Bangkok’s events offerings are multiplying as the city looks to grow in this lucrative sector, writes Craig Bright
New venues, upgrades and expansions are raising Bangkok’s credibility as a top regional destination for MICE
This year is set to be a good one for Bangkok’s MICE sector. The Thai capital currently has a slew of venue and accommodation offerings, with eight exhibition centres, more than 60 convention facilities, over 20 unique venues and in excess of 400 hotels, according to the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
But in December last year, TCEB launched its 2017 MICE Development Plan, aiming to attract a total of 27.1 million MICE travellers over the year. Luckily, event planners will find a lot on offer in the country, particularly in Bangkok.
Among the largest venues in the city is the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) in Bangna district, which has undergone a massive expansion since 2013, culminating in the recent opening of 32,000 sqm of new event facilities. The expanded space was unveiled in November last year, when the Grand Metalex 2016 – organised by Reed Tradex – became the first event to utilise all of BITEC’s ten event halls. The venue has effectively doubled in size, from 38,000 sqm to 70,000 sqm, making it one of the largest venues in Southeast Asia.
“Our expansion will provide more opportunities for customers with the increase in available space and dates,” says Panittha Buri, director of BITEC. “When BITEC first opened its doors in 1997, Reed Tradex was our first customer with ‘The World of Technology’, an exhibition that covered our four exhibition halls at that time.”
While not able to offer the same level of capacity as its counterparts, Royal Paragon Hall – a 12,000 sqm events hall located on the fifth floor of the Siam Paragon Shopping Center – positions itself as a premium venue and last year celebrated its tenth anniversary. According to Talun Theng, the venue’s general manager, Royal Paragon Hall on average holds about 120 events every year and has enjoyed roughly 10 per cent growth annually since it opened.
Last year the venue invested THB50 million (US$1.4 million) in renovations and personnel development. “We’ve changed a lot in the look, feel, mood and tone of the venue and continue to do so, because we’d like to bring a lot of innovation in the social media area as well,” explains Theng. “We are in the process of improving our digital media and platforms – all kinds of requirements to do with smart gadget use.”
Royal Paragon Hall’s managing company, Siam Piwat, is also aiming to expand its MICE holdings in the city with the upcoming True Icon Siam Hall on Charoenakorn Road. Set to open some time in late 2018 or early 2019, the venue is being billed as Thailand’s first “ultra hybrid world-class auditorium”, offering high-tech facilities with 12,000 sqm of space and capacity for 3,000 seats.
The venue is the result of a THB2 billion (US$56.6 million) investment and will be located on the seventh floor of the upcoming massive Icon Siam mixed-use development, set to open in the first quarter of 2018. “The international hotels around the river, combined with our True Icon Siam Hall, will become a global destination for the MICE and events industry,” says Theng. “The river will come alive again.”
Farther from central Bangkok is the Impact Convention and Exhibition Center, located in Nonthaburi north of the capital. Impact has hosted some 8,000 events since it opened in 1999, and is undergoing a THB1.7 billion (US$48 million) development plan that includes a new Ibis Bangkok Impact Hotel, a commercial building called The Portal that features a 1,150 sqm ballroom, and a renovation of the Hall 1-8 lobby.
RECENT HOTEL OPENINGS
To accommodate the rising numbers of visitors, hotel options are also growing – many of which offer their own event facilities. Located minutes away from Impact, the MICE-focused Best Western Plus Wanda Grand Hotel recently launched. Featuring 183 rooms and suites, it has four floors of event space, including eight function rooms and a 927 sqm grand ballroom capable of hosting up to 900 people.
However, Bangkok’s most notable recent MICE hotel addition is the Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel – a 26-storey, 248-room property located in Bangkok’s Thonburi district that opened last September. Offering an array of “over-the-top event venues”, the hotel features more than 20 meeting rooms including a 1,150 sqm ballroom with 11-metre ceilings, car lift access and a show kitchen. (See “Tried & Tested” on page 21.)
Together with its sister property and next-door neighbour the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, there is approximately 8,000 sqm of event space on offer. “Our events facilities are a very good selling point for our hotel,” explains Avani Riverside Bangkok’s general manager, Christian Hoechtl .“Combined with the Anantara, we are now able to take very big groups that enable us to compete with other large hotels. This was previously not possible at the riverside.”
The two combined properties, along with the Riverside Plaza mall above which the Avani sits, have given impetus to growth in this area of the city, according to Hoechtl. “The riverside used to be a little bit off the grid, but now it has enjoyed a revival with some construction and other projects moving here.”
Along with the new faces, a number of existing properties are also getting face-lifts. Como Metropolitan Bangkok, a 169-room hotel in the CBD’s Sathorn district with a particular focus on wellness, completed a year-long renovation of its guestrooms in February, as well as updating its Shambhala Urban Escape wellness centre with hydro pools and steam rooms.
Also completing its refresh this year was the Pullman Bangkok King Power in downtown Ratchathewi district – the first Pullman-brand hotel in the world (it opened in 2007) and the first to undergo a complete renovation. The hotel’s lobby, F&B outlets, executive lounges and 354 rooms – which now include 18 Deluxe rooms with
top left: Avani Riverside Bangkok’s Attitude rooftop bar; Como Metropolitan Bangkok; Ibis Bangkok Impact’s web corner; and Pullman Bangkok Hotel G’s chocolatethemed event