Where connections thrive.
By Ayush Madan
Events, whether they are a small luncheon, or a weeklong international conference are catalysts for connection, innovation, and the sharing of knowledge. It is where industry trends are unveiled, business relationships are formed, and ideas are freely shared – elements crucial to the growth and success of any business. Behind every event are professionals who work tirelessly to plan, organise, and execute them to make sure all goes smoothly with no hitches.
In this issue’s business story, I was able to delve deeper into the dynamic world of event planning through the eyes of Ruchika Longani, the Director of Sales at Royal Cliff Hotels Group and the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH). Ruchika has held this position for 15 years now, and is an important figure in Thailand’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry.
She graces the scene with the presence of a Thai-Indian geisha – pale, flawless skin, fitted in traditionally-styled workwear representing her rich cultural background. Her signature red lipstick added a vibrant accent to her attire, as her warm smile welcomed me with an aura of charm and grace. Her soft-spoken voice, and relaxed pace commanded a silent but effective air of authority. It was instantly clear to me this was someone who had excelled to the highest echelons of hospitality.
In our interview, Ruchika shares her insights on securing contracts for large-scale international events, and how she manages and hosts events for thousands of attendees through meticulous precision and unwavering drive.
How did you get started at your position at Royal Cliff Hotels Group?
When I started, it was purely about business development. I grabbed the opportunity right away when I saw what the responsibilities were, and they’ve stayed the same, only increasing in size and scope. I started as the Assistant to the Business Development Director. My role was to secure international conferences to be held in Thailand. For most of the association conferences, we cannot go out and bid on behalf of the hotel. We instead need to go to the local chapter or association. I deal with a lot of individuals across different industries. From doctors, to scientists, to tech developers, to farmers. That is how I started. But now I also look after the entire domestic market for both MICE and leisure.
What are some events that you organised this year at PEACH?
This year, we organised several events. One of these was an event for the global insurance company AGEAS in May, which went quite smoothly, with our clients telling us it was the best event they had put on in years. Another conference I need to mention is the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) which was hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population & Reproductive Health and the Thai Ministry of Public Health (MOPH). We worked very hard to win this bid, and it was a journey that took several years. It was originally scheduled in 2021, but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, when restrictions loosened, the event was held the following year in November 2022 with 5,000 people in attendance. It is an honour to be working with them supporting this important cause.
Can you tell me a little about your upbringing?
I was born and raised in Bangkok, in a very warm and simple family. I am one of four siblings. I have two brothers and a sister, with me being the youngest. So, as is typical with being the youngest, I was also the most loved and pampered I would say. [Laughs] In our family, I think we’re lucky that we never had any pressure from our parents whether it’s about education, work, or social status. We are very chilled and laidback, and we can talk to each other about anything.
What about your education?
I did all of my education in Thailand. In fact, I was in the Thai schooling system from kindergarten through high school, allowing me to understand Thai culture very well. I can say with confidence that I write and speak perfect Thai. After finishing school, I joined the international program at Siam University under the Hotel and Tourism Management major. Once I completed my bachelor’s, I started working for DTAC straight away as an assistant to the CEO, before eventually joining Royal Cliff.
Have you faced any challenges in your position, especially with your unique background as a Thai-Indian woman?
As a Thai-Indian, I don’t think I faced many unique challenges. I think it comes down to your attitude and perspective. My personality is one that is always able to go on and adjust to the situation. That’s my mindset. Being a hard worker and staying committed to what you want to do and where you want to be, that is what’s important.
Has the MICE industry recovered after the pandemic?
Definitely. Next year we are holding another event with 6,000 attendees hosted by the Lions Club International Foundation. Currently, under permanent staff we have almost 1,000 people. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a lot more, but we are getting back to that original number slowly with constant recruitment. For an event of this size, we usually do reach out to freelancers for the extra support. This is because with events of this size, there are usually many smaller events taking place inside the main event. For example, with the ICFP conference there were several panels and demonstrations taking place during the morning and in the evening, which makes planning a lot more complicated.
How do you handle the logistics of an event that size?
There could be up to 50 panels going on at the same time, all of which need to be catered individually, requiring a lot of manpower. When I understood the size of the undertaking, I sat down with the head chef and asked him to come up a shorter version of the menu, to make the sourcing the ingredients easier. I also minimised the points of F&B service to make catering more efficient. It was quite a challenge for us at that time, but we pulled it off. When the host comes to inspect the venue, I am there to welcome them, and of course, for the real event as well.
Are you the main point of contact for these organisations?
Yes, I am the one reaching out. For ICFP, they did not have any local chapters. We reached out to them when we found out that they were looking for venues in other countries in Asia like Indonesia and India. When they settled on Thailand, they inspected PEACH three times, while still considering other venues in Bangkok including Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC), IMPACT Arena, Exhibition and Convention Centre and the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center(QSNCC). We won the bid because of the exclusivity we provide, and they could rest assured that there would be no other events taking place at the same time. Of course, since they didn’t have a local chapter, I connected them with MOPH in Thailand as well as the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RTCOG). I coordinated a meeting over Zoom and all three organisations came to the agreement that they can partner and host the event. We also have a small team that looks after different individual market regions like North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia, so each sector has someone focused on and directly catering to their needs. This frees me up to make more big picture decisions and focus on high profile clients which require a more personal touch.
How do you stay updated with the event landscape in Thailand?
I am also in constant communication with the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), and Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA) which promote Thailand as a destination for MICE events. At TICA events, I learn about the event trends and region-specific strategies for hoteliers to incentivise clients.
The MICE industry, as Ruchika confirmed, has made a full recovery following the pandemic. With numerous successful events this year and more to come, her prowess in coordinating with multiple organisations only grows, as the seamless event experiences she provides set her apart from the competition. Ruchika’s journey is a testament that dedication and passion – as well as the correct mindset – are the three things you need to thrive in your field.