Over the hills and far away

Discovery Overland Holidays overcomes pre-event setup challenges and pulls off a successful event – the first cocktail reception at The Habitat.

Event brief
Discovery Overland Holidays was the DMC appointed by Penang Global Tourism and Reed Exhibitions, tasked to organise a cocktail reception for WTM Connect Asia at The Tree Top Walk in The Habitat, Penang Hill, followed by a gala dinner and accompanying entertainment at David Brown’s Restaurant, also located on Penang Hill.

Challenges
The Habitat is an eco attraction located on the fringes of a 130-million-year-old virgin rainforest on Penang Hill. Within The Habitat is The Tree Top Walk, an open area with a 13m-high viewing platform. This was where the evening cocktail was held, before guests took a short walk downhill to to David Brown’s Restaurant.

One of the challenges was to make the event impactful and meaningful for delegates as many of them had already spent a long day sightseeing, while some overseas delegates had also just arrived.

Lex Lam, director of sales at Discovery Overland Holidays, recalled: “We anticipated they would be tired, and so we had to ensure the evening event was meaningful and worth attending.”

Preparations for the event were made weeks in advance. This included finding ways and means to transport long beams of steel and other heavy materials needed to set up a marquee – as contingency in case of rain. All these materials had to be transported from the city to the hilltop, and it was a challenge to transport them along narrow unlit roads with sharp bends. All these work had to be done during the night as well, due to road works during the day.

Another challenge was finding a contractor who was willing to build a temporary stage on top of a fish pond at David Brown’s Restaurant.

“Many we approached were reluctant because of the difficulty of carrying materials to the hilltop,” said Lam.

Solutions
Discovery Overland Holidays had teams at all four partner hotels to coordinate the 10 bus departures so that the buses left Georgetown before the evening traffic jam. The 30-minute bus ride from the hotel to the Lower Station of Penang Hill was made interesting by tour guides on every bus who briefed delegates Penang’s history and what they could expect at the evening function.

As the funicular trains arrive at the Lower Penang station every 10 minutes, the 10 buses were timed to arrive at staggered intervals of six minutes so that delegates did not have to wait long. When they reached the Upper Hill station, local performers greeted them.
The walk down from The Tree Top Walk to David Brown’s Restaurant was also made interesting with displays by fire eaters and fire throwers along the way.

As for the stage, The Habitat management referred Discovery Overland Holidays to a past contractor who was willing to build a stage as the materials needed were already on-site and need not be brought in from Georgetown.

The company also worked closely with Penang Global Tourism to get the necessary permits.

Key takeaways
“Planning well in advance and working closely with all parties were instrumental to the event being a success,” revealed Lam.

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