An ambitious expansion project, dubbed The Challenger, is underway at Bangkok's IMPACT exhibition and convention centre. The Challenger, a 60,000m2 column-free hall, will open in September 2005 giving IMPACT a total capacity of 160,000m2, making it Asia's largest indoor exhibition centre. The venue will be complemented by the country's largest ballroom and a 4,000-seater food court.
Hilton's Thai expansion continues with the Millennium Hilton Bangkok opening in autumn 2005, while towards the end of 2006 Central Hotels & Resorts will open its latest city property, the 500-room Central World Plaza. Other future developments include the launch of the Siam Kempinski hotel in 2007.
Mandarin Oriental will open the Dhara Dhevi at the end of the year and the property will feature a luxurious spa, a health club with squash and tennis courts and a Thai cookery school. Shangri-La will open its second Thai property in October 2006. The hotel and spa will offer 280 well-appointed rooms.
The opening of Le Meridien Khao Lak will attract C&I groups in search of beaches, national parks, waterfalls and mountains.
The ballrooms and conference rooms offer views across the lakes, and the suites and villas are designed in a modern style with Thai touches.
Khao Lak's other new addition is the Anantara Royal Coco Palms, a 51-villa resort and spa nestling on the sands of Bang Sak beach. Meanwhile, the soft opening of the Sarojin in January 2005 represents the resort's first foray into the boutique hotel sector.
In December this year, the Central Krabi Bay Resort adds 200 rooms to Krabi's portfolio of accommodation, while a new Hilton Resort is currently in the planning phase and will also offer 200 rooms as well as a luxury spa.
A Sheraton resort property offering 156-rooms is due to open at the end of the year, while Central Hotels & Resorts is expanding its portfolio with the Central Wong Amat Beach Resort opening in May 2008 following extensive redevelopment.
Further expansions by Central Hotels & Resorts include the launch of a five-star resort in Phuket in May 2007. However, the next property to open on the island is the Conrad Phuket Resort & Spa. The resort boasts a private beach with superb views of Cape Panwa and is scheduled to open mid-2005.
The island's MICE appeal will be enhanced by the renovation and rebranding of the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa this October. The new Hilton property offers the largest conference and meetings facilities on the island, and weary delegates can enjoy body therapies and therapeutic facials in the spa.
Raffles International will open a 79-room hotel on the tip of the Andaman Peninsula, just south of Kata Noi, by the end of 2006.
VERDICT... MAGGIE GREENSTOCK
Maggie Greenstock, meetings and incentives manager for UK and Ireland, highlights developments in Thailand
"The Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau has launched in Bangkok to handle all MICE activities and its aim is to focus on attracting C&I business to the country. Most of the convention centres in Bangkok have been expanded and upgraded in recent years and a new convention centre is planned for Chiang Mai.
"One of the most important developments is the new Bangkok International Airport close to Pattaya, which should be completed by early 2006. This will reduce the journey time between the new airport and both Bangkok and Pattaya.
"Krabi is becoming really popular and its beautiful coastline is appealing for MICE groups in search of an unspoilt area. A lot of investment is also taking place in Chiang Mai at the moment and it will be of more interest to groups in the next few years."
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau: 3rd floor, Brook House, 98-99
Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6EE
Contact: Maggie Greenstock
Tel: 020 7925 2511 x 213
Flight duration: Approx. 11.5 hours
Time difference: GMT + 7 hours
Currency: Baht (THB)
Current exchange rate: £1 = THB 73.91
International dialling code: +66