OLDEN TEMPLES, SAUNTERING elephants, the scent of lemongrass, and the hot spice of red chili: Thailand’s
exotic sights, smells, and flavors captivated planners and journalists on a week-long Believe in Thailand Educational Trip in early March. Hosted by the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the tour covered major convention services and venues, beginning in the busy metropolis of Bangkok and wrapping up on the sunny beaches of Phuket. After checking in at the 381-room InterCon-
tinental Bangkok hotel in the city’s downtown shopping district, we began our Thailand expe- rience on the right foot, with a restorative Thai massage at the nearby Grand Hyatt Erawan’s I-Swan spa. Following lunch at the InterCon- tinental’s Grossi Restaurant, we toured the hotel’s convention facilities, including an exhi- bition area that can accommodate 750 people for banquets. The hotel’s central location, we learned, is a draw for large groups: There are an additional 2,000 hotel rooms nearby, includ- ing the 379-room Holiday Inn, connected to the
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InterContinental by air-conditioned walkway. An hour’s drive from the city — yet a world
A REALLY BIG SHOW: The Believe in Thailand Educational Trip was a delightful cultural im- mersion that included the dazzling Siam Ni- ramit show in Bangkok (top) and an elephant ride in Phuket (above).
away — is UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayuttha- ya. Once the size of Paris, and Thailand’s former bustling capital city, Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese in the 1700s. As we wandered among ancient Buddha sculptures and crumbling temples, “Max” Boontawee Jantasuwan, director of destination management company Asia World, told us that the historic site is available for group events. He said: “You can have a one-of-a-kind experience for up to 800 people here.” Later during the trip, TCEB Director
Sprabha Moleerataond brought our group up to speed on modern-day Thailand. “We expect 36,000 visitors from North America this year,” she said. “One hundred airlines service the country, and there are 172 direct flights from around the world.” A new, 15-minute airport rail link whisks travelers and com- muters between Suvarnabhumi Airport and central Bangkok, and a high-speed rail system throughout Thailand will come online by 2015. Bangkok has 70,000 hotel rooms and enough