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MICE Industry Crisis: Thailand’s Billion-Baht Conundrum – Can the Dwindling Chinese Market Put the Future of Thai MICE Sector at Stake?

The monetary projection for the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector has suffered a significant slash reaching up to a mere 96 billion baht for Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB). This meager sum is dwarfed by the incredible revenue value of 2019, plunging by over 50%, their major cause of concern being the dwindling attention from the high-potential Chinese market.

Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, the esteemed President of TCEB, unveiled this unfortunate revelation and stated that though there’s a substantial resurrection of MICE participants from various regions like Europe, India, and South East Asia, the recovery of the Chinese market is quite crucial for any future estimations. Several detrimental factors have been identified that are supposedly hampering the progress of expanding the Chinese MICE market, including minor issues like limited flight availability and lengthier visa application procedures for groups.

An interesting observation worthy of note is the positive after-effect of the Chinese government’s strong drive to augment local consumption through inflated domestic expenditure, which has lucratively nourished China’s MICE industry, indirectly influencing corresponding markets like Thailand. In 2019, China secured the position of the most influential market for Thailand’s MICE industry, clocking over 247,000 arrivals. Yet, the grave impact of Beijing’s rigid zero-Covid policy for a considerable span of three years has caused a significant decline, sadly making it disappear from the list of the top five sources for Thailand in the last few fiscal years.

To reverse this downward spiral, TCEB has strategic plans to organize roadshows in Beijing and Guangzhou cities in the immediate future aiming to accelerate engagement and transactions with Chinese clients. Original estimations had speculated revenue of around 109 billion baht deriving from 18.5 million eager business travelers in the fiscal year 2023, an expectation riding predominantly on hopes of rejuvenation in international travel and China’s reopening. However, taking into account the revenue performance midway through the fiscal year (spanning from October of the previous year till March of this year, which is a mere 39.7 billion baht derived from 10.1 million travelers), it’s a depressing 70 billion baht deficit from the targeted sum. TCEB, responding to this crisis, has reformulated their monetary expectation down to 96 billion baht, a figure that seems insignificant when compared to the 2019 achievement of 201 billion baht, according to the Bangkok Post.

The TCEB president additionally highlighted the possibility of a global recession and rising geopolitical tensions which could potentially obstruct the stream of MICE travelers and throttle their expenses, thereby indirectly affecting MICE revenue severely. The bureau endeavors to fortify the domestic segment while actively scouting for bids for sizable international conventions, estimated to undertake about 30 events throughout the next three to five years.

Chiruit stated that despite Thailand being under a transitional government, new event proposals can still be submitted to the Cabinet as most bids are primarily focused on future conventions. A prime example of an upcoming project approved by the Cabinet includes a bid to host the 17th Unesco Creative Cities Network Annual Conference in 2025 in Chiang Mai. This project, initiated and managed by TCEB, follows the “One Ministry, One Convention” policy, involving the Creative Economy Agency, the Culture Ministry, Chiang Mai Provincial Administrative Organization, and the Unesco Creative Cities Network in Thailand. As per Chiruit’s statement, this conference could potentially fetch over 126 million baht in MICE revenue.

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