The imminent availability of a Covid-19 vaccine and Thailand's new promotional campaigns have given a boost to the MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions) industry as event organisers are now confidently planning a return to international trade shows and meetings from May 2021 onwards. However, virtual and hybrid or “phygital” (physical and digital) events will remain an answer in the midst of this on-going pandemic.
Undoubtedly, Thailand MICE has been one of the industries hit hardest by the Covid crisis. Thanks to a variety of measures introduced by the government to gradually reopen the country to foreign travellers, organisers have been able to hold some international events since September 2020. However, large events have been postponed to take place this year.
The Thai government's policy to secure vaccines from various sources with a target to cover 50% of the population within 2021 should bring hope to event planners, venues and destination management companies. Thailand has ordered an additional 35 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, bringing the total number of doses bought under this deal up to 61 million.
Thailand has also decided to purchase an additional 2 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech. These shots will be reserved for emergency use. The first lot of 200,000 doses have already arrived since 24 February, and the final batch of 1 million doses will be delivered at the end of April 2021. To boost public confidence, cabinet members as well as Ministry of Public Health administrators took the first Sinovac shots on 28 February and the rest will be distributed to front line workers and risk groups, such as medical staff and populations of high risk provinces.
Sanchai Noombunnam, deputy managing director of Informa Markets (Thailand), said his company is planning several events this year, which will mostly be held in Bangkok. Though the events are being organised in line with the “new normal”, he believes modern technology and an effective marketing strategy will help attract suppliers, visitors and match businesses.
The pilot Cosmoprof CBE ASEAN, slated for September 2021, will offer entrepreneurs a gateway to beauty markets in Southeast Asia. With 15,000 square metres devoted to this event at Bangkok’s IMPACT Convention and Exhibition Centre, it is expected to attract more than 500 exhibitors and 15,000-plus visitors.
Sanchai added that the first-ever edition of Jewellery & Gem ASEAN Bangkok will be held in November, in a bid to leverage Thailand's strength as a global gemstone and jewellery manufacturing destination.
Informa Markets, a top exhibitions organiser, aims to start holding events from May onwards, and included in the 2021 calendar are the Asean Sustainable Energy Week 2021 (Asia's largest expo-cum-forum on renewable energy, energy efficiency, environmental and electric vehicle technology), SUBCON Thailand (industrial subcontracting and business matching), Thai Water Expo (a biennial event on the latest water and wastewater technologies) and Food & Hotel Thailand.
Separately, exhibition organiser VNU Asia Pacific will, in September, launch Bio Asia Pacific – a new conference and exhibition platform to showcase biotechnology, life sciences and smart health in Asia Pacific. This platform will be co-located with Thailand LAB international.
Meanwhile, the 10th edition of Medical Fair Thailand by Messe Düsseldorf Asia, NEPCON Thailand and InterPlas Thailand by Reed Tradex have also been added to this year’s Bangkok event calendar.
Kavin Kittiboonya, managing director of Kavin Intertrade, said news of vaccines becoming available in Thailand this year has boosted the confidence of organisers, suppliers and visitors in the sector. In line with this, his company is planning three big trade fairs in June, namely the Thai Franchise & SME Expo; Thailand Retail, Food & Hospitality Services; and the Asean Retail Show.
“Though the number of visitors last year dropped by 25 to 30% compared to the previous year, exhibitors encountered “better” buyers. We believe our company will satisfy exhibitors provided hybrid events can deliver real and quality buyers. Once we're in a stable post-Covid world, in-person interaction will once again become the most powerful tool in exhibitions,” Kavin said.
Meanwhile, the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) believes a focus on trade shows will be a key driver in the growth of international MICE events. This year, TCEB plans to support 58 international exhibitions, including 14 new ones, which are forecast to generate up to THB23 billion (US$767 million) in revenue.
Nichapa Yoswee, senior vice president for TCEB’s business division, said the bureau has recently created “Thailand LOG-IN Events” – a five-year strategy to propel international exhibitions of target industries in line with Thailand 4.0.
Through public-private partnerships, the 2021-2025 plan is expected to add 15 new showcases to Thailand’s event calendar by the end of the period. The key goal of this strategy is to hold world-class exhibitions, like Thailand’s very own edition of the International Air Show by 2025.
She said these global trade shows will be crucial to promoting trade and investment, particularly in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), especially in the sectors of medical, automation and robotics, aviation and logistics, next-generation automotive, food for the future and smart electronics.
To help achieve this goal, TCEB will financially support international organisers to develop events in line with the “new normal” as well as assist with feasibility studies on venues’ capacity, new exhibit profiles and promotion costs.
The bureau also recently launched the “Re-energising Exhibition” campaign to support both online and offline trade shows. This campaign incorporates and expands on previous initiatives, such as the ASEAN+6 Privilege and Exhibiz in Market. (https://www.businesseventsthailand.com/en/support-solution/exhibition). TCEB also designed Ease Up, a collaborative financial grant, to support corporate meetings and incentive events. In addition to easing criteria such as minimum participants and physical presence of international attendees, events will also be subsidised under the campaign. https://www.businesseventsthailand.com/uploads/solution_support/file/200723-file-Chw9kwYX5.pdf
Thailand has adopted a balanced strategy in its battle with Covid-19 from the start, prioritising public health while making sure that businesses can continue. As the country starts its innoculation campaign, the MICE industry is already planning ahead to capitalise from the “near normal.” Entrepreneurs should be prepared, because Thailand is already moving forward.