“Phuket needs a world class exhibition and convention centre”

“Two key developments we are tracking is Central Festivals next phase of expansion and Proud Groups Andamanda project that both have significant concerence, meeting and incentive space.”

Plans to promote Phuket as a world-class MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) location are being obstructed by many impediments – inefficient town planning, poor transport systems and poor availability of land in tourist locations.

Dusida Worrachaddejchai writes that Phuket’s deputy governor says the province has a blueprint to build an exhibition and convention hall to host international events with a capacity up to 5,000. But he said that town planning rules forbid building a hall larger than 6,000 square metres with a hight greater than 23 metres.

The prohibition for a proper convention hall by town planning appears to be one of the few projects impeded by lax town planning laws.

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The project has been talked about for decades with Phuket’s potential as an active MICE venue being hampered by the lack of facilities, principally a large convention and exhibition centre.

If some provisions of the current town planning act for Phuket can be amended, the likely destination for a convention centre would be Thalang district. The deputy governor says he hopes it can be built in a few years and make Phuket able to bid for international events and expos.

But Thalang, although within 15 minutes of the Phuket International Airport, has little offer convention and exhibition delegates with most of the beaches and tourist infrastructure on the island’s southern coastal areas (Patong, Kata, Karon).

C9hotelworks’ Bill Barnett says proper MICE facilities have been a long time coming for Phuket.

“Phuket hotel developers are finally seeing the signifigance of the MICE trade. Two key developments we are tracking is Central Festivals next phase of expansion and Proud Groups Andamanda project that both have significant concerence, meeting and incentive space. TCEB ae active in the working on Phuket as a MICE destination so we see the future direction as positive, at last.”

Meanwhile the Thai government has foreshadowed that five Thai cities will be earmarked as MICE locations – Phuket, along with Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Pattaya and Bangkok. The deptuty governor sprouted Phuket’s existing MICE credentials – 600 hotels offering 40,000 guest rooms, 220 convention rooms, 615 meeting rooms, 14 piers and four private marinas. But these facilities are spread all over the island with poor access and almost no public transportation.

Plans for a world class convention centre have been brought up from time to time over the past two decades with provincial officials huffing and puffing about the need for a proper facility for the growing island but, so far, nothing has happened and the island remains a leading tourist destination with little attraction for larger conferences, exhibitions and events.

In the past the private sector – primarily Central Group and Jungceylon – have indicated their interest to build a convention hall in the Patong area. But town planning issues and the ever-dwindling available land in the seaside city have shelved any progress.

Southern beach locations, with excellent hotels, shopping and beaches – Karon and Kata – have also been flagged as potential locations but access, especially from the airport, remains poor. Travel times to the southern beaches from the airport is at least an hour and involves trips across the notorious hills roads at either Patong or Kata.

Progress on the Patong Tunnel has also stalled with successive governments unable to progress the project.

The government should improve mass transport from the airport to Patong and other western coast districts in Phuket, namely Karon, to facilitate large groups such as Mice travellers that require more than buses and vans, Ms Chalermluck said.

Last year, more than 2 million visitors arrived in Phuket for MICE events, generating 19.5 billion baht in income. But MICE industry proponents say that number could be easily tripled with a proper convention and exhibition venue.

Phuket News
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