Paul Colston gets a Thai perspective on the MICE business and economy, both now and post-pandemic, from Ms Panittha Buri, managing director of Bangkok International Exhibition Centre (BITEC).
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the events industry in Thailand, as elsewhere, but it has given the country an opportunity to innovate, including in the MICE sector where the government has worked closely with the industry on initiatives to support recovery. EW asked BITEC MD Panittha Buri to about the current rules governing tradeshows and to expand on plans to enable hybrid exhibitions to become a feature of exhibitions and conferences in 2021 in Thailand.
“Collaboration between government agencies, the private sector and public organisations has happened quickly and we have clear industry standards that will allow events and exhibitions to take place which respect the safety of exhibitors and attendees,” said Ms Buri. “We worked closely with TCEB (Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau), TICA (Thailand Incentive and Convention Association) and the Department of Public Health to set acceptable practices and standards, as well as following government recommendations of having 4sqm per person allowable during an event. This is in addition to visitors using QR codes to check in with Thai Chana, the governments Covid-19 tracking app; wearing a face mask at all times and maintaining social distancing; regular cleaning and spraying of event space, and temperature checking visitors and exhibitors when they enter event space.”
Even before lockdown BITEC implemented temperature checking for all visitors and Ms Buri notes the venue has continued to review its health and safety practices and to invest in new equipment which all helped it to reopen the doors to events and visitors in June.
The events held for now are mainly local as government restrictions on international travel remain. “To overcome this issue and open our doors, we have initiated hybrid events which blend physical and digital visitors,” says Ms Buri.
Thailand has begun opening its borders but a strict 14-day quarantine remains and to date only long-stay visa applicants, APEC cardholders from low-risk countries, foreigners currently holding a work permit and some other small groups are permitted to enter.
Since reopening in June, BITEC has been able to host 70% of its planned events, Ms Buri adds, and says her team continues to work with stakeholders to reschedule events that have been postponed.
“We have a number of large scale international planned for the end of 2020 and through 2021, such as METALEX and IDF 2021 (International Diabetes Federation), and we expect these to go ahead as planned,” she says, in a sign that momentum is building.
“Thailand ranks as ASEAN’s top country for MICE,” Ms Buri says, and points out it is home to the largest area of exhibition space in the region.
BITEC has not been slow to develop its digital offer and launched its “Hybrid Meeting Solution’ in September. It is designed to support all types of conferences with enhanced meeting experiences for customers. The venue team has been working with customers to find customised solutions that meet their specific requirements in this challenging situation.
Ms Buri explains BITEC collaborated closely with Reed Tradex, to host the first hybrid meeting solution for an industry exhibition in Thailand - the 34th edition of METALEX, the number one machine tools and metalworking exhibition in ASEAN. That opened 18 November, and offered a blend of offline and online activities all organised with the health and safety of attendees paramount.
“The exhibition was run international safety standards,” Ms Buri noted and said it had been an opportunity to showcase new operational guidelines.
Covid challenges have not deflected BITEC from focusing on its ‘BITEC Sustainability’ mission for 2021. “To achieve the goal, “ ays Ms Buri, “we have developed our internal resources and capacity and now BITEC has surpassed ISO21210 certification, as well as following the UN Global Compact to reach the international standard.”
She adds that BITEC has a Sustainability Committee which meets quarterly to discuss and monitor CSR objectives. And BITEC is currently providing EV chargers and mask vending machines on site.