Thailand expects meetings slow down

7 Oct 2008

Thailand’s lucrative meetings and incentive travel business may drop by 15 to 20 percent, a victim of fresh new political turmoil, which erupted in Bangkok yesterday and on the eve of an important trade event Incentive Travel and Conventions Meetings Asia and Corporate Travel World (ITCMA & CTW).

Malinee Kitaphanich, director of meetings and incentives, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), however, qualified this to be short term, predicating any comeback on government action. She said: “If it can quickly solve the problem within a week, market confidence will make a fast return.”

Protesters stormed the Thai Parliament building Tuesday fearing controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, accused of graft and corruption, would be reinstalled in stealth. In the melee, a young woman died and around 400 people were injured. The street fighters regrouped on the ground of the prime minister’s office, which they have surrounded since August 26. And while the areas of unrest are far from the trade show’s venue, the business mood – coupled with plots of yet another military coup and prevailing global market fragility – is expectedly tentative, if not uncertain.

Convention official Kitaphanich added: “The political situation will definitely leave a deep impact on the MICE sector, especially in the last quarter of 2008. In a worst case scenario, should the situation carry on longer, we may go 30 percent off the original target.”

Before this, Kitaphanich’s office was optimistic about hitting a target of 940,000 meetings and exhibition visitors by year-end, a 20 percent rise over 2007 figures. But Kitaphanich put her faith in the Thai people’s resiliency in weathering setbacks, saying: “These unfortunate incidents are in a controlled scope and does not generate a wide impact on Thai people’s daily life. Companies who visit Thailand on a site inspection will realise this and they will see that all business sectors are operating as usual.”

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Gigi Onag

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