Stepping out of the spanking clean Bangkok airport you are welcomed by the frantic pace of the city with its small mopeds, tricycles, and those colourful Bangkok taxies. It’s a hard fact to swallow that in the middle of this rush is a place where you will be welcomed by tranquil surroundings- a place where you can reach out to the highest limits of luxury offered in this world, yet be located right bang smack in the sidelines of a teeming Bangkok road. That place is the flamboyant 37-story Peninsula Bangkok where he feel of former colonial elegance meets 21st century modernity right in the heart of the most happening city in South-East Asia. The beautiful attention to detail allows every guest to relax in calm and comfort surroundings, away from the bustle of the city, especially on a hot summer’s day.
All of the 370 rooms (including 60 one bedroom suites) at the Peninsula Bangkok are generously proportioned, enriched with warm fabrics. The W-shaped building has an imaginative design that allows all the rooms and corridors to have stunning views of the city from all angles. The ultra-comfortable guest rooms are furnished with luxurious tailored bed sheets and goose down pillows, and equipped with deluxe amenities including skilfully designed task lights that makes each visit to each room rather distinctive.
The highlight of the in-room experience is the master switch with which you can just simply switch off everything at night. Very much modern and contemporary compared to, say the Beijing Peninsula and the original Peninsula Hong Kong because the Peninsula Bangkok was opened only in 2006. Another nice touch is the shoe shining service where one can place the shoes in a two sided cupboard- where the room service can collect the shoes from the outside and deliver them back without having to disturb you.
Toiletries are provided, as with the other Peninsula Hotels around the world, by Davi. The hotel distinguishes itself from others by offering the best views in the city. Indeed, on a clear day one can catch a clear glimpse of the downtown Bangkok even with the naked eye. The main Peninsula Suite is the jewel of the Peninsula Bangkok- coming complete with a private rooftop temperature controlled Jacuzzi that provides fine splendid views right across the whole of this fascinating metropolis, a private butler, and added luxuries such as a marble bathroom; Moet Champagne; chocolates to die for; in-room telescope and fully automated technology to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
If you are yearning to travel in style than why not try one of those legendary Rolls-Royce Silver Spurs? While for those who desire to commence their stay with a high flying entrance, the convenient helipad located on the top of the building allows guests to come in from the main airport by a pre-booked hired helicopter in around 15 minutes providing spectacular views of the bustling metropolis on the way. The aviation lounge itself is an adventure and a definite place to be for aviation enthusiasts. There are cut-outs from the cockpit of a real Boeing 747-400 aircraft belonging to Thai Airways International, including the throttles, the foot pedals and the CRT displays. Even the toilets have the design based on an aircraft toilet seat! Once passengers disembark the helicopter, they are welcomed at the lounge with refreshment towels and drinks before being led to their rooms. The check-in process for their hotel stay is also carried out at the aviation lounge, which comes fully equipped with a mini control tower and a meeting room that provides stunning aerial views of the city and the river below.
The hotel is also the place for the best afternoon tea experience in Bangkok. Nothing beats the feeling of eating delicious hand-made pastries and cakes while relaxing on a swede leather sofa and in the company of a live Jazz band. The culinary highlights’ not only include the hotel’s Chinese (Mei Jiang) and Thai Restaurants (Thiptara), but also the experience of drinking a fine cocktail at The River Bar that comes alive after dusk. Three of the highly recommended drinks include:
Bangkok Sling – a fashionable combination of Bombay's gin, Apricot brandy, Lime juice, Grenadine syrup & Soda water gives it an energetic blend of Red and Pink.
Thaijito – an authentic and ingenious flavour that neatly blends in Thai rum, Peach Schnapps, Lime, Pineapple, Mint & Chilli. Gives it a whole new meaning to being a sweet and sour drink!
Peninsula Sunrise – Certainly a surprise when it comes to an interesting mishmash of Bacardi lemon, Lychee liqueur, Pineapple & Lime juice. Very sweet and tender to the tongue.
The Peninsula Bangkok’s Executive Chef Philip Sedgwick has ensured that no stone is left unturned when it comes to presenting the crème de la crème of fine dining at any one of the eateries. In line with this gastronomical passion, perhaps one of the best experiences is provided by the breakfast service offered every morning at the River Cafe and Terrace. It’s a gastronomical adventure where over 100 staff members’ provide a high quality food service ranging from authentic western and eastern cooked breakfast to traditional Thai treats. And what’s more is that nothing beats the feeling of having a breakfast in the open river front. Try indulging in exotic delicacy such as fresh passion fruit, or original homemade fruit preservatives along with the homemade delicious thick fruit flavoured yogurt. Now, that’s priceless in a place such as Bangkok.
