Early this year, the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai hosted a landmark MICE Summit that laid the framework for the destination’s “MICE Development Master Plan”. Eight key local government and private organisations, together with the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), convened to chart the direction of Chiang Mai’s business events sector. The development is expected to be carried out between 2013 and 2017, and will progress in three phases.
Thongchai Sridama, acting TCEB president, said: “This is a strategic move for the country. We’ve found that the spend per head of MICE travellers is around two to three times higher than that of general travellers. More importantly, though, there is no set season for MICE events and as such, we can generate income all year round.”
Fittingly, the Chiang Mai MICE Summit was held at the new 60,000 sqm Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (Chiang Mai ICEC). Located at Nong Hor, Chang Puak in the Muang district near the 700th Anniversary Stadium and Chiang Mai University, it is 10 minutes’ drive from the main city and about 14 kilometres from the airport.
Shining new jewel
The purpose-built venue is the first international convention centre outside Bangkok constructed with funding from the Thai government. Building began in October 2008 and took more than three years to complete, with a total investment amounting to about THB2.5 billion (US$84.4 million).
EMC Public Company, the official building contractor, laid the foundation for the new venue across 335 rai (53.6 hectares) of land in the Chang Puak suburb within two to six kilometres of nearby accommodation including the Novotel Hotel, Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel and Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel.
Total land area allocated for the project spans 75,484 sqm and is divided into three sections. The exterior landscaping includes an outdoor exhibition space, gardens and parking for 2,033 cars, 130 shuttle buses, 83 coaches, 33 trucks and 676 motorcycles. The parking area is clearly designed to handle the large volumes expected once Chiang Mai’s MICE master plan kicks in.
Also located in the complex is the Northern SMEs Development and Distribution Centre, which is designed to nurture local start-up companies. The centre also has several meeting rooms that are able to handle overflow business from the convention centre.
Ready for the big time
The centrepiece of the project is, of course, the freshly minted convention centre, claimed to be the largest in Thailand. It has a total of 60,000 sqm of usable space, 10,000 sqm of which is allocated for exhibitions.
It was recently recognised by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry as one of nine convention centres in Thailand that passed international standards. The venue has the capacity to simultaneously house 10,000 MICE visitors. Besides the exhibition hall – which has space for 476 booths – the venue has a convention hall that can hold up to 3,000 people, whilst its other venues and meeting rooms can support another 3,000 delegates.
In anticipation of such large-scale events, other facilities in the centre have been designed to handle large crowds. For one, the massive food court can handle over 2,000 hungry diners at a time.
The Chiang Mai ICEC is clearly a major infrastructure investment. The intention is to anchor the province as an international MICE city, with emphasis on targeting events for the Asean and Mekong subregions. In 2011, the province generated THB3.3 billion (US$111.4 million) from its business events sector. There were 40,718 international MICE visitors – more than double the domestic number – whose spending accounted for the majority of the MICE earnings for that year.
Narong Kongprasert, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, said: “The rapid development of the regional cooperation framework – be it Asean, AEC, the Greater Mekong Subregion or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) – will mean more and more demand for meetings, seminars and exhibitions in the member countries.
“Chiang Mai already has high potential and capabilities. Being at the centre of the region, though, means that it has to optimise its potential and capabilities in order to take advantage of the increasing opportunities presented in
The Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre has a usable area covering 60,000 sqm.
The Exhibition Hall has a capacity for 476 booths measuring 3 x 3 metres.
The Convention Hall can seat a total of 3,000 people. It is comprised of Ratchaphruek Convention Hall 1 and Ratchaphruek Convention Hall 2, both with a ceiling height of 12 metres and space measuring 1,700 sqm each for a total area of 3,400 sqm.
There are also more than 32 meeting rooms. One has a capacity for 700 delegates, two have 300-person capacity and four meeting rooms can each hold groups of up to 250. There are 26 smaller breakout rooms, each catering for from six to 70 people.
The new convention centre also houses the Northern SMEs Development and Distribution Centre, which has a semi-permanent exhibition space (where samples of new products are on display), a training and seminar office, as well as four function rooms with a group capacity of between 60 and 100 people. There is also a theatre-style seminar room for groups of up to 80 participants.