Thailand is the centre of Asia’s MICE business. With its strategic location in the heart of ASEAN, Thailand is a connecting point to the rest of Asia. The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (Public Organisation), or TCEB, has formulated a strategic plan for the development of the Thai MICE industry. TCEB’s plan includes co-operation with strategic partners in the ongoing development of the 10 key MICE cities across the country. Additionally as it has established regional conference and exhibition promotion offices in the country’s four regions that work with government agencies and the private sector to support MICE events and organisers across the country. TCEB is working proactively to continue to develop Thailand’s MICE industry and create sustainable models of prosperity to lay the foundations for Thailand to be the centre of Asia’s MICE business. TCEB continues its close work with provincial authorities and local associations, agencies, and entrepreneurs to build awareness and employment opportunities across the country, ready to unlock MICE opportunities with a formula based on the principles of “Revive, Support and Promote”. The aim is to push the Thai MICE industry to the forefront of the Asian MICE landscape and seek out every opportunity to help revitalise all aspects of the nation’s economy.
Thailand is a key link between countries in Asia, with economic ties spanning the continent that include the transfer of goods, services, skilled labour, trade and investment. Thailand is the continent’s gateway between ASEAN and the rest of Asia. It is also an important production and export base for many of the world’s major industries, including the automobile and automobile component industries, computers and IT industries.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Thailand’s exports for the month of August 2023 were valued at US$ 24,279.6 million growing 2.6%. The figures revealed a monthly trade surplus for the first time since October 2022. The result was largely due to improved performance in the export of agricultural products. Mangosteen exports grew more than 20,000% and industrial sector export figures also showed improvement. Factors supporting the improved August figures included:
1. As mentioned, agricultural products have driven the overall growth in export numbers. The higher numbers mean increased income for farmers, and an improved domestic economy; and
2. Climate change awareness – the export of products or components used in the production of alternative energies.
The forecast for exports in the remainder of the year shows continued gradual recovery. Products related to clean energy and digital technologies have strong potential for continued growth, while demand for agricultural and food products continues to expand.
Photo credit: Bank of Thailand
The Department of Business Development has revealed that during the first eight months of 2023 (January – August), 435 foreigners received approval to invest and conduct business in Thailand. The total investment amounted to 65,790 million baht and 4,491 jobs were created for Thai nationals. The top five sources of foreign investment were Japan, Singapore, USA, China, and Hong Kong. This investment also involved the transfer of technology with specialised knowledge being brought into the country and shared across many industries. Most of these new business investments were in industries related to the development of national infrastructure, and in line with national investment promotion policies aimed at increasing the country’s competitiveness. These included investments in drilling for petroleum in the Gulf of Thailand, and software services including enterprise software and digital content. In August 2023, 58 foreigners were granted licences to operate businesses in Thailand, bringing 6,840 million baht in investment capital into the country and creating 897 jobs for local people. Most of these licences were granted to investors from Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Cabinet has approved the draft Infrastructure and Public Utilities Action Plan in the Eastern Special Development Zone 2023 – 2027. Included in the plan are promotional measures and technologies to upgrade 77 transport network projects with a total budget of 337,797.07 million baht, divided up as follows:
- Urgent Projects (starting in 2023) – This includes 29 projects with a total budget of 125,599.98 million baht. Included in these projects are construction of a secondary mass transit system to support Phase 1 of the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Chonburi - Ban Bueng – EECi and Rayong – Ban Khai – EECi; the construction of a high-speed taxiway and additional taxiway project (U-tapao Airport); an Intelligent Transportation Traffic System (ITS); and a clean energy procurement project.
- Medium-term projects (2024 – 2027) – This includes 48 projects with a total budget of 212,197.09 million baht. Included in the plan are a new double-track rail project from Sri Racha to Rayong; installation of an M-Flow infrastructure system on Motorway 7; development of the commercial port services at Sattahip Port; and a dry port project in Chachoengsao.
2. Easy Access
Thailand enjoys a strategic location within Asia, and boasts many facilities, public utilities and international-standard convention centres. The country is home to 10 MICE cities: Bangkok, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phitsanulok, Pattaya, Phuket, Songkhla, Surat Thani, and Udon Thani, with additional locations ready to be added to the list of options for a wide variety of MICE activities.
Airports of Thailand (AOT) have confirmed that services at the new SAT-1 terminal at Suvarnabhumi Airport will be ready for operation in September 2023, including the passenger baggage linkage system, APM system, passenger transfer services from the main terminal to SAT-1, duty-free shops, and restaurants. The first six months of operation will serve as a test-phase to ensure the readiness of all systems including those of service providers and airlines that are operating up to 20 flights a day via the new terminal. The new facility will be able to accommodate up to 200 flights per day on its 28 air bridges serving 15 million additional passengers annually.
