Amazing Thailand Grand Fair Sale, July 28-31, 2011, at QSNCC
I went to the Amazing Thailand Grand Fair Sale at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center on July 28, the first day of the show. As I’ve mentioned before, QSNCC is centrally located in Bangkok, so it was easy for me to take the BTS elevated railway three stops – from Ekamai Station to Asoke Station – then to go downstairs and catch the MRT subway for one stop to QSNCC Station.
The fair was held in five spots in the Center. In the main hall was the travel section. I would estimate that there were about 150 exhibitors with booths there. Hotels, resorts, spas and travel agencies accounted for a high percentage of the exhibition area.
Three local airlines – Nok, Air Asia and Orient Thai – each had booths with around six reservation staff ready to take bookings through their computer systems. Surprisingly, I didn’t see a single booking being made while I was there (about 4:00-6:00 p.m.) This was in sharp contrast to a recent fair I attended in which all the airlines had lines of customers waiting to make reservations.
There were several rental car companies represented, as well as smaller numbers of cruise ship operators, chiropractors, and sellers of travel magazines, luggage and camping equipment. There were also FantaSea amusement park (Phuket), Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works (Pattaya), and Golden Horse Riding Club (Bangkok).
A couple things I found of interest: The travel hall was crowded with people looking to make bookings or get information, yet except for me I saw no other westerner among the attendees. Recession or not, it seems like the market for domestic tourism is booming (except for the airline aberration).
The seaside city of Hua Hin was very well represented by numerous hotels and resorts. Hua Hin is only about two and a half hours from Bangkok, and the city is much less hectic than Pattaya, so apparently it has become one of Thailand’s top tourist beach destinations. I used to go there in the early 1980’s and stay at the formerly grand but faded Railway Hotel, now replaced by a Novotel. There weren’t nearly the number of hotels and resorts then as there are now.
Among the exhibitors were some hotels and resorts from Khao Lak, of Phang Nga Province. The significance of this is that Khao Lak was the area of Thailand that was hardest hit by the tsunami that struck on Dec. 26, 2004. Of the approximately 5,000 tsunami fatalities in Thailand, the largest number by far were in Khao Lak, and a high percentage of the hotels and bungalows there were destroyed.
After the tsunami, I went to Khao Lak as a volunteer in the relief effort and witnessed the incredible destruction. At the fair, I talked to a representative of Khao Lak Seaview Resort & Spa. He told me that the wreckage of buildings is no longer evident, and that the many new businesses are the second generation of the tourist industry there. One of the most striking images of the tsunami aftermath was a large coastal patrol vessel that had been swept nearly a mile inland and stranded at the base of a small cliff. The representative told me that the boat is still there, as a tsunami memorial, and in fact, is part of that resort’s Khao Lak sightseeing tour.
I have read that Thailand has set a few American-made sensors around 200 miles from the coast, in the Andaman Sea, which should give about 30 minutes warning in case of another tsunami, and that warning towers have been built on the beaches to sound the alert. I don’t know whether the warning system is completed yet.
Apart from the travel section, the rest of the fair was held in about four smaller and much less impressive halls.
The main categories were food, health & beauty, clothing (nearly all women’s), sportswear & sports equipment, and international brands. There was a good turnout for the fair on Thursday, so I would expect the weekend to be quite busy.