Chinese MICE groups are starting to favour Malaysia again, with a proper rebound likely once Air China resumes Beijing flights. By S Puvaneswary
The Malaysian government is set to recover lost business from China with visa fee waiver granted to Chinese nationals from February 15 up to December 31, 2015.
KL Tan, general manager of Borneo Trails Tours & Travel in Kota Kinabalu, said the waiver would motivate Chinese corporates and organisers to choose Malaysia as a friendly tourism destination, and that the introduction is timely due to the nationwide Malaysia Year of Festivals campaign (see Need to know, page 35) this year.
“Organisers can time their programmes to coincide with some of the festivals,” he added.
Chinese arrivals had dived following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) Beijing-bound MH370 flight on March 8 last year, with 153 Chinese nationals on board.
Minister of Tourism & Culture Malaysia, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, said the country lost 540,000 Chinese tourists in 2014 due to MAS’ two aircraft tragedies.
Tourism Malaysia and the travel trade are concerned as China had been the largest medium-haul market and third-largest market for Malaysia after Singapore and Indonesia.
Average spend per Chinese tourist in 2013 was RM3,092 (US$973), higher than Singapore (RM2,330), Brunei (RM2,291) and the rest of South-east Asia. It also topped other North Asian markets, followed closely by Japan (RM2,895).
Signs of a rebound in the Chinese business events segment was first noticed in 4Q2014 when Perfect China, a health and wellness company ranked the 10th direct sales company globally, sent 4,000 delegates to Malaysia for an incentive/conference from August 2 to 10.
The event at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) attracted the most number of delegates, compared with the previous two conventions held there in 2011 and 2012, which attracted 3,200 and 2,200 distributors respectively.
Terry Lee, executive director, Sunflower Holidays and logistics coordinator for the gathering, said: “KLCC’s efforts to engage with its China clients with Mandarin-speaking staff, a Mandarin corporate video and business presentation, and an in-house Chinese kitchen contributed to making the client confident in the venue. And having had two excellent outings here previously, Perfect China was happy to return a third time.”
Lee believes Malaysia’s positioning as one of the most value-for-money destinations for the industry also played a part.
Mint Leong, managing director, Sunflower Holidays, said it is still not easy to convince Chinese MICE organisers to choose Malaysia as other countries are also wooing this market with attractive offers. Due to safety concerns after the two MAS tragedies last year, Leong said some organisers from China avoided taking MAS flights.
Leong added this poses a barrier to attracting high-end MICE business due to limited choices of two foreign full-fledged airlines, China Eastern and Cathay Pacific with direct services.
She said: “High-end corporate clients we target will not consider low-cost airlines, even though there are direct flights.”
However, the good news for the travel trade is that Air China may resume flights from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur in Q4 after it suspended Beijing-Kuala Lumpur flights in 2014. “They have given us strong indications they may return,” said a Malaysia Airports Holdings source.
Yet another challenge was the need for more large convention centres, especially in the main tourist destinations.
Leong said: “Some organisers want to have their main event and dinner at the same venue; it is difficult to find a convention centre with a meeting hall and a space for dining that can each accommodate 5,000 or more people.”
Meanwhile, a short drive from the capital, Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) is gaining popularity.
Winnie Ng, deputy general manager, Pearl Holiday Travel, said its management is “flexible and friendly”. Rates are also competitive, she added, sharing that a one-day conference for 1,000 people at PICC offers substantial savings of almost 40 per cent compared with having the event in Kuala Lumpur.
PICC is targeting a greater share of business events from China and will work with Chinese incentive players to offer dinners and daily live show Fantasy Rainforest from September.
Besides participating at IT&CM China last month, CEO Badlishah Ahmad said PICC will join a roadshow with Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau in August to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
A whole new world of MICE options
Entering its 50th year, Resorts World Genting has rejuvenated its offerings, its newest being the exclusive Elite C-Suite Deal for C-level leaders and executives.
Choices for meeting planners include luxury limousine services, reserved car parks, golf games, dining around the resort, gourmet tea break menus and hotel accommodation.
The integrated resort has also seen an inventory increase at the First World Hotel of 1,286 rooms, bringing the First World’s inventory total to 7,345 rooms and that of the resort to 9,858 rooms (including budget, four-star, five-star and two luxury properties, Crockfords and Maxims).
Last December, Horizon 50 was launched. Located within walking distance from Genting International Convention Centre, the facility offers a journey through time, showcasing the birth and growth of Resorts World Genting, presented through projections, background music and special effects. A fly-through video and visual boards also add to the sensorial experience.
Meeting planners will also find an option in a special venue called The Black Box inside Horizon 50.
“With capacity of 50 people and equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual system, this venue can be used for a private cocktail event, product launch or presentation,” said Stella Sum, assistant vice-president MICE.
Meanwhile, more new offerings scheduled to open in 2016 include 20th Century Fox World theme park and nearby Sky Avenue, which will comprise 165 retail and F&B outlets as well as a cable car station.
Winnie Ng, deputy general manager, Pearl Holiday Travel, said: “The new offerings have created more interest in the destination (Resorts World Genting) and more options for MICE organisers’ itinerary creation. It helps the destination to compete against other integrated resorts in this region. We have pitched the resort to a MICE organiser from China with a meeting and incentive group of 3,000 in 2016. He has done a recce and we are now waiting for his decision.”
Need to know
Three new luxury chalets amid the rainforest
Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Sabah recently opened three new luxury chalets, bringing the total number of chalets to 31. The lodge is nestled in a magnificent setting alongside Danum River that flows through Sabah’s largest protected Lowland Rainforest – Danum Valley Conservation Area with 43,800ha of pristine and undisturbed tropical flora and fauna in eastern Sabah. It opens year round.
Festive twist for MICE
Incorporate special events in conjunction with Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 (MyFest 2015) campaign to further enhance MICE programmes.
Themed Endless Celebrations, the year-long calendar of events offers more than 200 events related to cultural festivals, arts and music showcases, food promotions, shopping and sports.
Events include Borneo Jazz Festival and World Harvest Festival, both in May; KK Jazz Festival in June; Malaysia Busking Festival in August; Festival of ASEAN Cultural Expressions in October; Malaysia Mask Festival in November; and 1Malaysia Year End Sale throughout November and December.
For a full list of events, visit www.myfest2015.com.my.
MyCEB introduces new campaign and programme
Malaysia Convention & Incentive Bureau (MyCEB) in February launched the Malaysia Like Never Before campaign and Malaysian Twin Deal X programme for corporate meeting and incentive planners worldwide.
Malaysia Like Never Before, tailored to the incentives market, highlights the unique and unheard features of five key Malaysian destinations: Langkawi, George Town, Kuala Lumpur, Mount Kinabalu and Kuching. Though already familiar to regulars of the business events circuit, the campaign has reimagined these destinations, guaranteeing a fresh experience to visitors.
The Malaysia Twin Deal X programme comprising Deal 1 and Deal 2 provides value-added support and incentive rewards for international corporate meeting and incentive groups, depending on the group size.
Business event organisers and planners can visit www.likeneverbefore.my to find out more about these new initiatives. The website also features an event proposal generator to get organisers started on their journey to Malaysia.