The Thai capital concentrates the best infrastructure of the country. Not a year passes without seeing new luxury, first class or budget hotels being added to the market. New shopping malls are opening up all over town while the range of attractions has grown in the last decade with new iconic tourist destinations such as Asiatique the Riverfront on the Chao Phraya River, the Siam Niramit Show, Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall which narrates the history of Bangkok, and the brand new Museum of Contemporary Art. It is also easier to get around towns these days as new rail and underground lines are opening up, while world-class convention and exhibition facilities are available all across the metropolis.
Called the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai has shaken off its provincial, sometimes indolent, image to become a vibrant cultural destination. The capital of the old Lanna kingdom, today it is a hub for artists and designers with many shops showcasing exquisite furniture, textiles and home accessories. Chiang Mai night market is also famed for its antique dealers. For visitors the city has managed to retain some of its old world charm. Next to beautiful teak mansions and pagodas, many boutique hotels have been created which take their inspiration from the city’s traditional architecture. The development of regular flights has contributed also to the arrival of many international hotels (Mandarin Oriental, Le Méridien, Dusit and Shangri La among others). The city represents an excellent alternative to Bangkok for large events, especially after the opening of the much anticipated International Convention Centre.
The peaceful city of Chiang Rai is turning increasingly into an alternative for small or medium sized groups of conference delegates thanks to a developing infrastructure which includes a couple of five and four star resorts, and an international airport. Chiang Rai’s charm hangs on its beautiful traditional pagodas, including the amazing white pagoda at Wat Rong Khun. An attractive area to organise a prestigious event is the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park. Supported by the foundation of the same name it has pavilions built in the traditional Lanna style. Chiang Rai is a great destination for any MICE linked to eco-tourism or agriculture thanks to the presence of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation at Doi Tung, a hill on which the late Princess Mother Srinagarindra used to reside. She supported local communities in artistic endeavours, helped to eradicate poverty and replaced the cultivation of opium poppies with other crops. Her legacy remains a perfect example of a successful poverty eradication program for communities in the Mekong area.
The seaside resort of Hau Hin is one of the most popular among Thais and foreigners. This is due partly to its location on the west side of the Gulf of Thailand, which ensures magnificent sunsets, and because of its proximity to Bangkok – less than three hours away from the capital by car. In the 1920s the town became a favourite summer retreat for the Thai royal family. Hence a rail link was constructed between Bangkok and Hua Hin while palaces and grand hotels built in the classic style sprang up. One such is the former Hua Hin Railways Hotel, today Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas. Many five star hotels and boutique properties have since set up in Hua Hin as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ positions itself as an upper class destination. It is served by luxurious shopping malls, six golf courses and a theme park, while the city itself offers many attractions including beachside seafood restaurants, a popular night market and a host of trendy cafes and bakeries.
One of the most important cities in the northeast, Khon Kaen is also the centre of higher education for the entire ‘Issan’ region. As such Khon Kaen University is blessed with one of the best convention halls in the country, the Kanchanapisek Conference Hall, while the Centara Hotel and Convention Centre Khon Kaen offers four-star facilities for MICE organisers. Khon Kaen itself offers attractions such as old temples, a National Museum and shopping malls. It is also a perfect base to explore Upper Isaan. Within a 100 kms radius, the province offers beautiful waterfalls and rain forests as well as ancient Khmer temple ruins.
Almost facing Hua Hin on the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand, Pattaya is certainly the most popular resort city for travellers. Located an hour away from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Pattaya has built its reputation on its entertainment industry. But increasingly the seaside resort is repositioning itself as a family destination and an attractive conference and MICE destination. It is one of the few cities in Thailand to have a dedicated multi-purpose conference centre, Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH), built within the compound of the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel & Resort. The construction over the last five years of resorts along Pattaya Beach is also changing the image of the city, offering alternatives for MICE events. Pattaya is well known for its golf courses and its world class nightlife attractions, including one of the world’s most famous transvestite cabarets.
A historical city with world class resorts, beautiful beaches, a marina, and the country’s second busiest international airport after Bangkok, Phuket is increasingly turning into a major MICE destination. The island’s tourism industry has been booming now for 30 years but over the last decade more has been done to reposition Phuket as a luxury destination, targeting for example golfers, honeymooners and spa and wellness lovers. All the major international hotel chains are now present on the island, some offering complete MICE facilities. With theme parks, historical attractions and beautiful secluded beaches, any kind of MICE activity – from a corporate function to a large scale conference or a prestigious event – is possible. Phuket’s largest conference facility to date is the Royal Phuket Marina Convention Centre. However, they are ongoing discussions to build an International Convention Centre close to Phuket Town and the major beach areas.
Located in the Surat Thani province on the east coast, Samui has developed over the last three decades to host a comprehensive range of luxury and first class hotels. It also offers natural attractions such as with jungle hikes, elephant treks, diving, and kayaking. In addition, it has become a major centre for spa and wellness activities. With an international airport connecting not only to Bangkok but also many regional capitals, and a high density of international hotel chains, Samui is a perfect location for medium sized MICE events.