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19 Mar, 2014

As confidence in Thai tourism resumes, major hotel conf returns to Bangkok

BANGKOK – A major hotel industry conference in Bangkok that came dangerously close to being moved to Phuket has now been reconfirmed for the Thai capital following the return to normalcy and the scaling down of anti-government protests.

The move will further boost confidence for the MICE sector, which was one of the worst hit by the three-month confrontation that paralysed key intersections and commercial areas of the normally high-energy city.

In an email circulated to speakers, panelists and registered delegates, conference organiser Questex Hospitality + Travel said the decision to maintain the original venue (Dusit Thani Bangkok) and dates (May 20-21) was based on a survey response and recent development of the situation. Bangkok “is still considered the preferred location by our attendees,” the announcement said.

The only change that has been made is in the content and title of the conference – from Asia Pacific Hotel Investment Conference to Thailand Hotel Investment conference. This will allow the conference to focus more on the “opportunities presented by the current situation,” as well as proactive crisis management and recovery planning.

Said the announcement, “Overseas attendees are strongly encouraged to attend this conference, especially if you are actively investing in Thailand and Mekong area, and wish to gain insights on leveraging risks in Asia’s growth markets. As of today, more than 50% of our registered attendees are from outside of Thailand.”

“With the retreat of protestors to Lumpini park, on-ground transportation is now back to normal. Our delegate information section provides live updates on the situation and safety measures from Thailand Tourism Authority for attendees.”

An earlier announcement on February 26, 2014, immediately after the outbreak of sporadic violence at various protest sites, Questex Asia had said that in the wake of the accelerating unrest, “we consider (Bangkok) no longer suited for a business event, and we need to give priority to attendee safety under such circumstances.”

That announcement said an attendee survey was to be conducted to collect their views on what should be done next. Preliminary responses indicated Phuket would be a good alternative. However, the survey was overtaken by the positive events on the ground and the scaling back of the protests.

The Thai tourism industry is now in major recovery mode nationwide. Although billions of baht worth of business was lost over the January-February period, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has sought to convert a crisis into an opportunity by promoting upcountry destinations, in line with the national policy objective of better disseminating economic growth to upcountry areas and narrowing the rich-poor income gap.