BANGKOK - The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is asking the Thai government to further loosen restrictions on meetings and exhibitions to get the sector back to work and reduce unemployment.
Under the most recent phase of coronavirus lockdown easing rules, meeting rooms, hotels and conference centres may hold meetings of up to 50 people; however, movie theatres are allowed up to 200 people per showing.
The move comes as TCEB continues to finalise its ‘EASE UP Recovery Campaign’ which will include up to five million baht (US$158,843) in grants to industry members.
Ms Pornthip Hirunkate (Addie), MD, Destination Asia Thailand, called it a good start but said it was still not clear how it would be funded and who would be eligible for the grants.
“They are still defining who will be market champions while market representatives are all submitting different recovery ideas. At least TCEB has the funding as a government body and must spend by the end of September.
“But the group size is still currently restricted to between 20 to 50 participants even if theatres can allow up to 200 people per showing,” she added.
After domestic MICE begins Ms Pornthip predicted bi-lateral ‘travel bubble’ agreements would be reached with neighbouring ASEAN countries as the most logical international MICE groups. Countries like Vietnam, Taiwan south Korea, Japan, China all have potentially manageable COVID-19 situations.
Other travel associations, including the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) are also strongly lobbying the government to open up to international arrivals with August expected to be the earliest and September the latest – without the much maligned 14-day quarantine as earlier discussed.
Supawan Teerarat, the TCEB's senior VP for strategic business development and innovation, said the government should allow different organisations to join the same meetings in hotels, and should also consider lifting the limitation on exhibition space from 20,000 sqm.
The area constraint prevents large venues in Bangkok such as Impact Exhibition Center, The Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre, and Samyan Mitrtown Hall from hosting big events for industries that are essential to the economy.
Mrs Supawan said exhibitions and conventions can only be held in provincial areas right now. "If exhibition and convention venues larger than 20,000 sqm can host events, big activities such as the Bangkok International Motor Show, which has been postponed to July 13-26, can stay on schedule," she said.
There are 987 confirmed domestic and international MICE events in Thailand that the TCEB plans to support from June 2020 to March 2021.
The first five months of this year saw 29 events cancelled, causing a loss of up to 2 billion baht. Some 88 events were rescheduled to the end of the year.
Mrs Supawan said the TCEB is preparing to propose a stimulus package using the 400-billion-baht budget assigned to national economic rehabilitation.
The first priority is to drive the domestic MICE industry by encouraging companies to hold more events and host incentive trips in domestic destinations.
As soon as inbound travellers are allowed back into Thailand, the TCEB plans to organise roadshows in potential markets around the region such as China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
Another plan is for the TCEB to host job fairs across Thailand to open up the job market in the MICE industry to new graduates, aiming to minimise unemployment in the country.
The TCEB estimates that the MICE industry in fiscal 2020 (October 2019-September 2020) will generate 166 billion baht, a year-on-year drop of 70.4%.
The number of international MICE travellers is expected to plunge by 50% to 60% from the pre-pandemic target of 1.1 to 1.2 million people.
Mrs Supawan said the TCEB is working with the Public Health Ministry to issue health and safety guidelines for convention and exhibition venues and provide assurance that mass gatherings will not risk exposure to the coronavirus.