feet of meeting and exhibition space and a 43,000-square-foot arena. In 2008, the center hosted 25,000 Lion’s Club International del- egates, some of whom stayed at the new Bang- kok Novotel. Rotary International has booked IMPACT for its 30,000-attendee convention next year. We also visited the 543,000-square-foot Bangkok International Trade Exhibition Centre (BITEC), as well as the 700,000-square-foot Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, a downtown venue located right on the subway line, that offers traditional Thai décor. “Thailand offers professional services, inter-
WELCOME: BITEC (above); Queen Sirikit National Convention Cen- tre (below left); participants gather and learn (below and bottom).
meeting space to accommodate up to 60,000 attendees. Currently, conventions account for nearly 37 percent of the country’s group-travel revenue, Moleerataond said, and TCEB helps plan- ners with support for welcoming delegates, bids for large-scale events, site selection, immigration fast-track at the airport, and coordinating with customs for importing meeting materials and with government agencies for public relations, promotion, and access to exclusive venues. Although visitors from the United States do not need a visa, a few of the planners in our group voiced concern about their international delegates. “For delegates from developing countries, TCEB works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to register people three to six months in advance,” Moleerataond said. “You can send a list of your registrants to us, and we will forward it to the embassies in those countries to help expedite the process.”
Major Meeting Venues IMPACT Convention Centre, one of the meet- ing facilities we toured, has 118,000 square
We expect 36,000 visitors from North America this year. One hundred airlines service this country, and there are 172 direct flights from around the world.
national standards, and world-class infrastruc- ture at competitive prices,” said TCEB President Akapol Sorasuchart, who joined the group for a dinner at the opulent, 802-room Shangri-La Hotel. “TCEB’s mandate is to get more people here for meetings.” In response to questions about last year’s Red Shirt demonstrations (pro- government supporters wore yellow shirts, anti- government protestors wore red shirts), he said: “We are returning to normal, and are a very safe democratic country. In regard to color-coded politics, both sides have their own political par- ties now. The Thai people learned a hard lesson. Nobody wants to close down the airport again.” The other Bangkok property where our group stayed was the three-year-old, 550- room Centara Grand at CentralWorld Hotel, which is attached to the 108,000-square-foot Bangkok Convention Centre. While there, we noshed at Fifty-Five restaurant, on the hotel’s 55th floor, where we enjoyed the city’s sparkling skyline and caught glimpses of the restaurant’s “wine angels,” who swung from harnesses to access bottles in the two-story, glass-walled wine cellar. Other city highlights included a posh lunch
at the 303-room Siam Kempinski Hotel Bang- kok; a tour of Vimanmek, a royal teakwood mansion; and visits to the Royal Thai Navy Convention Hall and Praya Palazzo, a historical residence-turned-elegant inn. One evening, we were spellbound by the Siam Niramit cultural show. A dazzling spectacle with 150 perform- ers who change into 500 costumes, fairy-tale backdrops, high-wire acts, and an elephant, the show brings Thailand’s traditional stories to life. The second half of the trip was spent an
hour’s flight away, on the island of Phuket. We stayed at the 676-room Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa, lunched at the 419-room Shera- continued on page 26