The Peninsula Bangkok is well aquatinted to promoting special packages such as the Golf or Medical package. The latter forms part of a "Health and Holiday" package is a new vacation alternative that combines health benefits and a holiday retreat. It includes the annual health check from your choice from two international hospitals - BNH and Bumrungrad Hospitals. It goes nicely well with the growing trend of “Medical Tourism”. While on the other hand for Golf lovers, there is a special package called the "The Ultimate Golf Vacation Package" where golf players can enjoy an exclusive golfing experience at the Thai Country Club combined with impeccable hospitality from The Peninsula Bangkok.
The Peninsula Bangkok academy is very much popular in Bangkok as it is in the other Peninsula hotels around the world. The "Siam Journey" is the latest academy programme that was created by the Spa team to share the Thai heritage of wellness with international guests, enabling them to take the experience home and practice it in their daily lives. It is one of the principals of The Peninsula Spa by ESPA to offer an educational experience, and this programme was designed to help guests learn how to balance their body and mind with a variety of Thai massage techniques, including Thai acupressure, herbal compression and basic meditation.
The vast majority of the luxury spa therapy offered at the Peninsula Spa, known as the ESPA, derives from the Ayurveda and from Thai elements’. A treatise that is believed to have originated some 5,000 years ago. The core principle of Ayurvedic is the smooth maintenance and promotion of health, the prevention of disease- as well as its cure. It works for both the healthy and those not so-sprightly. When the body gets disturbed, morbid matter appear and they need to be removed. This is done in a combination of various therapies that include herbal tonics, massages and dietary regimens (herbal Chinese after a massage is offered to sooth down the heels and emotions).
One of the key hallmarks of a top five star hotel is its ability to make available a truly five star gastronomical extravaganza located within its premises. This means that guests have no need to venture into the hustle and bustle of the city centre, especially in the after hours when they are tired and just want to relax and while away their evening in the quiet surroundings of their hotel. Here the menu has an international feel, as one may expect from a French Modern restaurant that is located right in the heart of a metropolis in Asia, with the chef having the pick of the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
I happened to be chatting with a good friend of mine, veteran Boeing 747-400 Chief Test Pilot, Captain S. Rajan, in the lobby of the Le Meridien Hotel in Bangkok over a glass of fine Red Wine. We were both attending the renowned IT&CMA and CTW (Corporate Travel World) event for the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and exhibitions). It was there that Captain Rajan bumped into Monsieur Simon Cote, the Food and Beverage Manager at the Plaza Athenne Bangkok at the Royal Meridien. Monsieur Cote presented the showcase eatery at the Le Meridien, the Reflexions restaurant that offers contemporary European cuisine located at the 3rd floor of this fine gem of a hotel.
From my experience as a travel writer, the difference between an average quality restaurant and an outstanding quality restaurant is that the outstanding quality restaurant provides an experience that leaves a lasting good impression on the customer’s mind.
After all, in life, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression.
Sometimes, you get a restaurant that has the quality food but the environment is gloomy, or perhaps the background music goes totally against the ethos of the cuisine, or even worse if the colors’ of the walls are totally unmatchable to the environment- or a combination of all of these factors. Though a bit quiet during the weekdays, the Reflexions has a neat blend of soothing background music, lovely ambiance, and a smooth creation of colors’ that do not put you off your food.
Music is an important part of a restaurant’s existence- if you have it too loud, you may create an uncomfortable environment, and equally well if it is too quiet it will seem rather dull. Not only that but also the type of music. The worst case scenario is to have lovely food, and it’s all spoiled by music that’s perhaps suited for something else! Well, of course if the food is what matters more than the décor than that has to be a good thing.
Nevertheless, after spending around three hours to experience the full seven course meal, I can say with confidence that one cannot be disappointed with Reflexions. The fact that the Reflexions are located in the La Meridien, ahead of all the over-sexed gastro- places, is a breath of fresh air in itself. Its not exactly plush high in its prices, yet it presents fabulous food and is not over-rated at all.
I asked the Chef De Cuisine, Monsieur Thibault Chiumenti, to present us with a surprise dinner, and he did not disappoint. The meal commenced with a healthy portion of Tartare de saumon et petits légumes en crudités (Salmon tartar with baby raw sliced végétales). The Salmon blends in well with the crunchiness of the vegetables which is good because the flavor of the fish is not too strong then. The presentation was immaculate- one cannot go wrong when both Monsieur Chiumenti and Monsieur Cote are on show in the house.