Additionally, the AOT is preparing Phase 3 of its Don Muang Airport upgrade which includes increasing its passenger capacity, improving its air and ground passenger transport systems, and reducing traffic congestion at the airport. Don Muang Airport can currently accommodate 30 million passengers per year and after completion of the upgrades will be able to handle 50 million passengers annually.
Credit : Airports of Thailand
The Ma Ta Phut Industrial Port Development Project is one of the key development projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to support the transportation of natural gas and liquid raw materials for the petrochemical industry in the 400-acre Ma Ta Phut Industrial Estate. The project will increase the transportation capacity of natural gas and liquid raw materials to 19 million tons annually, and support the expansion of the steel and related industries. This will drive further investment and create further employment opportunities in the area. Phase 1 of the Ma Ta Phut Industrial Port Development Project will be completed in 2027.
The Public Passenger Transportation Centre at Ubon Ratchathani International Airport is the first airport transportation centre under the Ministry of Transport’s Department of Airports. The 6,800-square-metre-centre will be a model for the co-ordination of ground passengers with public transport services such as the Ubon Smart Bus, public buses, taxis, and various kinds of rental vehicles. The centre will also include under-cover parking for more than 220 vehicles.
Inside the L-shaped building is a hall featuring 900 square metres of usable space. The passenger waiting area will include screens displaying the boarding and disembarking status of planes as well as details of vehicle numbers, arrival and departure times of public buses. The facility also includes public restrooms, F&B outlets, souvenir shops, and is directly connected to the airport’s passenger terminal via Gates 1 and 2. Gates, 3, 4 and 5 connect to the U-shaped public parking area.
The construction budget for the project is 86.8 million baht, and the centre is scheduled for completion in September 2023, with its official opening scheduled for the following month.
3. New Development
The Department of Rail Transport has unveiled its electric train master plan for Bangkok and surrounding areas. Phase 2, or M-MAP 2, with all possible routes (Project Long List) comprises 33 routes divided into three groups: 1. M-MAP 1 routes (eight routes) that have not yet been implemented; 2. New routes (14 routes); and 3. Proposed extensions (11 routes).
The M-MAP 2 development plan priorities can be divided into four groups:
- Group A1 consists of four necessary electric train routes that are ready for immediate operation, namely, 1. The red line from Rangsit to Thammasat; 2. The red line from Taling Chan to Salaya; 3. The red line from Taling Chan to Siriraj; and 4. The brown line from Khae Rai to Bueng Kum.
- Group A2 are six necessary electric train routes that are not yet ready for service, and are expected to be operational by 2029. The routes are 1. The red line from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong; 2. The green line from the National Stadium to Yotse; 3. The green line from Bang Wa to Taling Chan; 4. The red line from Wong Wien Yai to Bang Bon; 5. The silver line from Bang Na to Suvarnabhumi (Light Rail); and 6. The grey line from Watcharaphon to Thong Lor.
- Group B are proposed routes that have passed a cost-effectiveness study as part of the M-MAP 1 project, or new routes with passenger volumes calculated to meet the criteria required to be developed into a mass-transit system. There are nine routes in this group.
- Group C are Feeder routes to be operated as rubber-wheeled trams or electric buses. There are 26 routes in this group.
Credit: Department of Rail Transport, Ministry of Transport
Virtual Experience or technologies that create virtual experiences, whether AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), MR (Mixed Reality) including the Metaverse, are now applied across many parts of life. This is especially true in the tourism and events sectors in creating unique experiences for travellers and MICE participants. In many ways these developments are consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations – from reducing organisation and venue costs, catering requirements, management, waste, and difficulties with travelling long distances. With technology allowing us to creative immersive virtual experiences, many of these issues disappear and that can have a positive impact on the environment and climate action through reductions in emissions, waste, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. All of these factors contribute to a foundation of sustainability and positive image that reflect the environmental responsibility of MICE events.
TCEB’s MICE Industry Potential Development Department in collaboration with Mahidol International University launched their Certification for Young Professionals programme on Wednesday 9 August 2023 at the Rama Gardens Hotel in Bangkok. The course aims to develop and upgrade important skills that are in high demand in the MICE sector so that new graduates are ready to tackle a career in the industry. It is expected that the course will create job opportunities by increasing graduates’ capabilities, preparing them to meet the needs of MICE entrepreneurs, and in turn help facilitate smooth and sustainable growth in the MICE industry.