By Andrew Starke in Bangkok
Asia’s only double bill event for MICE and corporate travel has officially opened in Bangkok with 483 buyers and mangers from 54 countries, including Australia, getting down to business.
According to organisers of Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings Asia (IT&CMA) and Corporate Travel World (CTW), this year’s event has defied Thailand’s political turmoil to attract 780 participating exhibitors from 304 companies across 38 countries.
50 percent of buyers and corporate travel managers are new delegates, with several Australian buyers making the trip for the first time.
IT&CMA business appointments for exhibitors, buyers and corporate travel managers and CTW conference sessions for conference delegates have been in full swing over the past two days with the official opening on Tuesday night (Oct 5) also well attended.
2010 marks the 18th staging of IT&CMA and 13th instalment of CTW with Australian exhibitors including Orion Expedition Cruises, the Australasian Society of Association Executives and Travelport.
SpiceNews also spoke to a number of Australian buyers, including Maria Margarejo, a travel coordinator for lawyers Corrs, Chambers and Westgarth who are attending the conference for the first time.
“I have found the CTW conference sessions to be informative as so far they have dealt with topical issues in an interactive format,” she said.
With 1.6 buyers per exhibiting company the exhibition venue has also been a hotbed of activity as buyers and sellers discuss business.
The official opening function was held at the Royal Meridian Hotel on Tuesday night, with several hundred delegates in attendance.
Those looking to extend their networking opportunities partied late into the night at the Conrad Bangkok Hotel, where dance floor prowess was rewarded with a number of prizes.
For a country where an elephant in the room may raise fewer eyebrows than elsewhere in the world, senior Thai officials have been reasonably forthcoming in addressing the security issues impacting on tourism to the kingdom.
President of Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB), Akapol Sorasuchart, bullishly told a press conference earlier this week that it was ‘business as usual’ in Bangkok but also urged media delegates to ‘keep faith in Thailand’.
Earlier this week the Thai government extended the state of emergency imposed on Bangkok and three surrounding provinces for three more months. The measures came into effect in April this year when at least 90 people were killed and almost 2,000 injured in clashes between the military and the anti-government red shirts. Regular delegates at the show (IT&CMA) and Corporate Travel World (CTW) have noticed heightened levels of security at the conference with shopping malls in the area conducting bag checks at every entrance.
The number of MICE visitors to Thailand is estimated to total 620,000 over 2010, the same figure as last year but well down on pre-GFC numbers of over 800,000 in 2006 and 2007.
However any fall-out from security issues is unlikely to have an impact until 2011 and officials at the Bangkok conference have understandably been keen to downplay its significance.
Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, organizer of IT&CMA and CTW 2010, Darren Ng, said the tourism sector was showing resilience but conceded that visitors were staying for slightly shorter periods than previously.
Russia and India are both growing markets for Thailand and Australian and New Zealand delegates polled by SpiceNews were also upbeat on both Thailand and its capital.