The detail to attention is a key to the success of the Reflexions restaurant- and this was perfectly portrayed with the next dish, the Trio de foie gras Terrine avec échalotes confit au vin rouge, poêlé avec mangue et fumé avec une chutney de fruit (Terrine with shallot confit in red wine, pan seared with mango, smoked with exotic fruit chutney). Chef Thibault Chiumenti changes the dishes every two or three months, however visitors can guarantee that they will try some of the best European cuisine that can be found in this part of the world. His dishes are delicate and well balanced.
With a well planned layout that includes an open-plan kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs at work, the gastro result of the Reflexions is one that combines theatre with an interactive atmosphere. This should let the diner be fooled because the food is indeed a trademark as were about to see with the third course- Noix de St - Jacques à la truffe noire, endive au jambon blanc de Paris rôti, petite salade printanière et émulsion d’amande (Pan seared scallops with black truffle, endive wrap with Paris ham, spring salad and almond emulsion). All I can say about this wonderful dish is that it is brilliant, rich, full of flavor and color; and with no end to luxury. You can’t go wrong with a dish that has a perfect blend of design and gastro architecture all in one.
If you ever wanted to try one of the divine créations to grace a restaurant table, the nit has to be the Velouté d’asperges vertes et petit champignons, gnocchi de ricotta et huile de truffe blanche (Green asparagus veloute with baby mushroom,ricotta gnocchi veloute and white truffle oil). The restaurant’s modern style certainly matches the food. This creative and experimental approach to presenting food in a picturesque way must be one of the finest inspirations provided by any chef.
In my opinion the most extraordinary, thought provoking dish to grace the table that night must have been the Filet de daurade royale piqué d’olives rôties, coulis de poivron jaune, légumes au goût provençal et ail confit (Filet of sea bream pick with olives Yellow capsicum coulis, vegetables with Provencal flavor and confit garlic). If you ever wanted to write a book simply based on the color, the flavor, the smell and the gorgeous presentation of a dish, this it has to be this one. It goes without saying that this dish was simply refined and perfected to minute detail. It really was so impressive that I cannot find anything wrong to write about it.
It’s difficult to resist temptations such as the uniquely created Caviar de mangue épicé (Spicy Mango Caviar). The Caviar was presented complete with a rectangular slab of ice so as to keep it fresh and kind to the tongue!
I usually find Lamb meat highly unattractive- not just because of the chewy taste but also its harsh smell- and I usually try to refrain myself from even going anywhere near Lamb meat. However, I was in for a wonderful surprise when Chef Thibault Chiumenti presented the rather colorful Filet d’agneau aux herbes fraichespanier de petits légumes du marché et courgette farci (Fresh herbs coated lamb loin,basket of baby vegetables from the market and stuffed zucchini). He definitely gave the dish a complete “Wow!” factor. The brightly colored lamb, complete with the red tender meat, and the surrounding Green fresh herbs, is worth indulging into. If only I could find lamb meat presented to me like this on every occasion I was to eat this meat, then I think I would not have such a hurtful feeling towards it. I loved this dish. The meat was tender, slightly, and not too bland either. It just simply designed to make you smile every time you take a bite- and that’s what makes a perfect experience at the Reflexions in Bangkok.
Having seen at first hand the original splendor of the Grand Hyatt hotels’ design and decor in places such as Dubai and Shanghai, I was in for a surprise when I got to Bangkok. Located right in the heart of the centre of Bangkok’s booming CBD, the 380 room Grand Hyatt Erawan impresses in every aspect that a five star business hotel should do, however the main difference between this Grand Hyatt and the others is in the design. Every Grand Hyatt has a signature quality of style that differentiates it from the other Grand Hyatts’ as well as other five star hotels’ in the capital city. The Hyatt is part of the signature Hyatt hotels’ that were started in 1957 with an entrepreneur named Mr. Hyatt R. von Dehn.
During the recent troubles in Bangkok, the hotel was closed, and this temporarily hit the corporate and leisure business of the hotel. With the vast majority of the visitors coming in from European countries, the hotel has seen a steady growth in recent months’, and continues to enjoy playing host to a number of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions’), related events as well as for the leisure travelers.
