January 15, 2014 00:00 By BAMRUNG AMNATCHAROENRIT
ORGANISERS of MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) activities in the protest-hit areas of Bangkok are suffering postponements or even cancellations this month.
Sakchai Pattarapreechakul, president of NCC Management and Development Co, operator of Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC), said the 17th Bangkok International Symposium on HIV Medicine, scheduled to host 700 participants from today through Friday, had been cancelled. Furthermore, about 10 events had been postponed until March. The total business loss is projected at more than Bt100 million.
Central Plaza Hotels, operator of the Centara Grand chain, confirmed that it had lost about Bt70 million in conference-room bookings from November to early January, blamed on the political chaos.
Travel inconvenience, safety concerns, and lack of sentiment on business negotiations are cited as reasons for QSNCC cancellations and postponements. Even though it is connected with the MRT subway, it is unable to convince potential visitors of a secure journey to the convention centre. Sakchai said MICE business was sensitive to political chaos. It took the country two or three years to restore MICE operators’ confidence after the previous crisis.
"The scenario for MICE business in Bangkok is only for loss or [at best] maintaining its status at this time, he said. "This business is about image and also about accumulating a reputation and [visitors’] confidence.
Sakchai added that if the current political row drags on much longer, the business would be hit deeply and widely. Event organisers will shift to neighbouring nations, especially Singapore and Malaysia.
Even as Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen emerge as MICE cities with recognised facilities, they can’t be seen as options for international events. Those secondary cities are fine for national conferences and business negotiations, but for far-reaching events the capital city is a must.
"The overall business scenario in this country is getting worse. There is no input from economic activity launched by the government. People have lower spending power. These things are having a negative impact on all businesses," he said.
He urged that all parties prolonging the political schism think more carefully about what they are doing, and whether the country will benefit.
A source who declined to be named said Impact Arena, Exhibition and Convention Centre had also been hit slightly by the political protest, as participants are camped out at the Government Complex. But things look set to get worse.
Panittha Buri, director of marketing and sales at Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre, (Bitec), said that not only had it maintained its bookings, it had suffered no impact from the political tensions. There have been no cancellations and bookings since last year have been according to plan. To the contrary, it has actually enjoyed a windfall from the chaos, with six unexpected events this month.
Bitec is in Bang Na district, away from the city centre and free of demonstrations.