Words & Pictures: Saifuddin Ismailji
In a move to support the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC, approved on 28 June, 2016) through the MICE industry and promoting the government’s 10 S-curve industries into the new engines of growth, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has proposed guidelines with an implementation of Economic Mice Corridor3 (EMC3) model, driving Thailand towards economy 4.0 by creating venues for conferences, conventions, exhibitions, and Mega events in the economic zone of the three Eastern provinces namely Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong. The completion of the project will elevate the quality of life for the locals and on the whole, propel the country towards sustainability.
For the first time in the history of investment incentive, Thailand is inviting investment on very easy terms including longer time leasing of land.
In order to raise the awareness of the project, expected to be completed in six years (2023), the TCEB, in cooperation with the organizing company: Indeed Creations, hosted a very entertaining, knowledge-based 4 night, 5 day International Media Familiarization Trip (IMFT), from 8-12 October, 2018. Humbled with the honor of being a member in the team of 33 proficient international media from 35 countries, we became a part of this groundbreaking phenomenon in Thailand’s MICE industry to experience first-hand the attractions and contemplation of Eastern region embracing the proactive initiative with the available infrastructure and MICE facility with a potential to lead the new MICE region of Thailand, and to becoming a magnet to business travelers and putting Thailand a vanguard of the MICE Industry of Asia.
Day 1 (08 October) Bangkok
I am picked up in time from my abode and transferred at Bangkok’s newest Lancaster Hotel under Thai ownership – the venue for the IMFT Conference. After lunch followed by High-Tea, we are seated in a luxury limo ready to embark on the journey to explore Easter Mice Corridor on the theme “Sunrise at the Eastern Mice Corridor” – a strategic economic region of Thailand. We begin the first chapter with an excursion to the heritage industrial town of Chachoengsao, which houses the Observatory, one of the astronomical structures by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). A public science learning Center affords weekly sky observation activity using telescopes. The Center has a planetarium and holds astronomical exhibitions. Other organization can rent the space to hold events. We visit the planetarium past an area that has on display a meteorite. NARIT has launched a project inviting its visitors to help create tactile star maps from clay, which allow those with visual impairment to feel the shapes and position of stars in the sky.
The IMFT: “Sunrise at the Eastern Mice Corridor” is officially opened with a thematic welcome reception “The Starry Night”. In the presence of the EEC Thailand officials and invited media, the TCEB President, khun Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya address the welcoming of the guests highlighting the development and promotion plans for the MICE Industry in the EEC. The short speech is followed by traditional Thai dinner with a colorful performance by the stars of the evening. The host and guests sung and danced away The Starry Night to a cherishing conclusion and we are driven back to the hotel for a good night rest.
Day 2 (09 October) Bangkok to Sriracha (Chonburi)
After a hearty breakfast at the Siam Brasserie, we checked out of the hotel and assembled on the 2nd floor of the hotel for conference session on “Thailand’s Presentation”. The session opens with the key note address by TCEB President, khun Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya: “The EEC is a project under the 20-year National Strategy and the new Thailand 4.0 economic model, and sets out to further enhance the existing potential of Eastern Thailand in order to attract investments and elevate the industry in the region. In the near future, we will see development in all dimensions in EEC, from infrastructure and the ten S-curve industries to the local communities and people in the region. TCEB recognizes that the MICE industry will become instrumental in facilitating and supporting businesses and the S-curve industries in EEC at every point in their growth trajectory. As such, TCEB has initiated projects to support the EEC. These include giving infrastructural support for the MICE industry, making preparations to establish EEC as the center of MICE knowledge and accreditation, and formulating plans to attract international meetings, conferences, and exhibitions to EEC. Our efforts, coupled with the clear policy from the government, have been received with active involvement from all sectors, with MICE entrepreneurs in EEC emboldened to take on more development projects and collaborations”.
He said “Thailand’s MICE industry in 2017 and the first three quarters of 2018 showed a continuous growth. In term of the global ranking, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) in 2017 have rated Thailand the fifth Convention Destination in Asia by numbers of conventions, and the seventh Exhibition Destination in Asia by exhibitions space sold. The country ranked the top spot in ASEAN countries for both rankings. It is estimated that by the end of 2018, Thailand will have welcomed a total of 1,300,000 business travelers, resulting in 124 billion baht in revenue. And it is projected that in 2019, Thailand will receive a total 1,400,000 business travelers, generating 130 billion baht in revenue”.
“These developments herald a bright future for Thailand’s MICE industry, which is growing forth with great vitality and is ready to propel EEC as it develops into the Eastern MICE Corridor, a new beacon to Thailand’s MICE industry and the world’s” he added.
Following the welcoming address, TCEB’s Senior VP (Business) Mrs. Nichapa Yoswee and Senior VP (Strategic Business Development and Innovation) Mrs. Supawan Teerarat enlightened the audience on the “Eastern Mice Corridor” with the over view of the opportunities for MICE Industry under the scheme of Thailand 4.0 and with an overview of the development of EEC potential to accommodate MICE Industry in the EMC3 model, respectively. The concluding panel talks “EEC grows business . . . in accordance with Thailand 4.0 Policy”.
In 2018, Thailand hosted several key MICE events related to the ten S-Curve industries, namely Taiwan Expo 2018, CEBIT ASEAN Thailand 2018, and Future Energy Asia 2018, with many more slated to grace EEC in the near future. Overall, Thailand’s MICE industry has shown a consistent growth throughout in 2018. It is estimated that by the end of this fiscal year, Thailand will have welcomed over 1,327,000 business travelers, generating 124 billion baht in revenue, while it is projected that in 2019 the number of these visitors will soar to 1,419,890 in total, bringing in 130.2 billion baht. Given the promising and continuous growth, coupled with the exceptional capacity of the Eastern Economic Corridor and a wealth of opportunities that it promises, it is TCEB’s deep conviction that the next decade will be a golden era of Thailand’s MICE industry and that EEC will successfully and proudly establish itself as Asia’s leading strategic MICE destination.
