Keeping calm in troubled waters

Trouble comes in threes for event organiser Penang Tour Buddy when it handled a QUT conference, but it calmly rose to the occassion

Heritage walk

Event brief
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) conducts a regular conference in Asia for regional representatives, with the aim of providing them with university updates and training.

For 2017, QUT decided to rotate the event to Penang for the first time. QUT contacted event organiser, Penang Tour Buddy, in January 2017, to handle hotel arrangements, the conference programme, a four-hour heritage tour of George Town, the gala dinner and souvenirs for participants.

Heritage walk

The first hiccup in the event emerged on the morning of May 17 when Alvin Ong, director of Penang Tour Buddy, received a call from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department in Penang informing him that the delegate souvenirs from QUT could not be released until taxes were paid, as they were declared as merchandise. These souvenirs included snacks from Australia, virtual reality (VR) headsets and lip balms.

The next challenge was a limitation of the venue’s bandwidth to support a 10-minute VR video of QUT which participants were expected to stream live and watch together.

Joining the two obstacles was an unhappy trishaw supplier who decided at the last minute to not supply 35 trishaws for the group’s night heritage tour of Penang. The tour required 70 trishaws, which Ong had booked with two suppliers. The disgruntled supplier was upset that the other portion of trishaws were rented from a fellow supplier he was not on good terms with.

This was a crisis as there were only two trishaw suppliers in Penang, where each supplier could supply only 30 to 40 trishaws.

To tackle the souvenirs hold-up, Ong drove immediately to the Royal Malaysian Customs Department. He paid the required taxes and got most of the souvenirs released. These, coupled with famous Penang flaky pastry biscuit, tau sar pneah, courtesy of Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau, ensured that all participants received an attractive goody bag.

Ong resolved the Internet bandwidth challenge by renting a number of 4G dongles from a communications provider in Kuala Lumpur. The dongles were turned into Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing up to nine users to access the Internet at a time.

To address the shortage of trishaws, Ong altered the heritage programme, which featured a walking tour and a trishaw ride. Instead of going for the tour as a group and seeing the sights together, he split participants into two teams. While one did the walking tour, the other went for the trishaw ride. Later, both teams switched around so everyone had a chance to experience both elements.

Key takeaways
Ong believes that it is important to stay calm, even under pressure. “There will always be unforeseen challenges along the way, no matter how well you plan,” he remarked.

When dealing first-time vendors, like the trishaw supplier, there must be a back-up plan in place in the event that they fail to deliver.

Event: Queensland University of Technology Let’s Get Real:
QUT Showcase
Organiser: Queensland University of Technology
Groundhandler: Penang Tour Buddy
Venue: Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang
Date: May 18 and 19, 2017
Number of participants: 150

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