For the past many months, as I have driven past the upcoming International Convention Centre along the Irrigation Canal Road, my head has been turned to gawp at the dramatic new skyline – virgin mountain views obstructed by goliath Lannaesque buildings – dozens of traversing trucks leaving billowing volumes of dust and lots and lots of men at work.
For just as long, I have been writing official, obsequies, demanding and pathetically pleading letters to just about every authority and government minister involved with the project, trying to get some information on it. Those folks are awfully tight lipped. The project is headed by Chumpol Silapaarcha, Minister of Sports and Tourism and son of veteran – and currently banned – politician Banharn Silapaarcha, who, according to many sources, is the main man running the entire project.
I had heard that a few months back Chiang Mai’s four and five star hotel GMs were invited to tour the place and frankly the feedback was underwhelming. ‘They have no marketing plan,’ wailed one GM, ‘their conferencing technology is woefully outdated,’ moaned another.
So it was with glee that I received a call from Chairman of Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE), Chiang Mai division, Rachan Veeraphan, telling me that there was to be one last official tour of the Conference Centre before implementation of the final phrase. Piggybacking onto a District Administrative Organisation tour, with representatives from over 50 of Thailand’s richest districts, I had my first glimpse of what is slated to be one of our city’s biggest earners in the coming years.
Its scale is impressive. Vast car parks, great design for bus and van drop offs and covered walkways, a stunning number of meeting and conference rooms including a mammoth hall which can fit up to 16,000 people! Canteen and restaurant areas where 2,000 can dine comfortably, both in and out doors…the list goes on and you can read more in the accompanying fact box. The company tasked with building the project had completed their task and was handing their work over to the government the next day. Another company was about to take over the finishing touches, the soft ware so to speak, net working, lights, audio, security cards, CCTV, etc. They have until the beginning of September to implement it all, at which time the Conference Centre will open, I presume, to much fanfare.
I asked Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, Director of Government and Corporate Affairs at TCEB, who was showing us around, about the concern of the GMs over the lack of marketing. His answer, “this is marketing; we anticipate the first couple of years the centre will be used mainly by government bodies and will only do regional marketing within the Greater Mekong Sub Region (GMS). We are not really competitive on an international level.” Since it is called International Conference Centre, this brought me to the hotelier’s second concern, the technology. “This project started eight years ago and our technology specifications are dated from then. The tech phrase of 300 million baht is about to be implemented over the next few months. We have to use that budget per spec. When that is done, we can always ask for a new budget to upgrade it all.”
When asked about any other concerns he may have, he also mentioned the inadequate city infrastructure, citing logistical issues in transportation and airport transit as possible problems to be tackled.
But all cynicisms aside, the facilities are indeed impressive and the capacity, if filled to adequate levels, will mean that Chiang Mai should be reaping some serious benefits in the years to come. When the facility is complete in September, we hope to bring you a more comprehensive overview of the conference’s future role in Chiang Mai business and tourism.
– Total building budget 1.8 billion baht
– International Conference Centre building budget 1.1 billion baht
– Time of construction, 883 days
– Hall for exhibiting up to 476 booths
– Meeting room seating 3,000 people (standing 16,000)
– 32 smaller meeting rooms seating 70/100/350
– Business centre, shop spaces, offices, child care centre, hospice, etc.
– Over 360 toilets
– 17 offices for rent
– SME building with permanent exhibition space, revolving exhibition space, offices, seminar rooms, etc.
– SME building budget 296 million baht
– Two manmade large ponds and one natural pond
– Parking for 2,033 cars, 130 taxis and vans, 83 buses, 33 trucks, 676 motorbikes
– Landscape, parking and relevant structures budget 457 million baht.For the past many