Pushing the boat out

Malaysia’s secondary cities are working hand-in-hand with their local associations, hotels and venues to draw more events.

Sunset falling over Kuching city in Sarawak

Kuala Lumpur is not the only MICE-ready city in Malaysia anymore. Secondary destinations – Penang, Kuching and Putrajaya – are also devising new ways to court business events, association meetings and corporate groups.

Since 2016, the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) has been focusing on the research and business development of business events in key industries such as agriculture, infrastructure development, urban planning, women and children, and education.

Amelia Roziman, SCB’s general manager – marketing and sales, said: “Despite the slowdown of the oil and gas sector in the economy, for us, it is business as usual. We also believe that there are plenty of opportunities out there to mine still.”

Sunset falling over Kuching city in Sarawak

SCB will continue laying the groundwork to grow the business events industry through education programmes which contributes to preparing the industry and associations when they bid for major international and regional conferences.

“Sometimes there is a conference which Sarawak and its related local association has the potential to win. Our challenge is building the confidence and motivating the association to bid. Education is what fills that gap,” stressed Chew Chang Guan, SCB’s general manager, government & industry relations.

For local associations keen on bidding for an international conference, the bureau will provide sponsorships that can bring the latest research and trade opportunities in sectors the state is keen on developing further. Once the bid is won, marketing support is provided for delegate boosting purposes in order to maximise attendance.

An important win for Sarawak last year was the the 55th ICCA Congress in November as it provided recognition to the state for its ability to provide international standards, value and services. Sarawak was the first, second-tier city in Asia to host the ICCA Congress.
Place Borneo’s director/principal consultant Gracie Geikie, who was a member of the bid team, said: “Not many destinations can sell you both culture and nature like Sarawak’s cities of Kuching and Miri. I believe it is this very essence that conference organisers should choose Sarawak, not just to meet and share knowledge, but to add experiential value to their organisations and delegates.”

Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) was formed in early 2016. Last November, PCEB diversified into the major events sector and organised the George Town Literary Festival 2016 with Penang Institute. This year, PCEB will be the sole producer of the 2017 festival which celebrates the literary world.

Aside from the festival, PCEB will tap the Chinese and India business events segment for the first time. In March 2017, they organised roadshows with MyCEB in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. PCEB will also be organising its own sales calls to the metro cities in India later in the year.

Both India and China are important markets for Penang as there are direct connections to Guangzhou, Sanya and Wuhan, and Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.
PCEB’s CEO, Ashwin Gunasekeran, shared: “We will focus on attracting association meetings and incentives from both markets. Penang has the hardware and the software to cater to big groups of up to 15,000 delegates.”

PCEB will intensify efforts to attract international conferences and meetings related to areas such as medical, electronics and science.The state of Penang is home to 400 multinational companies in the electronics sector and it is also the top destination in Malaysia for medical tourism. Approximately 60 per cent of the nation’s medical tourism receipts are derived from Penang.

“Once we have sourced for leads, we will engage relevant parties who can be the local hosts and encourage them to bid for international and regional conferences,” said Ashwin.
Moreover, the second edition of the state’s Meetings Planners Guide will be published in 1H2017 and distributed to meeting planners and business events organisers. It will include new sections such as listings of business events suppliers and restaurants, in addition to existing sections on hotels, unique spaces and convention centres.

Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) is the main driver for attracting international business events to Putrajaya. The centre has numerous meeting spaces which can hold up to 6,000 delegates, is supported by 1,500 rooms of four- and five-star properties in the vicinity.

Oh Kin Tat, general manager, sales operation at Putrajaya International Convention Centre, said: “We will form a committee – made up of four- and five-star hotels with meeting facilities – by 1H2017. These hotels will support PICC and the local association, by providing complimentary rooms and hosted meals, to the organiser when there are site inspections.”

Last year, steps were taken to further expand the business.

Oh said: “Since May 2016, we had our own in-house research team to look for potential leads from the ICCA database, and these were shared with local associations.”
The centre has also invested in having its own culinary team of 41 chefs who can tailor-make meals according to clients’ preferences.

Arokia Das, senior manager at Luxury Tours Malaysia, said: “Putrajaya is an upcoming MICE destination. Its location makes it convenient for MICE organisers to move equipment to and from the airport. Putrajaya also has a lot of off-site venues for holding dinners such as on a cruise, on a bridge or in the wetlands.”

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