Can Koh Samui attract meetings?

Can Koh Samui attract meetings?

TCEB gears up to promote Samui as an alternative destination for meeting and incentive groups.

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau hopes to draw international meeting and incentive groups to Samui believing it could become a viable meeting choice alongside Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

TCEB claims that for meetings of up to 200 persons and from countries that have a direct air link to the island there is strong potential.

TCEB senior manager, Meeting Incentives, Puripan Bunnag said: "Samui is not a destination for big events. The road network is not built for buses, so we are talking about groups that can transferred by mini buses and there would have to be a limit of 200 delegates."

Samui has about 14,000 rooms available. Many resorts at the upper end of the market have small meeting rooms for 10 to 100 people. Samui Palm Beach Resort can cater to 470 people, Centara Grand Beach Resort, a maximum of 200 persons; Impiana, 210 in two rooms and Nora Buri Resort and Spa no more than 200 persons, when it opens a meeting room next June.

According to TCEB, the top five meeting and incentive markets would be Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Italy and UK. The first two have convenient direct flights as Bangkok Airways operates daily flights from Singapore. Firefly operates four weekly flights from Penang and recently commenced four weekly services from Kuala Lumpur and two flights weekly from Penang. Berjaya Air also flies from Kuala Lumpur. PG also flies between Samui and Hong Kong five times a week.

Mr Puripan said direct flights from the Malaysian capital should help to attract company trips.

TCEB will organise a 'connection plus' trip for executives, next August to visit Samui and Phuket, while next March, TCEB will host a mega fam trip, for meeting and incentive planners to visit destination in Thailand.

There are five campaigns under the "Thailand Meetings More Memorable" scheme to stimulate the market. One campaign uses Bangkok Airways, while there are plans to get the Immigration Bureau to offer an "events" lane at Suvarnabhumi Airport. TCEB targets wants "events" lane at all international airports.

Tourism Association of Samui, marketing committee member, Vorasit Pongkumpunt, said Samui should promote small events as the individual travel market is decreasing.

"Revenue from this market is higher when compared with FITs as hotels can sell more food and beverage to meeting groups.

"We will host road shows to promote meeting and incentive trip to Samui, 16 December, in Kuala Lumpur and around late January in Singapore followed by Hong Kong and Australia.

"Australia will be for leisure only but it is a consistent all-year market," said Mr Vorasit.

Events related business should increase by 10% slowly increasing but it will still be marginal when compared with individual leisure travel at 80% of the market mix.

Golfing is also a draw card for event delegates.

Santiburi Golf marketing and golf operations manager, Jakraphong Thongyai, said: "Samui is basically a place to relax for honeymooners, couples and families. It offers very few activities beside beaches. So, golf is very important."

"If we can get 20 companies to sign up, that would be good by 2010. We will start by joiningn trade shows that specialise in golf."

According to TCEB, the meetings and incentives market has grown 15% a year. In 2007, there were approximately 400,000 delegates, generating about Bt27.7 billion.

By the end of this year, TCEB expect 420,000 delegates, generating about Bt29.8 billion.

TAT's statistics showed 25,390 Thais visited Samui for meeting and incentive purposes, accounting for 16.54% of all visitors, while just 6,712 foreign delegates visited the island, or 0.75% of the tourist count.