Phuket’s time to shine for incentive travel
THE launch of direct services by Middle Eastern carriers to Phuket looks set to be a good conduit of longhaul MICE traffic to the island, traditionally perceived as a leisure beach destination.
Emirates launched daily Dubai services end-2012, while Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways will begin daily non-stop services from Abu Dhabi and Doha respectively, both from October 26.
Sumate Sudasna, managing director, Creative Destination Management and president, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, said: “The leisure market for Phuket is already very established, so these services will help hotels to have a better balance of MICE and leisure guests across the entire year.”
Sumate said the Middle Eastern carriers will “help open up longhaul markets like Europe and South America for MICE”, adding that should any crisis unfold in Bangkok, the direct flights will be a “good back-up” for Phuket.
Phuket sellers, too, are hopeful.
Rory Campbell, director of sales & marketing, Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, said: “There has been a lot of interest from European operators who prefer the Europe-Middle East-Phuket route. Many have travelled via Asia in the past so new stopover opportunities are helpful. Spain and Italy have also noted that the connections and times are more favourable – especially for large incentive group travel.”
While noting that it will take some time to see the benefits, Laguna Phuket director of sales-MICE & corporate events, Prapa Hemmin, said: “We observe growth in sports tourism…the top five participating athletes in last year’s Challenge Laguna Phuket triathlon were contributed by the UAE. With easier access to Phuket, we may see international companies including our sports events in their MICE programmes.”