Langkawi’s many magnificent hotels with interesting event options are attracting upscale meetings and events to the island.
An expanding collection of hotels and resorts – particularly in the five-star space – over recent years has facilitated Langkawi’s evolution into a destination favoured by planners of high-end meetings and incentives.
The St. Regis Langkawi; The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort; The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa; Four Seasons Resort Langkawi; Tanjung Rhu Resort Langkawi; Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa, Langkawi; Berjaya Langkawi Resort and The Danna Langkawi all call the Malaysian island home. There are 1,952 five-star guestrooms in Langkawi, making it the island with the biggest inventory of five-star properties in Malaysia.
The 119-key The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, overlooking the Andaman Sea and boasting a 10 million-year-old rainforest backdrop, is the latest five-star brand on the island. Opened on October 1, 2017, the luxury resort welcomes corporate events with its grand ballroom, a venue good for 430 people theatre-style. The pre-function area sits outdoors and offers a majestic view of the rainforest.
Come July this year, The Datai Langkawi will reopen after being closed for major renovations since September last year. With only 121 rooms and a newly refurbished meeting room, this property is keen to capture C-Level meetings and incentives, revealed Aaishah Bohari, its director of marketing & sales.
New additions at the hotel include a nature centre where customised nature talks and walks can be conducted as well as The Dapur, a special area where culinary activities for groups can be arranged.
Aaishah shared that the hotel is seeing “strong corporate incentive demand from the French and German speaking markets of Europe for 4Q2018”.
Beyond hotels and resorts, Langkawi demonstrates its seriousness in courting business events with the opening of the Langkawi International Convention Centre (LICC) in 2015. The modern facility is supported by two hotels on site – the 221-key The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa and the 89-key The St. Regis Langkawi.
According to Rajiv Kapoor, general manager of The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa and LICC, the convention centre has welcomed several high-profile meetings and events including the 26th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Regional Workshop, Amway Korea – Diamond Invitational Special Incentive Trip 2017, and Sports Medicine Australia National Conference 2017.
Rajiv added that The St. Regis Langkawi is also attracting a rising number of C-level executives from China, Hong Kong and Singapore who host their executive meetings in the hotel. These meetings come with wine dinners or cosy bonfire dinner parties with jazz music in the background.
He noted that there is a growing trend among meeting and incentive planners to infuse local experiences into the programme, such as by having a Malaysian theme dinner featuring local entertainment.
Rajiv believes that Langkawi continues to charm top-end meetings and events because of its “serene beauty, clean environment and duty-free status”.
He said: “Langkawi is still natural and not over commercialised.”
Destination specialists are observing the same strong demand.
Luxury Tours Malaysia director, Arokia Das, said his company has recorded more than 25 per cent year-on-year growth in incentive and meeting bookings out of India and Sri Lanka in 2017. RFPs are also strong for 3Q and 4Q2018 from the India subcontinent and the Maldives.
Arokia said: “The luxury properties in Langkawi may be pricier than those in Kuala Lumpur, but when you compare them with similar properties in this region, they are really affordable. Service here is also very professional, which ensures an excellent event.
“Furthermore, many of these properties are committed to supporting the environment and local community, and offer corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. As we are seeing more companies asking for CSR activities to be included in the itinerary, we are working with Langkawi properties to offer such experiences.”
Saini Vermeulen, executive director, Within Earth Holidays, has also seen a year-on-year double-digit growth in demand for incentives to Langkawi from Eastern Europe, Germany, and the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon.
For European groups, Langkawi is usually twinned with the Malaysian capital city and is featured at the end of the itinerary, which is often multi-destination including Thailand and Cambodia.
Saini added that European clients also “usually conduct their incentive programmes during the off-peak periods of February to April and October to November, to escape the cold in Europe”.
“Langkawi is a popular beach destination for incentive groups as it is not as crowded and busy as Bali and Phuket. It is viewed by Europeans as an exotic destination with a lot of greenery and wildlife. Its UNESCO Global Geopark status is an added bonus,” said Saini.
“Another advantage Langkawi offers is that wherever you stay on the main island, you are never more than 45 minutes away from major attractions,” he said.