Next, on the Panel talk, Mr. Jirapon Hirunrat VP (Network and Fleet) Bangkok Airways discussed the role of Bangkok Airways and expansion in the fleet with the new development at the U-Tapao (pronounced ootapo) which will be linked with Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports and the future venue to hold Air Show Thailand. Also joined by Mr. Buranut Limjitti Senior VP (Marketing) BDMS to discuss Medical Tourism and Ms. Mayuree Somboon of NICE (Pattaya MICE).
The Q&A session concluded the conference and after lunch, we depart to Sriracha in Chonburi province.
On arrival at the Balcony Seaside Hotel, we check in this exclusively Thai owned hotel and gather at the lobby to proceed to Vajiravudh Scout Camp for a Hot & Spicy Jamboree evening and check up on outdoor activities designed to develop teamwork skills.
Day 3 (10 October) Sriracha (Chonburi) to Koh Samed (Rayong)
The distant view of floating nests on the surface of the sea induced my curiosity and I learnt that this is the largest oyster breeding farm in Thailand. Sriracha is famed for its chili sauce, which adds a lip smacking taste when added to local dishes, such as fried chicken and stir-fried noodles with chicken. I choose on a healthy diet this morning and had seasonal fruits, a variety of salad, and plain yogurt with honey to go easy on my tummy. The cooking class at the hotel is enthusiastically participated the media team, for many, it was the first lesson in traditional Thai cooking.
At 11 AM we hit the road and proceed towards Ban Krasae village by Prasae River in Rayong to witness first-hand simple local lifestyle. The village is tourist destination and is supported by the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration. We ride from the village to the riverside on antiquated local tuk-tuk. On arrival, our local hosts from fruit plantation community had prepared for us to experience local food in an outdoor environs by the river abound fruit orchards. Young coconut is served as welcome drink followed by deliciously meal served in simple on bamboo table with a genuine smile. There was – of course, my favorite – tom yam khung served in coconut shell, grilled giant-river prawn, som tum (salad), mixed fruit plate and much more. I had for the first time tangy jack-fruit wrapped in organic brown sticky rice. Before leaving the riverside, we are invited to Plant a Tree ceremony. After a memorable experience, we ride back to the village to visit the community center next to the Temple. Here, we are served with organic pineapple juice. Women folk weave cane basket and old folks take on the stage playing
Back on the bus, we proceed to Ao Prow Ferry terminal in Rayong. A 20 minute ride on a speed boat take us to the green hilly island Koh Samed. The nearest Island getaway from Bangkok along the East coast with its emerald green clear waters of the sea embracing sublime beaches has a great appeal to tourists and local holiday makers, taking abode at one of the lifestyle resorts lined along the beach. We checked in at Ao Prow Resort on the beach and washed up to join a colorful evening for social networking. An artist was painting a tiger mouth on the face of the guests and I opted to have the “Third Eye” on my forehead.
Thematic buffet dinner integrated a fabulous dance-drama performance, the enactment of legendary tale of Phra Apaimanee taking refuge from the wrath of an ogress in the abode of a mighty sage under the guidance of a mermaid.
Day 4 (11 October) Koh Samed (Rayong) to Pattaya (Chonburi)
Early morning activities called for an appetizing breakfast and the buffet breakfast at the Resort had all the right serving for a nutritious meal to kick start a day full of life. One group went on exploring the Island’s natural trail, another tried their punches learning Muay Thai (kick boxing) and remainder had their portrait done by an artist on the beach.
Too short a time to relax on a paradise Island; it was time to move on to the final destination towards Pattaya. En-route, we break the ride for a cherishing Thai culinary journey at the Terracotta Restaurant. The place dished up nearly all the Thai favorites that can possibly come into your mind, and concluded with rich cheese or chocolate cake gulping it down with choice tea, the variety included Thai Tea, Caramel coffee, Café Latte and so on.
It was 2 PM and we pushed on towards Pattaya to visit yet another Eastern Mice Corridor attraction at the Nongnooch International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE). Pattaya is among the 5 MICE cities of Thailand and the NICE is the latest convention center with the capacity of 10,000 persons. Located on the grounds of one of world’s most celebrated Nongnooch Botanical gardens, the center extended a VIP reception with stalls of regional fruits and dessert, tea and drinks. The MD of the Center delivered in his speech the history and the making of the center. A tour of the impressive garden with stone carved animals including dinosaurs concluded our visit and we are back on the bus to proceed on to the hotel in Pattaya City. At the roof top café of this newest hotel in the City, we gather for the “Patty Cha Night” to bid farewell to all our newly found friends and wonderful hosts from the TCEB and Indeed Creation.
Day 5 (1 October) Patty (Conjure) to Bangkok
Soon after breakfast, some of the media friends were transferred to airport for early flight and most of us travel by a limo to a nearby restaurant on the beach, the talk of the town: The Glass House Silver. The menu was based on Thai cuisine complemented with desserts and ice cream. Unhurried members are then taken to indulge into a relaxing massage therapy at the Oasis Spa. The manager introduced the Spa concept and offered a one hour Thai massage. And with this refreshing experience, IMFT concluded on a high note.
I have been on FAM Trips past more than 20 years in some of the world’s top destinations, and this has been one of the most rewarding, fun loving and well organized trips that I have experienced. While all the places of attractions very well chosen during the excursions the highlighting feature of the trip has been the cheerfulness of the hosts, making the trip comfortable, interesting, with good timing during stop over and punctuality, throughout.