts.ST: Youre welcome!