CLIENTS’ search for more novel destinations may be the bigger threat to Thailand than issues on perception of safety following last month’s series of co-ordinated bomb blasts in popular tourist spots including Phuket and Hua Hin.
Incentive and meeting planners interviewed said Thailand remains resilient, but emerging destinations such as Vietnam and Cambodia look set to be its contenders for a slice of the MICE pie.
The kingdom’s resilience is attributed to its attractions and value-for-money proposition, aside from its image as being relatively safe.
Yoo Jae Eun, assistant manager of Hyundai Dream Tour, South Korea, said: “There are security threats in many areas of the world and in comparison Thailand is still considered rather safe and is still a very attractive place for our groups.”
Yoo added that she is optimistic Thailand will still be one of the top destinations for her clients who prioritise shopping in their incentive programme.
Sharing similar sentiments, Andrzej Rutkowski, sales manager and group advisor of Supertour, Poland, said: “There is no major issue with that (bomb attacks) and our clients are still proceeding with their plans to Thailand.”
Explaining the lure of the destination, he said: “It is not easy to find luxury hotels and restaurants at the low prices that Thailand offers.”
While Singapore-based Mice Matters’ director Melvyn Nonis had to redirect a corporate group to Hong Kong from Thailand during the week of the bombings, he said: “Thailand provides the total holistic package of shopping, nightlife, great food and, most importantly, is inexpensive as a destination.
“The country has already been through floods and riots but you see that people keep returning. Clients are generally more forgiving towards Thailand and I am sure they will not be deterred.”
The only thing Thailand has to look out for is competition from other emerging countries, said Akbar Shareef, chairman and CEO of Rakaposhi Tours, Pakistan, who shared that many of his clients have visited Thailand several times beforehand hence consider Vietnam especially as a “fresh new destination”.
Unilever Industries’ APAC regional travel head, Geetha Arekal, agreed, saying: “Vietnam is the next big destination for MICE because the facilities for IT and accommodation are growing better and stronger and they show that they are ready for business.”
Supertour’s Rutkowski is also seeing a growing interest in the emerging part of South-east Asia where there is “a lot of new and unique historic venues that we can hold meetings and incentives”, citing the renowned Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia as an example.