CULTURAL and sporting festivals can act as a bridge to resuming international events in Thailand as vaccines are rolled out and precautions such as travel bubbles are put in place, expert panels at Thailand Virtual MICE Expo heard yesterday.
The Andaman Sea island of Phuket, which has been hard hit by the collapse in tourism arrivals, was cited as one province where events with international attendees can be held under testing procedures and proof of vaccinations.
The comments come as Thai officials say they are considering a lifting of the 14-day quarantine for tourist arrivals if they have undergone vaccinations and tested negative for Covid.
Festival organisers and owners joined corporate buyers, exhibition industry and senior business leaders in panels at the first virtual expo organised by Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
Heiko Stutzinger, managing director of VNU Asia Pacific, VNU Europe and VIV Worldwide, which organises agribusiness and industrial exhibitions across Southeast Asia, said Phuket offered a suitable “test lap” for international events and tourism under travel bubble conditions.
“Phuket people desperately want the business – the island lives on tourism and I can sympathise with them as we are basically in the same boat,” Stutzinger told a panel titled “Driving Event and MICE Industry in Thailand: Perspectives and Practice”.
Festivals were a theme of yesterday’s discussions at the Thailand Virtual MICE Expo with organisers of music, lifestyle and sports festivals explaining the challenges they faced and what they have learned in adapting to health precautions for large gatherings.
Sornchat Krainara, vice president of Thailand International Events and Festivals Association (TIEFA), said the Phuket Living Arts Festival, of which she is the CEO, was held in December to drive domestic tourism to the island and promote the region’s artists.
Sornchat said about 10,000 jobs that relied on tourism in Phuket were lost due to the pandemic.
She was joined on a panel discussing Trends in the Events Industry by fellow TIEFA leaders Pongsiri Hetrakul, festival director of Awakening Bangkok, and Piyapong Muenprasertdee, co-founder of Fungjai, an indie music platform which also organises festivals.
Pongsiri and Piyapong said festivals being organised in neighbourhoods on either side of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river indicated a yearning for events to return with hopes of international visitors who have an interest in Thai music and culture returning.
They were joined by Ricki van Rensburg, co-founder of the Swedit app, who works with sports event organisers seeking digital platforms. Van Rensburg shared how event participants are increasingly turning to digital technology to enhance their experience and this can be seen with athletes using biometric devices to monitor their performance.
Thailand Virtual MICE Expo continues today and can be accessed here. The event also feature activity webinars such as fitness and Muay Thai workouts along with business-matching sessions.