Thailand’s business travel bounce-back: TCEB predicts 2024 revival, 2019 return by 2025-26

Picture courtesy of Florian Wehde, Unsplash

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) forecasts a business travel sector revival by 2024, with 23.2 million travellers expected. However, it predicts a business travel return to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 only by 2025 or 2026 due to global economic unpredictability.

TCEB’s president, Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, revealed that their business travel revival strategy will focus on stimulating international exhibitions, major events, and festivals, which have demonstrated rapid growth. Conversely, the recovery of domestic meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) has been more gradual.

In the financial year ending September 2023, the MICE industry accrued revenue of 101 billion baht from 17.4 million business travellers. These figures encompass both foreign and domestic markets, according to Chiruit.

Duangdej Yuaikwarmdee, TCEB’s director of exhibitions, declared that international exhibitions were the most lucrative segment of the international market. In fact, they generated a revenue of 17.7 billion baht, surpassing the figures recorded in 2019, reported Bangkok Post.

Duangdej attributes this substantial growth to corporations’ eagerness to recover their revenue through prioritised trade in the post-pandemic world, rather than organising meetings or incentivizing employees. He predicts this trend to continue, forecasting a 10% growth in international exhibitions in 2024, which would generate approximately 19.5 billion baht.

The agency anticipates key markets to include Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as India, China, and South Korea. TCEB plans to attract exhibitions from S-curve and new flagship industries, including creative soft power, food security, mobility, and health tech.

Economic challenges

Although China was previously the largest contributor of international visitors, Duangdej believes it is unlikely to regain this position in the near future due to ongoing economic challenges affecting travel demand. Nonetheless, he hopes that Thailand’s temporary visa-free scheme for Chinese tourists will somewhat benefit this segment.

In recognition of the ongoing global economic pressure and geopolitical conflicts impacting the growth of international visitors, especially from long-haul markets, TCEB plans to boost domestic MICE to help offset risks from uncontrollable factors.

This would be achieved by incentivising domestic MICE. In 2023, domestic MICE drew 16.5 million visitors and generated 50 billion baht.

Chiruit acknowledges that the domestic MICE market’s recovery was slower than anticipated, as most exhibition suppliers and organisers shifted their focus to international events. He also revealed that the agency has requested the Cabinet allocate a central budget for the first two quarters of the 2024 fiscal year, given the delay in the 2024 budget.

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Alex Morgan

Alex is a 42-year-old former corporate executive and business consultant with a degree in business administration. Boasting over 15 years of experience working in various industries, including technology, finance, and marketing, Alex has acquired in-depth knowledge about business strategies, management principles, and market trends. In recent years, Alex has transitioned into writing business articles and providing expert commentary on business-related issues. Fluent in English and proficient in data analysis, Alex strives to deliver well-researched and insightful content to readers, combining practical experience with a keen analytical eye to offer valuable perspectives on the ever-evolving business landscape.

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