There’s one thing that does stick out in the Grand Hyatt is the authenticity of the Thai environment. Every Hyatt around the world is renowned for offering an original authentic touch of the local culture, the food and the local customs. The Grand Hyatt is known as the Erawan because it located right next to the Erawan Shine (Than Tao Mahaprom), which generates an aura of benevolence that can be immediately felt across the atmosphere of the hotel. The hotel’s history goes all the way back to the mid-1950s when the government decided to construct the five star Erawan Hotel on the same site as the Grand Hyatt. However, much to the disappointment of the management, many construction elements of the hotel were met with complex problems, which eventually led to superstitious workers refusing to carry on working unless the land was blessed by astrologers. Therefore, only after the consultations with astrologers’, in November 1956 a shrine was erected to honor the four faced Hindu god Brahma (Than Tao Mahaprom). Than Tao Mahaprom is believed to be the god full of Kindness, mercy, sympathy and Impartiality, with each of its virtue represented in the four faces of the image that radiates serene grace. For the next 30 years the Erawan Hotel enjoyed global fame, never having any problems and hence remaining loyal to the superstition that the Erawan Shrine is indeed something special for both the people of Bangkok and for the hotel.
In 1999, the Grand Hyatt Erawan, a private sector-owned group of the Grand Hyatt Hotels’ replaced the old hotel because of modernization plans by the management. Indeed, the Erawan Shrine has become a focal point for locals and visitors alike, and it is a true blessing for anyone who resides at the hotel because of its auspicious location. Many thoughts went through my mind as we took the limo from the airport to the hotel. Will it look like the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai or Dubai, or in other cities? How will it differ? I thought. When I arrived at 1am from the airport, my first impressions surpassed my expectations of the place. The place looked more like a Thai palace or a resort inside the city with its mahogany décor and period furniture than a five star hotel. Then there is that authentic Thai service. All the staff are wearing local traditional dress. Phraratchathan for the men and Thai Boromphiman or Thai Siwalai for the women.
Erawan is the name of the mythical three headed elephant. To his honour, there are two beautiful statues of six-foot high three headed bronze Thai Elephants’ located at the grand entrance at Rajsamri Road. For sure, this being the Grand Hyatt, therefore in line with those words, everything is quiet simply put “Grand”. The three headed Thai Elephant has become the logo on all the interior décor that blends in ancient art and culture with the modern chic surroundings of the five star hotel. An aroma of incense sticks could be felt everywhere. Imagine being heavily jet-lagged and you are taken straight to this place from the airport- don’t worry. You won’t feel that you are in any other five star hotel that could resemble any destination in the world- you will actually feel as if you are in Thailand!
There are a few things about the rooms which distinguish the Grand Hyatt Erawan. The first is the Grand Club rooms located between the 16th and the 18th floors’. These are the exclusive executive floors with express check in/check-out at the level 17 reception (which also houses the Grand Club. While the interior décor is very much a blend of ancient antique style furniture, there is also the all-marble bathroom that features all the relevant amenities that come standard with a Hyatt room. Toiletries are, as always with the Hyatt, standard from either Molton Brown or from the hotels’ personal brand collection. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try on those Thai Silk Slippers and Silk bathrobes as well. Just don’t wear them to the Club Lounge (I did see one person do that!).
The beauty of staying at any of the Grand Club rooms is that if you are holding a corporate meeting, then there is complimentary access to the meeting room that houses around people. With the MICE industry set to grow in Thailand in the next few years, there is no better place to mix leisure with pleasure. The Hyatt is very close to the golf Course- though on a rainy Bangkok day it may not be that useful, however it still can provide the perfect MICE experience for any corporation.
The Club lounge is worth checking out at the Grand Hyatt, though you have to be a paid member or be accommodated in one of the Club house rooms to be able to use its complimentary service. Nothing beats the feeling of getting up in the morning a sipping a fine cup of tea while overlooking towards the Bangkok racecourse. The Club lounge is highly active during the happy hours (5.30-7.30pm) and in between that and after those hours it goes reasonably quiet. Which is good, because the idea of a club is to while away your evening with a nice wine and some nuts, and maybe catch up on some business chit-chat.
Another beautiful aspect of the hotel is that the Grand Hyatt is the only hotel that has 6 Spa Cottages inside a modern hotel. These are 6 cottages set around a private courtyard that feature a separate bathroom, steam room, massage table, a grand double bed, a rain shower, grand living room, and even a private patio set in landscaped gardens for outdoor relaxing. It’s meant to be a retreat in the city- complete with the close proximity of a swimming pool. The Spa Cottage comes complete with an automatic electric toilet- with a heated seat. It was a bit strange trying that!
There is even a complimentary mosquito cream and a sun cream provided so that you stay healthy. The uniqueness of the Spa Cottages is that they have become a signature residence for those who perhaps have no time to go to the beach and can while away their time right in the heart of the city but feel as if they are at the beach or at a tropical resort. You can say that the i.sawan (the Spa Treatment and Gym area on the 5th floor) is a true “Garden in the sky”!
