CMW’s Richard John joins some key M&I planners for the twin centre delights of Bangkok and Koh Samui.
TIME – The Thailand Incentive and Meetings Exchange – recently brought planners from across the globe to experience what the country had to offer. It was a trip of extremes; from the frenetic stimulation of Bangkok, to the sensual relaxation of Koh Samui, just an hour’s flight away.
The theme of the 2018 event was around sustainability and responsible travel, with many activities chosen to reflect this.
Outside working hours delegates experienced activities ranging from Thai boxing to cookery, as well as bike and boat trips around Bangkok to see a side of the city normally missed by tourists.
A group of 50 meetings and events planners can be a hard one to please, but the response was entirely positive.
“This was my first trip to Bangkok, and I was immensely impressed by the city, “ said Ian Cooke, senior account manager at Top Banana.
Georgia Michael, project manager of Sodexo Travel and Business had a similar take: “My first trip to Bangkok, and I’ve fallen in love with it. What I found most memorable was visiting the Wrat Arun temple and seeing how the locals live along the river, and the surprising thing for me was how a few steps away from this tranquillity is a bustling city.”
Niamh Daly, event director of International Living said: “What I found most impressive and memorable was the number of hotel openings, and that chains and brands that Europe might class as 2 or 3 star are actually 4 or 5 star, which makes for really excellent accommodation and facilities which offer terrific value for money.”
SO Sofitel was also able to demonstrate its meetings capabilities by hosting the conference that supported the event, with more than 100 venues, suppliers and agencies in attendence.
High profile guests included Philip Eidsvold, CIS, president elect of SITE, reminding the audience of the huge and distinct incentives market, and revealing that Bangkok would be hosting SITE’s annual meeting.
Ian Cummings, VP of CWT gave a thought-provoking presentation on the six key trends facing the incentive travel market, and followed up with a session inviting delegates to address challenges and misconceptions of Thailand.
Bangkok has experienced rapid growth in its luxury hotel offering, and there is no sign of any slow-down.
Adjacent to Lumphini Park a new district is rising from the foundations which will include no fewer than three luxury hotels. Lips are still sealed, but the Marriott Surawongse and Hyatt Place are two additional properties that have just opened, and Astoria and Rosewood properties are due to open in the autumn. The Lancaster Group has also opened a 230-room property in the heart of the city.
To ensure the rich and varied sights of Bangkok were properly explored, organisers TCEB and their DMC Buffalo Tours arranged activities including Tuk Tuk treasure hunts, with teams scouring the city, as well as meals in restaurants such as Vertigo, 61 floors above the city.
In contrast, the last night in Bangkok was spent at the traditional Chakrobongse Villa, perched over the city’s Chao Praya river with its own private dock.
The other half of the trip on the island of Koh Samui was a world away. Based at the Anantara Bophut resort, with 106 rooms and suites, and an infinity pool overlooking the beach, the resort, with its unobtrusive but impeccable service and understated luxury, was the perfect base to meet with local suppliers.
The island is just 88 square miles, but bristles with luxury properties, all of which are designed to offer seclusion and luxury, coupled with breathtaking views.
New names are appearing regularly; Ritz-Carlton and W are two brands to have recently completed luxury properties that have already attracted A list celebrities. Or check out the Intercontinental, where an additional option is an over water platform, usually reserved for weddings but perfect for a presentation with a difference.
As the fire juggling act entertained the group at the final night’s beach party, the feedback from the planners, who packed a wealth of meetings and activities into the three days, was universally positive. “The mix of bustling metropolis that is Bangkok and paradise idyll of Koh Samui makes for a perfect twin centre destination for incentive groups and conferences alike,” was the view of Top Banana’s Cooke.
IL’s Daly summed it up “I would see Bangkok and Kho Samui as being perfect for those wishing to have a luxury lifestyle on a budget.”