MEET­ING DE­MAND

Bangkok’s events of­fer­ings are mul­ti­ply­ing as the city looks to grow in this lu­cra­tive sec­tor, writes Craig Bright

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

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.

LARGE-SCALE VENUES

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.”

FRESH­EN­ING UP

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

Clock­wise from

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

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