Thailand and Malaysia look at subventions to boost MICE activities

BANGKOK, eTN- New strategies for Asian countries to lure more business travel activities were the focus of the recent IT& CMA edition in Bangkok.

Thailand and Malaysia look at subventions to boost MICE activities

BANGKOK, eTN- New strategies for Asian countries to lure more business travel activities were the focus of the recent IT& CMA edition in Bangkok. Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) adopted during the show a higher profile as the political situation in Thailand has been returning to normal. TCEB management used Asia’s largest MICE business event to launch its newest marketing campaign 2011, ‘Believe in Thailand’ 2011 which will help to boost confidence into the destination for MICE organizers. TCEB initiative includes support from TCEB to events organizers in all kind of fields including financial aids to host events or promote it overseas. According to Akapol Sorasuchart, TCEB President, “the ‘Believe in Thailand’ campaign not only reiterates to the world that Thailand remains a dynamic business event destination but also shows the significant financial commitments of the Thai government in support of the industry.” The campaign is due to start-off by early next year.

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This is not the first time that TCEB embarks into a large marketing campaign to strengthen MICE business into the Kingdom. TCEB has been stepping up efforts since 2008, the year where the closure of airports in the South of Thailand then in Bangkok dented business travel confidence. In the past, Thailand has offered discounts on convention and exhibitions facilities as well as on hotels, including complementary bedrooms according to various qualifying criteria. In 2009 The ‘Thailand Maximize’ campaign already offered extra value for MICE organizers in an effort to maximize their presence in the country.

Thailand’s commitment to attract new business translates into an estimated budget of US$ 22 million. This is ten times more approximately than neighboring Malaysia, according to Zulkefli HajI Sharif, Head of Malaysia Convention and Visitors Bureau (MyCEB). The Malaysian government is however looking at new ways to boost the number of international MICE hosted in the country. “MyCEB has mostly helped MICE organizers until today by playing the role of ‘consultants’. We help in selecting the best venues, in tailoring events such as traditional dances, handicraft demonstration or social activities and in organizing pre-and post-tours. We traditionally relied on our good value for money, especially with very competitive hotel rates. However, this might not be enough anymore,” he admitted.

Malaysia meanwhile studies ways to subsidize MICE events, including financial help. The budget is likely to grow to reach US$ 8 million as part of the government’s commitment to boost incentive travels and conventions. “ It is necessary as we will continue to open new facilities for conventions and will need to promote them. We are currently building in Kuala Lumpur a new exhibition and convention center for mega-events. MATRADE Center will be achieved in 2014 offering over one million sq ft of venues. Until 2014, Kuala Lumpur will add another 10 new hotels, adding to the market another 2,500 rooms,” said Mr. Sharif. New infrastructure for MICE is not only taking place in Kuala Lumpur. According to MyCEB Head, they are huge infrastructure projects taking place in Johor Bahru, including a new convention and exhibition center, a theme park, a marina and new hotels but also in Ipoh (Perak). “We recently completed the Sarawak Convention Center in Kuching, positioning the city as a sophisticated MICE venue for Borneo Island. For incentive travels, we will also highlight exclusive facilities such as Pangkor Island where we work on a ‘one- resort-for-one-island’ concept,” he told.

MyCEB is keen to achieve an ambitious target of welcoming 100,000 delegates at international conventions by 2015 compared to 59,000 in 2009. This on a total of over two million of arrivals linked to the hosting of international business events. “MICE has a high economic value for our country. In 2009, we estimate that the economic impact value of international business event visitors stood at US$ 540 million [RM 16.17 billion]. It could easily be doubled until 2015,” indicated Mr. Sharif.