As a travel writer I am always asking the question of why should a paid customer has no access to complimentary in room mini-bar? Well, I believe it would make sense if hotels’ have an agreement that says that some rooms that are classed in the “Executive or Business level” sector should have a complimentary mini-bar. The good news is that the Grand Hyatt Erawan does have a complimentary mini-bar; however that is reserved for those who can afford to live in the Spa Cottage or one of the Grand Executive Suites or the Presidential Suite. However that said the alcohol is not free- well, that does make good sense. Can you imagine all the guests in the Spa Cottage being intoxicated on complimentary alcohol next to a swimming pool?
The Spa Cottage has one of the best looking mini-bars I have seen. Fully stocked with freshly made Carrot, Orange and Cranberry Juice along with scrumptious ice-cream are provided. To top it all up there are some monster sized cookies that come complimentary with the Lavazza coffee machine. Mr. Philippe Frey, the Director of Food & Beverage has left nothing to chance even outside of the kitchens.
With 10 restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice. I would highly recommend the “Tables”. A classical European dining experience is offered to those with a tongue for the culinary delight. Sit on the 5th floor at any one of the 150 seats and feel like a king. Have a chef come over to your table and cook food for you live while you choose the dishes. The only other similar experience I can compare this to is the one at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai.
It only takes one opportunity to make a lasting impression and I must say that the highlight of my stay at the Grand Hyatt Erawan has to be the magical Spa Cottage. Where in the world can you get a top five star hotel complete with a “tropical resort” style accommodation right in heart of a city that is known for its heavy traffic congestion, pollution and rainy weather? It’s only the 5th floor and yet it’s so easy to forget that you are actually in the middle of a metropolis! Remarkably there is no outside traffic noise, and you are surrounded by greenery. The Grand Hyatt is a perfect blend for those who want to while away their time away from the city (but live in the city!), and for those who perhaps may want to treat their employees to a break and combine a work and pleasure to make the perfect MICE trip!
The long running doublebill MICE event, IT&CMA (Incentives Travel and Conventions, Meetings Asia) and CTW Asia Pacific (Corporate Travel World) was held from the 5th to the 7th of October in flamboyant style in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The popular MICE event was held at the prestigious Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld. Bangkok can be descried as a lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan and a glittering city. The capital city of Thailand itself is a pot pourrie of entertainment. Teeming with a rich cultural past, it has transformed seamlessly into a modern dynamic city. However, the most crucial thing about Bangkok is that it has in recent years it has emerged as a premier destination for MICE activities (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events).
Why is MICE in Asia so important?
MICE is a growing market globally, however in Asia it is even more important. Why? Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent with over 4 billion people. The continent is already set to rise into the 21st century as one of fastest growing economies. Both China and India have proven to be global super-powers and the MICE industry would just be fool-hardy to ignore this fact. Asia-Pacific as a region is expected to receive more than 100 million MICE visitors’ by 2015, up from 40 million in 2002. Corporate travel in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to make up about a third of a global market worth US$900 billion.
With emerging economics such as India, China, Vietnam and Thailand, it is becoming apparent that more and more multinationals are looking to forge some kind of working presence in these highly tempting markets. While Tourism is also on a high level of growth, there is an increasingly high demand for MICE activities in Asia. Many European and American based companies are beginning to observe the growing benefit of holding meetings and arranging business trips to exotic destinations in Asia while at the same time they can blend their business with pleasure by arranging tours in the host cities.
The term "incentive" in MICE strongly indicates that the trips that are catered to specifically motivate the participants and to increase the team's competence through the common knowledge. Its there to provide a refreshing experience for the employee and those in the MICE industry are there to provide that “dream” experience to those in the business world. Multinationals know that travel adventures are the ideal lure for motivating employees to reach new heights and the perfect remuneration for those who accomplish them. For example a British company recently rewarded their entire Sales staff of 20 people with an all expenses paid business cum leisure trip to Hawaii because they had met their individual sales targets’ for the whole year. The company was able to make a special deal with all the ingredients involved, including Conference rooms, surfing in Hawaii, hotels, food and so on. Its perks like these that are a win-win situation for many in the MICE industry and the corporate world.
IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok 2010
This year marked the 18th and 13th instalment of the IT&CMA respectively. Exhibitors had revealed that in addition to wooing the MICE sector, corporate travel and association networks were essential. Therefore, the focus this year was to ensure that the show delivered and catered for more of these participants. The IT&CMA and CTW 2010 have always been reputed for its track record to supply for and accept only bona-fide delegates, and the event in Bangkok did not disappoint.
The IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok generated more than 13,000 IT&CMA business appointments for exhibitors, buyers and corporate travel managers on the 6 and 7 October.What’s more is that 50% of buyers and corporate travel managers were new to the show this year, and the event was bigger than the IT&CMA China held in Shanghai earlier this year. New buyer and corporate travel manager markets included Egypt, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine. Therefore this confirmed that there is a great interest in the Asia Pacific MICE in markets that have traditionally been slightly quieter for the MICE industry in the Asia Pacific region.
The IT&CMA was not just an excellent opportunistic platform for Buyers and Sellers, but also a key event for industry leaders and decision makers to announce major initiatives in the MICE industry throughout the Asia Pacific Region.
The IT&CMA and CTW had some of the most engaging, stimulating and humorous speakers around, including Mr. Andrew Grant (MD of Tirian), Mr. Bert Van Walbeck (CEO of “The Winning Edge”), Mr. Ian Quartermaine (CEO & Founder of Meetingsin) and many others. These sensational motivational and inspiring speakers blended in their wit and charm with relevant and intelligent content. There were also a few interesting and exciting activities, such as the “You Say, I Say”, which was an interactive discussion where a distinguished panel of industry leaders shared their views, and audiences were provided with the opportunity to stake their opinion on issues ranging from the future of Air Travel to how MICE will be affected by certain changes in various industry demographics. The “You Say, I Say” event was moderated by David Barrett, Executive Manager at Diethelm Events. Mr. Barrett is well known for his creative approach to events and he certainly illustrated that fact with his bright red and green shiny tuxedo!
So what was new in Bangkok 2010?
The opening session of ITCMA & CTW 2010 commenced with Mr. Hank Roeder, Vice-President, Chapter Relations for US-based National Business Travel Association (NBTA) announcing that it is changing its name to Global Travel Business Travel Association (GBTA). The reason behind this is because the organization has got to a stage where it has decided to globalize its brand and make it more accessible to a wider audience. Major changes include the recent appointment of Mr. Mark Rizzuto as Managing Director for Asia-Pacific is one of the key steps that have been taken by the GBTA (Formerly the NBTA). Mr. Rizzuto confirmed that the progress of a strong business plan for GBTA’s presence in Asia is in the works and he expects that the opening of a new office in the region next year would assist GBTA to accomplish its worldwide objectives. Mr. Rizzuto’s appointment was formally introduced to the industry audience at the “I Say, You Say” event during the IT&CMA and CTW. The Keynote speaker at the “I Say, You Say” event was Professor Irene ChengNg, Professor of Marketing Science, University of Exeter and Senior Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK.
Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB) announced at the ITCMA & CTW 2010 press conference on the 6th of October that TCEB has recently completed a White Paper highlighting plans to promote lesser-known destinations around Thailand such as those in the north-eastern region. TCEB will work with local authorities to support their marketing of such venues to local MNCs. Mr. Akapol went on to comment, “To encourage an increased Thai presence at this exhibition, TCEB had funded a total of 57 local suppliers and destination management companies to be at the event. These companies occupied over 300 sqm of the IT&CMA exhibition hall.”
Another key recommendation in the White Paper is the creation of a bidding fund that organisations can tap into in order for Thailand to bid for bigger events. TCEB will be presenting these recommendations the government.
To accelerate the recovery of the MICE and travel sector Mr Akapol further went on to confirm that there has been a revival plan within the MICE Industry in cooperation with the private sector. This comprises of three components:
1. Thailand marketing campaign (“Thailand Extra Value”, under the Thailand Maximize Campaign in 2010)
2. Marketing promotion (tradeshows and road-shows for the short haul Asian market and the long haul European market)
The host city, Bangkok, as we are all aware, has suffered earlier this year because of the political situation. From my hotel room in the Rajdamri Road area I could see some buildings that had been damaged due to the troubles which the world witnessed in the summer off 2010. Throughout the city there are slogans of peace and companionship. “Live in harmony together” says one poster, while another says “Fighting solves nothing” and so on. Therefore the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 was vital tool for Thailand’s Tourism Authority to get the message across to the wider global audience that the city is indeed a safe place to be in. “Believe in Thailand” is the simple message that was portrayed across to the delegates, and this was introduced to the world’s media at the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 luncheon. The message was simple- Thailand, and indeed Bangkok is actively open for the MICE industry and it is safe, clean and has world class facilities to be able to cater for the worldwide MICE industry.
