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February 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net17Vikki Carleyvisits Pattaya, one of the cities at the centre of Thailand's 2020 World Expo bid.The first MICE Cityof ThailandThailand has had a rough time of itlately. The ongoing political crisis inthe country, which has rumbledsince 2006, has led to concerns raised bystakeholders in its MICE industry.However, having announced its bid tohost the 2020 World Expo, and thelaunch of a new campaign to reigniteinterest, win back confidence and attractconsistent numbers of MICE travellers toThailand, the country is keen to show theworld it is very much "open for business".The Believe in Thailand campaign,launched in 2010, is the brainchild of theThailand Convention and ExhibitionBureau (TCEB) and the main marketingcampaign tool for the country's MICEindustry. Its aim is to help the country'sMICE industry grow from its BT52bn(US$1.72bn) worth in 2010 to BT57.6bn(US$1.91bn) this year. It appears to beon target, with current growth averaging15 to 20 per cent. International corporate meetings andincentive travel take the highest share ofthe country's MICE market business, withapproximately 41 per cent, followed byinternational association meetings at 37per cent and international exhibitions ataround 22 per cent.As part of the campaign in 2011, TCEBwill embark on a series of events across theworld in which its executives will meet withkey MICE trade organisations to promotethe country's offering to the industry. Inaddition it has been organising a series offamiliarisation trips for trade associations,travel agents, exhibition organisers,corporate clients and media for selectedguests to see what Thailand has to offerfirst-hand. Lastly, a regional brandingcampaign featuring a series of adverts to bepromoted via regional media networks hasbeen commissioned.President of TCEB, Akapol Sorasuchartsaid: "The campaign will reiterate to theworld that Thailand is a dynamic businessevent destination, by highlighting theunique strengths and attractions that havemade it a popular MICE destinationworldwide."This year we are taking a much moreproactive and integrated approach topromoting and reiterating the country'sMICE competitiveness," added Akapol.At the centre of Thailand's World Expobid is the province of Chon Buri, and thecity of Pattaya, which has offered to hostthe event. (Chiang Mai and the formercapital Ayutthaya are also part of the bid.)Pattaya has an unfortunate reputation,often seen as a cheaper and sleazier giantversion of Hamburg's Reeperbahn orAmsterdam's Red Light district, A two-hour drive from Bangkok, Pattayawas little more than a fishing village fourdecades ago when US soldiers fighting inthe Vietnam War discovered a coral-filledbay. Tens of thousands of lonely soldiersarmed with dollars sought respite from thewar in a country of relative poverty, lax lawenforcement and historically tolerantattitudes toward prostitution. The result was inevitable.The government is now encouraging therebranding of Pattaya by developing amaster plan for the city, including amonorail to help relieve traffic-cloggedstreets, a redrawn waterfront and a high-speed rail line from Bangkok. The plan isawaiting approval from the Thai cabinet. Pattaya City Mayor Ittipol Khunpleum tellsCMWthe city recognises the "importance ofthe MICE industry" and claims it haspotential to stimulate the economy anddevelop a sustainable tourism industry inthe city. Thailand's tourism campaign urges business visitors to 'believe' in the country and its potential"From a seaside tourist destinationCITY FOCUS????Tiffany Show - First truly transvestitecabaret show in Southeast AsiaSanctuary of Truth - A monumentto Thai craftsmanshipPattaya Floating Market - Marketcovering 100,000sqmMini Siam - Miniature city displayingreplicas of 100 sacred placesPattaya Elephant Village - A homefor former working elephantsPattaya's top attractions Conference+Meetings WorldFebruary 2011CITY FOCUSpopular among international travellers,Pattaya is now ready to be the first 'MICECity' of Thailand," he adds. Money is also being pumped into U-TapaoPattaya International Airport to furtherenhance the area and support tourismexpansion along the eastern seaboard. Theairport has gained a budget of BT900m toconstruct a new passenger terminal,parking areas and a new air traffic radarsystem. The planned expansion is expectedto draw more regular international flights.Work is scheduled to begin this year andwill be completed in 2013. Winning the bid to host the 2007International Congress and ConventionAssociation's (ICCA) Congress, against stiffcompetition from Singapore and KualaLumpur, was a big step toward rebrandingPattaya to the MICE market. The eventbroke the previous year's attendance figureand attracted 818 delegates from 64countries worldwide to the Pattaya Exhibitionand Convention Hall (PEACH) and RoyalCliff Beach Resort complex.PEACH's Manager of PR and MarketingCommunications Elizabeth Dass-Brown says:"The ICCA Congress undoubtedly broughtPEACH and the Royal Cliff Hotels Groupwell-deserved worldwide recognition ofMICE professionals, and as a result, we sawan increasing number of enquiries. "Since 2007 our venue has been home tomany international, regional and nationwidepolitical summits, economic forums andcorporate events, including the heads ofstates' meetings in 2009. There hasdefinitely been an encouraging growth inthe MICE business for PEACH since 2007,and we look forward to more of the same."The venue, which has 7,000sqm of pillar-less hall space and a capacity to host small-sized gatherings of 10 persons toconventions for up to 8,000 people, says itworks closely with the local government inmany areas, including changing theperception of the city. "While Pattaya mighthave a mixed perception due to its past,which is far from the reality of today'spicture, it is seeing a rapid growth ofdevelopments focused on attracting nichemarket segments that will result in beingbetter perceived by event organisers," says Dass-Brown.Hilton Hotels and Resorts clearly seespotential in Pattaya with the opening of thenew Hilton Pattaya hotel at the end of lastyear. The 302-room new-build is based onPattaya beach. It also boasts a 635sqmballroom and four individual meeting roomsincluding a dedicated boardroom. "We seeenormous potential for growth in the Thaimarket, in particular Pattaya, which hastraditionally and consistently been a choicedestination for business travellers," saysHilton Worldwide Asia Pacific PresidentMartin Rinck.Hilton Pattaya's GM Harald Feursteinadds: "Pattaya caters to those travelling forbusiness or leisure. We are confident withthe opening of Hilton Pattaya this resorttown will continue to grow as a dynamictourism hub for all travellers."The recognition the World Expo couldbring to the city, if the bid is won, is huge.Last year's World Expo in Shanghaiattracted 73m international visitors and22,900 fringe events were held. Theoutcome is far from certain, as Thailand willneed to compete with nine other countriesand an array of 15 cities that have declaredsimilar intentions to the World Expoorganisers. They are: Philippines-Manila;Australia-Brisbane; Denmark-Copenhagen;the UAE-Dubai; Brazil-Rio De Janeiro andSao Paolo; Canada-Montreal; the UnitedStates-San Francisco, New York, Houston,Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Atlanta;China-Guangzhou; and South Africa. The Shanghai Expo, the first of its kind tobe staged in a developing country, gave thepeople of China an opportunity to learnfrom the experiences and expertise of othernations: "A one-day Expo visit outweighs 10years of reading," Chinese Premier WenJiabao said as he closed the event.Hilton Hotels' new 302 room hotel in Pattaya'Pattaya is seeing a rapidgrowth of developments.'Ladyboy shows are part of Thailand's culture