Sabah puts CVB plans on hold

A rendering of the upcoming Sabah International Convention Centre

A reliable source within the Sabah Convention Bureau is correcting the misconception that the formation of the body has been terminated by the Sabah State Government, stating that the process has instead only been put on hold.

Since its inception in January 2018 until January this year, the source described the bureau as being “in-transition” while waiting for its endorsement from the state government.

A rendering of the upcoming Sabah International Convention Centre

It is understood that staff from Sabah Tourism Board’s MICE unit who were seconded to the future bureau have temporarily returned to the parent. They report to Noredah Othman, acting general manager at Sabah Tourism Board.

The MICE unit supports business events related educational programmes for the travel trade and attends related overseas tradeshows organised by the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau.

With limited budget allocated by Sabah Tourism Board, the MICE unit cannot perform the traditional roles of a convention centre, such as fully supporting business events held in Sabah, actively bidding for international business events or marketing the destination overseas.

Malaysia’s travel trade is unanimous in their belief that a dedicated state-based convention bureau that actively went out, marketed the destination, and bid for international events, was the way forward for Sabah.

KL Tan, president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, stressed: “It is imperative that the government set up a dedicated convention bureau to further tap the large potential of the business events segment and to go out and market and bid for major events.

“Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) which reports directly to the chief minister of Penang, has helped the business events sector in Penang grow from strength to strength, and the state has experienced a 62 per cent growth over three years in business events, with an estimated economic impact of RM808 million (US$194 million) reported for 2016, compared with RM1.3 billion for 2018,” Tan added.

“Having a state convention bureau in Sabah will realise the potential that Sabah has and will help the business events sector grow as well.”

Mike Cannon, managing director, Business Events – Asia Pacific and former managing director of Sarawak Convention Bureau, believes that the “government should own and fund the convention bureau”.

He added: “If a government is honest about addressing the three basic necessities for society, i.e. health, education and security, then meetings are the answer. Sarawak’s leadership understood the need, and back in 2006 created a convention bureau and convention centre, as well as a government-funded sponsorship so as to attract a multitude of business events that (help bring about) benefits to society.”

Also pushing for the formation of the Sabah Convention Bureau is Gracie V Geikie, director of Place Borneo (Sabah), a PCO with business locations in Kuching and Kuala Lumpur.

She opined: “Sabah has all the dynamics in attracting high-yield and mega conventions as it has the infrastructure to support these. The soon-to-open state-of-the-art Sabah International Convention Centre speaks volumes on why a convention bureau is much needed to steer Sabah, especially Kota Kinabalu, as the next big destination for business events.”

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