“No doubt that the Grand Hyatt suffered in terms of the number of MICE activities during the troubles that were in Bangkok in the summer. However, now things are beginning to pick up gradually. The Grand Hyatt Erawan is open for business to corporate and other MICE activities” Commented Mr. Sammy Carolus of the Grand Hyatt Erawan at the IT&CMA and CTW. Just as Mr. Carolus was talking to me about this, there was a formal MICE event being held by a Middle Eastern Airline at the Grand Hyatt, and the previous day the hotel played host to the “South Korea National Day” Celebrations’ with various global dignitaries’.
Meanwhile, Bangkok-based tour operator, Asia World Enterprise (AWE) launched a dedicated MICE division, Asia World Destination Management (AWDM) at IT&CMA and CTW 2010. Mr. Max Juntasuwan, Director of AWDM commented: “Eighty-five percent of the sales volume from the UK, Germany, Russia and Asia-Pacific were for Thailand, demand for other South-east Asian destinations, particularly Indonesia (Bali) and Vietnam, was coming up strong. Thailand would nevertheless continue to be the focus of AWDM at 70% to 80% of business.” AWDM’s demand for Thailand leverages on the influx of IT&CMA and CTW delegates into the country.
Buyers found the event useful. “I was very much impressed by the hospitality provided by some of the major host hotels’, and I would not hesitate to bring my company delegates for future business meetings’ to Bangkok”. Commented Captain S. Rajan, CEO of Air Safety International.
Destination bureau, Seoul Tourism Organization, presented a “new face” at a special South Korea themed hosted dinner for buyers, corporate travel managers, media and invited guests. Seoul Tourism Organization was also sponsors of the official bags for the media. This year’s theme Seoul on the Move: Sounds and Flavor was aimed at showcasing Seoul as an upbeat, trendy and elegant destination. The dinner’s entertainment line-up included Korean celebrity entertainers Expressions Crew (World famous b-boy group) and Marionette (internationally acclaimed mime performance). It would not have been a proper Korean night had the delegates not enjoyed a popular Korean barbecue. The MICE industry in Seoul is set to improve and get much more attention than ever before.
Fewer Airlines present?
While the event was a success for many of the Hotels’, Conference Venues and Tourism Boards that participate in the MICE industry, there was not much representation from the airline industry. Yes, Thai Airways International, which was the official airline of the event, had a shining presence. Thai Airways is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year so it was a good time for the airline to present its brand at the event- complete with a colourful booth too!
Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal, the Acting Executive Vice President Commercial of Thai Airways International said that with the 50th Anniversary of Thai Airways was a very important step in the development of Thailand as a premier destination for MICE activities and that the airline is constantly seeking partnerships to work with within the corporate world. Joining Mr. Chotichanapibal in the press conference were Mr. Darren Ng (Managing Director of TTG Asia Media) and Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB).
Inthe exhibition hall, there were a few other airlines present including Royal Brunei Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Airlines are, without a doubt, an essential part of the MICE industry because corporations (and airlines) can benefit by working together to offer incentives to their employees and it would be a win-win situation for both the airline companies as well as the MICE industry as a whole.
During the “I Say, You Say” interactive session, one of the key questions that was posed to Mr. Anindam Choudhury, Regional Manager (Thailand and Malaysia) of India’s Jet Airways was how the airline industry would be affected if the MICE industry held conferences and forums through the internet or even if there was a shift towards the low cost carriers. Mr. Choudhury was stern in his response, as would any Manager of a major schedule global airline, and commented that the MICE industry would benefit from extra given perks by scheduled airlines such as Jet Airways. These perks include high quality complimentary in-flight food and in-flight entertainment. Plus the added benefit of meeting people face to face rather than on the internet or through social networking websites. The same reasons were highlighted by Professor Irene Ng that it is in human nature to have a much clearer communication when have a face-face conversation than to speak to people on the internet. Though she did not rule out a day when people can control their car or fridge using the mobile phone!
Darren Ng, the Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, formally closed the event with an inspiring speech which highlighted the success of the 19th IT&CMA and CTW in Bangkok 2010. The event saw many positive points including the exposure of opening new destinations within Thailand for the MICE industry (Phuket being one of them). The event also highlighted the success of Bangkok and Thailand as a country that fully open and safe for MICE operations. The positive attitude and great support from major Thai officials such as Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart of the TCEB and Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal from Thai Airways strongly highlights that Thailand is without a doubt a premier destination for MICE events. All the participating host hotels, including Conrad Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan and the Plaza Athèneè Bangkok A Royal Mèridien, have also shown their strength in the face of the troubles that this wonderful city saw earlier this year. Thankfully, everything is back to normality and Thailand is once again a booming MICE destination.
