Interstate bans stymie the recovery of Malaysia’s MICE sector

The World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur offers boasts of 40,000 square metres of exhibition space

Convention centre heads in Malaysia are reporting poor ahead bookings, with recovery unlikely to occur in 1H2021, despite the lifting of restrictions about a month ago.

Francis Teo, president of the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), said the main barrier preventing the resumption of face-to-face events on a national level is the interstate travel ban since January 13.

The World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur offers 40,000m2 of exhibition space

Teo who is also head, convention centres of Setia City and Setia SPICE in Penang, shared that local organisers still think that most in-person events are limited to 250 people, and have been holding back plans.

However, this limit of 250 has since been revised to allowing the capacity to be 50 per cent of the venue space, for states still under the Conditional Movement Control Order. These states are Selangor, Johor, Penang and Kelantan, as well as the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In addition, the Malaysian government’s swift and sudden previous national lockdowns have also not given event organisers any confidence to plan for physical events in the short-term.

Mohd Yusri Junos, CEO of World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL), agreed. With the interstate travel ban still in play, the venue is working to attract corporate business located around the Klang Valley, and business events from the public sector.

On forward bookings, WTCKL has received bookings for three small events next month, which are related to trading and selling of apparel and consumer items for Muslims, in anticipation of Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations in May.

It will also hold a special buffet spread with more than 200 traditional Malay dishes throughout the month of Ramadhan, starting from April 15 to May 10, targeted at the local corporate market and private small groups living and working around the Klang Valley.

The MATTA Fair, a consumer travel fair organised by the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents; and the Malaysia International Furniture Fair, both of which are usually held at WTCKL, are unlikely to return until next year, opined Mohd Yusri.

Last year, WTCKL lost RM50 million (US$12 million) in revenue due to cancellations, which includes five large-scale international consumer exhibitions from China. He laments that this year will be a loss-making year as well.

But both venue heads remain hopeful for 2022, with vaccination programmes in full swing, which would help borders reopen.

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