Sumate Sudasna, President of Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, is a well-known name of the incentive travel industry in Thailand. He is also the founder and Managing Director of Thailand’s Conference and Destination Management. Long ago SITE president had written, “mention incentive travel in Thailand and the name Sumate Sudasna soon follows” upon conferring the Member of the Year award to him in 1995. He was also awarded World Incentive Travel Personality for Asia in 1993 by the organizers of EIBTM and IT&ME. He is also member of the board of AFECA – Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations and the current chairman of the MICE Youth Challenge sub-committee.

Having expertise in the incentive travel industry in Thailand, we’d like to know a bit more about contributions you made to MICE industry.

Sumate Sudasna. I was among the first members of SITE in Thailand, became president and was the chapter contact for over a decade. I served on the board of TICA since formation and elected first president from the private sector (normally TAT governor is president by title) and still in the position for the 7th 2-year term. I am a board member of TCEB by position and am actively involved in capacity development projects undertaken by TCEB. I am member of the board of AFECA – Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention Associations and the current chairman of the MICE Youth Challenge sub-committee.

What issues do the emerging destinations face in relation to incentive travel? What would be your key advice to emerging incentive destinations?

Sumate Sudasna. The destination must have appealing attributes that inspire and motivate incentive achievers. Each destination must explore and develop her own distinct character and prepare all contributing factors to be “incentive class”

In your opinion, what makes a good incentive organiser? Please state some facts and observations to help understand the incentive business in the present condition of Thailand?

Sumate Sudasna. You would mean DMC – destination management company, which is the organization in between the organizer (who represents the corporate client) and the suppliers at the destination. A good DMC understands client objectives and coordinate the best that the destination can offer to meet the objectives. Thailand’s success is due to her readiness in all factors such as accessibility, ease of entry, infrastructure, incentive style facilities, destination variety, good value, professional suppliers, group activity options and hospitable people.

The meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) industry in Thailand is one of the major branches of tourism in Thailand, how has the incentive travel industry changed in the last 2 years? Where do you see the future headed?

Sumate Sudasna. Incentive travel evolved with global trends. Programs are less extravagant but still quality focused, with more considerations on sustainability issues. Group size is smaller, food & beverage arrangements are more concise as dietary habits and requirements are more varied. Hygiene, safety and security are important considerations.

Since vaccinated travellers may now travel to Thailand without the need to quarantine under the proposed Phuket Sandbox Program starting July 1st. What is your expectation in regards to revival of the industry?

Sumate Sudasna. Recovery will be dependent on the desire and readiness of travelers. We’re seeing more visitors from western market sources than regional or short haul markets. If global pandemic situation improves, so will recovery. It is best to ascertain that the sandbox succeeds and other destinations can follow suit. Samui Plus (like the sandbox) campaign started today.

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau recently relaunched its subsidy campaign of up to 30,000 baht for local operators to help host events of at least 30 participants before Oct 31. How does it help hotels, destination management firms, and corporate companies in promoting their business?

Sumate Sudasna. Mainly the hotels have benefited from the scheme as land operators/DMCs and not usually part of the supply chain of the domestic market. It is a useful campaign though, as it created business and communities also benefited.

How is TICA instrumental in promoting Thai MICE professionals achieve their objectives and goals of their particular event.

Sumate Sudasna. TICA’s marketing activities cover the whole gamut of options from attending trade shows, organizing road shows, educational trips, maximizing website capabilities, social media activation, producing biennial directories (a destination marketing collateral)

What key trends do you currently observe in the M’IC’E industry?

Sumate Sudasna. Event hosts and planners need good return on efforts and investment on programs to meet objectives so suppliers have a duty to help them. The principle will never change while the means may vary.

Are there any learnings from past challenges that you think translate to the current situation?

Sumate Sudasna. No risk aversion/transferring/sharing plan can mitigate this crisis. Companies should have business continuation plan which differs from one to another but the essence would be business segment diversification, management flexibililty, workforce multi tasking abilities and financial security.

On a personal note, we are curious to know what keeps you busy when you are away from work? Please tell us about your hobbies and other activities that you would love to do at home.

Sumate Sudasna. Apart from spending quality time with my family and pets, I like photography and am now into the aerial kind – I will fly drones whenever time and opportunity permits.

What would be your piece of advice to the industry?

Sumate Sudasna. Totally dedicate efforts in the business, promote and market the destination as a team, support each other, keep up with evolving trends, and always understand your customer needs.