For this year’s 19th Incentive Travel and Conventions Meetings Asia (IT&CMA) and Corporate Travel World (CTW) Asia Pacific, there was more than double-bill cause for celebration for the 10th anniversary of Asia’s only double-bill event taking place in Thailand’s ‘City of Angels’ capital, Bangkok.

The elevated space at Level 22 of CentralWorld’s Bangkok Convention Centre (BCC) was at an apposite height for the elevated success of the event. Pre-event registration hit a new high: the 2,457 delegates from 60 countries/territories consisted of over 800 exhibitors from more than 300 exhibiting companies across 20 countries; almost 500 buyers and corporate travel managers from 56 countries; 145 conference delegates to CTW Asia Pacific from 20 countries; and well over 100 international and local media from 28 countries. Behind these catch-all statistics were some even more striking details – new participating companies comprised 45% of the total and a target of 50% new buyers and corporate travel managers was hit, ensuring the event’s year-on-year renewed vitality.

“For our delegates, we trust that the event is a winning one that achieves their many global objectives,” said Darren Ng, Managing Director of TTG Asia. “As event organisers, this is a goal we have realised over the last few years. We have indeed won the support of the MICE and Corporate Travel industry in Asia and across the world. This year’s show statistics clearly reflect the event’s success.”

Engaging this year’s ‘Winning Asia and Beyond’ theme, there was for the first time a strong presence from the Indo-China region, Cambodia and Vietnam both debuting, and a new entry into the European market, Poland, using the event as a platform for its own MICE destination aspirations. At the city level, Seoul, Hyderabad and Sabah all emerged from their national stands with independent booths at this year’s event.

Alongside such clear signals of the event’s profile and growth, there were a number of new, bar-raising initiatives complementing the staples, such as the strong education programme. A feature of this year’s exhibition floor was the hosted delegates lounge, a chance to pull back from a hectic business appointments schedule and relax, or engage in more intimate networking. There was also a dedicated networking zone and, in conjunction with the international media zone, a new ‘pigeon-hole’ feature inviting delegates to leave contact details to schedule meetings with selected media.

And so to the celebrations – and very good reasons for them. The tenth birthday of the event in Bangkok was an opportune moment to flaunt host city confidence, which came via some announcements made at the event. The first of these addressed Bangkok’s increasingly accessible location, Thai Airways presenting an important new Bangkok to Brussels European connection starting this November, making them the only non-stop Southeast Asian carrier to the heart of the EU.

The distant roar of a Thai Airways engines being perhaps not sufficient, Bangkok is also bidding for inclusion in the Formula 1 circuit, based on its 1939 city circuit that was accepted before the European war broke out. Hosting such a profile sporting event will be a momentous boon to its destination status.

Finishing the hat-trick of announcements was one reflecting the success of the event itself: a new addition to the calendar, IT&CM India, will begin from August 2012 in New Delhi. With the Indian market constituting the majority of visitors to Thailand, stronger synergies can be developed with this new fixture, something all involved will eagerly look forward to. So much change could easily forgive one for thinking that there might be benefits from a new logo for next year. Clearly this thinking was already germinating behind the scenes, a new logo also unveiled in readiness for the bigger and better plans for 2012. The timing of the new logo coincided with IT&CMA becoming not just Asia’s, but now the world’s only double-bill event.

Whilst the innovative features of this now unique event are certainly cause for celebration, little of this could have been realised without the orchestration and successes behind the scenes of the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).

“TCEB is a government agency under the Prime Minister’s office, set up in 2003 to support the development of Thailand’s MICE industry,” explained Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, TCEB President. “Since its inception, we have worked very closely with other government agencies, especially the Tourism Authority of Thailand, as well as the private sector to identify constraints to growth and to develop strategic roadmaps for the industry.”

This hard work is now reaping dividends: focusing on three branches of MICE events – Meetings, Trade Shows and International Events – 2011 has marked their most successful year to date, with over 700,000 MICE visitors expected, generating THB57.6 billion ($1.9 billion).

Also, TCEB-organised pre- and post-show tours allowed visitors to get ‘behind the scenes’ and see Thailand beyond the business mechanics of Bangkok’s convention centre. These social events highlighted the ‘Destination of Choices’ theme promoted by TCEB as part of their ‘Believe in Thailand’ campaign – not just for meetings, but for the cultural and leisure options on offer too. The especial allure of Bangkok and Thailand as a meetings destination is its ability to adeptly mix business and pleasure. There is a warmth of hospitality and genuine happiness of the people renowned across the world, all helping TCEB’s latest campaign of ‘No matter which path you choose, success is sure to follow.’ Thailand itself must now choose a path that does ensure success, as the region is set to become intensely competitive. Cambodia and Vietnam also presented at this year’s IT&CMA, as they want to make a footprint in the industry. With their own offer, one sure to provide value for money, Thailand will be kept on its toes.

After three vibrant and successful business-generating days and the BCC and Centara bidding a farewell to its international delegates, it was apparent that the floods that had been dominating the news and taking a toll on areas in the north of the country were starting to make their way southwards. Despite hopes that they wouldn’t impact on the capital, sadly this has happened and Bangkok has had to brace itself for buckling flood defences and potential damage to the CBD and the wider city.

Thailand has had to deal with political and fiscal issues over recent years, but it has bounced back from these stronger. Now mother nature is testing the country too. It will take stern resolve, but the country will return from this stronger too. Kongres and South East Europe extends its sincere wishes for the speediest possible return to normal, everyday life after the floods. When the waters do subside, the country stronger than ever, its MICE industry will have to prepare for floods of the welcome kind – floods of interest in their facilities and floods of new and return visitors to this very happy, hospitable and welcoming destination.

You can most certainly ‘Believe in Thailand’ as a destination, one where whichever path you choose, it will indeed lead to success.

Rob Cotter attended this year’s IT&CMA representing Kongres.