The IT&CMA now moves onto Shanghai 2011 for its next event, and in 2011 October Bangkok will once again play host to this wonderful event that brings in the best of the MICE industry.
Even today, after 14 years, I feel very disappointed not to have had the chance to land at Hong Kong’s former International airport, known as Kai Tak Airport, which closed down in 1996. As a young child growing up in London, and who was so much into aeroplanes and flying, I always wanted to go aircraft spotting at Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. For me it was a dream destination. Sadly I never got to see the place in action as I first came to Hong Kong in 2001. However, recently last year, I was fortunate enough to go and visit the site of the old airport, and see how much of the area has changed. Of course, since I was not there when the place was active, so I could only assume from historical photos and videos of what the place must have been like then. I had also arranged to meet up with Peter Chiu, the manager of the Regal Oriental Hotel, which is situated opposite the former airport- offering its guests panoramic views of the harbour and the former airport site. The hotel used to be a popular choice for airline crews.
Kai Tak airport was well renowned worldwide for its dare devil final approach into the airport’s only runway, which stretched out 2 miles into Hong Kong Harbour. When the Kowloon City side of the runway was in use (used to be known as Runway 13, due to its heading of 130 degrees), aircraft on final approach used to commence their descent into Hong Kong over Macau, then head towards either the southern part of Lantau Island (the location for the current airport, Chep Lap Kok). The other route was to fly over Hong Kong Island, and make their way over Kowloon (going over Jordan and Hung Hom); and then at around 700 feet the planes used to aim for a checkerboard on one of the hills facing Kowloon (a navigation point consisting of a hill painted in a red and white chessboard pattern), and make a sharp 37 degree right hand turn over Kowloon city onto the final approach towards Runway 13. The runway was used as a venue for Celine Dion's January 25, 1999 concert on her “Let's Talk About Love” Tour. Between December 2003 and January 2004, the passenger terminal was demolished.
Sitting in the restaurant on the top floor of the Regal Oriental Hotel one does get a feeling of what the place must have been like- buzzing with activity and noise all around. You could almost imagine the exciting for onlookers must have been like to watch a, say 747-400 fly right over the hotel and land on the runway in the distance. Peter told me that even those hotel guests who had no interest in planes, would come to the restaurant just to catch a glimpse of the airport site, and even more so at night because of the beautiful runway lights. Peter further explained to me that everything in the area of Kowloon City is just the same as it was when the airport was operational- everything, that is except, of course, the airport and the planes.
The local government has built a Cricket pitch at the stop where the threshold to the runway used to be! While I was there taking photos, there was a cricket match being played by a local college team. I am sure some of the players must have been born after the airport closed. As one of the youngsters ran up at speed to bowl, it looked like a stark contrast that 14 years ago on the same piece of land many planes ran down the same way, but, alas, not to bowl, but to fly away around the world’s cities! Some of the runway and taxiway markings are still there, the road leading to the airport tunnel is still there, complete with the directional signpost saying: “Airport Tunnel”, but sadly there is no airport and the tunnel leads to a dead end; then there is that famous bridge which connected the airport terminal to the Kowloon City shopping mall- the bridge is still there, but it’s not connected to anything. Quite possibly the saddest part of it all is that the checker board is also still present on the hill overlooking Kowloon City.
If you want to get to the old checkerboard, then its a bit tricky. You can first take the 'Kwan Tong' line to Lok Fu Station. When you get to Lok Fu Station, take the exit going towards Junction Road. Lok Fu Park is located on Junction Road, and is just a 2 minute walk from Lok Fu Station. To get to the Checkerboard take the first left hand turning at the entrance of the park, and carry on walking to the top of the first bend. At the first bend, turn right and climb up a small dry steep slope (right next to a fenced power station operated by CLP holdings). Just carry on walking all the way around (make sure you dont fall over the steep slopes!). Its about a 5 minute walk to get to the checkerboard itself. There are a few things to bear in mind: 1. It is strongly advised not to go at night time as there is no lighting in the park- especially at the Checkerboard, 2, Go with someone rather by yourself- dont want to get lost in a remote place as this, and 3. It is strongly advised to wear some trainers.
The Hong Kong government’s plan to build a terminal for luxury liners, and a large shopping centre is well in progress. There are also quite a lot of new high rise property being built right around the harbour and the old runway. Like the old saying goes that all good things come to an end- and even though Kai Tak has come to an end, its legacy still continues for aviation enthusiasts around the world.
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