State backing for megaprojects

The economic system of the Kingdom of Thailand is defined by its liberal market economy and the important role of foreign trade. The central growth factors are the extensive economic recovery program of the deposed government as well as export and public investment. They have replaced private consumption as engines of economic growth.

Of all the ASEAN states (Association of South East Asian Nations), Thailand boasts one of the most dynamic national economies. A stabile economy, a high level of foreign direct investment (third place in Asia after China and India) and healthy growth above 5 % say it all. The volume of exports last year totalled more than US $ 100 billion and at around 15 % p.a. it is growing faster than in neighbouring countries, with the sole exception of China.
In the period 2005-2009, the government will be promoting ‘megaprojects with an investment volume of around US $ 45 billion to improve the infrastructure in the sectors transport, mass transit, housing, water supply, health and education.
One of the country's fastest developing sectors is the automotive industry. Its rate of growth has earned Thailand the name "Detroit of Asia". With more than one million cars manufactured every year, Thailand is the world's fourteenth largest car producing nation. The aim is to double production over the next three years. Many of the world's leading car manufacturers already operate factories in Thailand or are planning to build or expand them.
For electronics and ICT, too, Thailand is now one of Asia's leading locations; computer parts, accessories and electronic components account for 70 % of the country's overall exports of around US $ 24 billion in this sector. Traditional export goods include foods, jewellery and furniture. And, of course, tourism is one of the country's main forms of revenue. The industry is increasingly focusing on quality, wellness and spa are words that spring to mind here, and it is in this business that the largest growth rates are being observed. In 2006 more than 13 million guests are expected.
Strategically situated in the centre of the ASEAN block, Thailand is the gateway to Indochina and the entire south-east Asian region. For several years now Bangkok has been an important hub of air traffic into Asia. The opening of the new Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport this September marked a new dimension both in terms of quality and number of flights processed. Planned for a final capacity of 100 million passengers per annum and equipped with one of the largest clear-span passenger handling halls in the region, the new airport symbolises Thailand's quest to position itself as a leading industrial location in Southeast Asia.
Keeping pace with this economic development is Thailand's trade fair and conference sector, which has seen a rapid upturn. In 2004, for instance, 750 international conferences and around 360 trade fairs and exhibitions were staged, a large proportion of which were international events. In total, revenue from the MICE industry was over US $ 800 million.
These figures are even more impressive when contrasted with the situation around 20 years ago. At the beginning of the 1980s there was no exhibition site in Bangkok, the city which today is the centre of the Thai trade fair scene. The first events aimed at foreign exhibitors and visitors were held in multi-storey car parks and shopping centres with a floorspace of just a few hundred square meters. With the completion of the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) in 1991 Bangkok finally had its own purpose-built exhibition and convention centre which was erected for the World Bank conference held in Thailand that year. Accordingly, it is more convention centre than exhibition venue in character. The QSNCC is an extravagant building in tasteful Thai style, but the functionality of the exhibition halls does not meet international standards. They are only of limited suitability for heavy exhibits. However, the approximately 30,000 m2 gross surface area was a breakthrough at the time and marked the beginning of the development of Bangkok towards an international trade fair location.
A few years later, the BITEC - Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Center was built by a private investor. This gave Bangkok its first exhibition site that met international standards and was suitable for capital goods fairs with heavy exhibits on its 50,000 m2 floorspace. In the initial years transport links were very much wanting, but have since improved significantly.
The last of the big three exhibition sites is Impact which opened at the beginning of this century. Located just outside the city, it has a total surface area of 150,000 m2 on a single level with attached conference rooms and sufficient parking for events of every kind.
A handful of smaller venues such as the Bangkok Convention Center or the Royal Paragon Hall offering square metrages up to 6000 m2 round off the available venues. Outside Bangkok there is also the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall located in the famous bathing resort near Bangkok, and for 2007, the opening of a convention centre in Chiang Mei in northern Thailand is planned which will provide around 10,000 m2 of exhibition space.
Thailand's trade fair schedule for 2006 and 2007 lists nearly 400 events, about one third of them with international involvement. Local and international organisers - including Reed and Allworld - already operate in Thailand. Messe Düsseldorf, Messe Frankfurt, Koelnmesse and Messe Berlin all stage their own events in Bangkok. The full trade fair calendar can be viewed on the website of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. Wolfgang Schellkes

m+a report Nr.8 / 2006 vom 08.12.2006
m+a report vom 8. Dezember 2006