Looking to a new dawn

Riddled with numerous lengthy lockdowns, interstate travel restrictions, and international border closures, Malaysian events professionals are hopeful that the worst is over and 2022 will be a year of recovery.

Malaysia’s industry players are hopeful that the days of lengthy lockdowns and travel restrictions are behind them, since the government allowed business events to resume on October 18 last year.

Stakeholders are also hopeful that this year will see the resumption of business events at full venue capacity, and when the borders eventually open to international travellers, it would see the resumption of in-person events with international participation in 2H2022.

Sunway City is working towards becoming Malaysia’s premier hospitality and events destination

To help build confidence among overseas delegates, Francis Teo, president of the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), shared that the association was discussing with Bank Negara Malaysia to introduce a Covid-19 insurance for foreign travellers visiting Malaysia for business or leisure purposes. The insurance would cover hospitalisation and medical treatment at private healthcare facilities.

MACEOS is also in talks with a few insurance brokers to provide insurance coverage to event organisers to help cover pandemic related business interruption losses.

Teo explained: “Business interruption insurance against pandemic risk is vital as it will provide confidence to event organisers to plan and hold their events during the pandemic, even though are still a lot of uncertainties.”

Teo, who is also the head of Setia Convention Centres in Penang and Selangor, shared that business has gradually returned to both centres since October. However, event organisers prefer hybrid formats over in-person events due to current national guidelines which limits venue capacity. For instance, current standard operating procedures impose a two-metre safe distance for seating arrangement and limit banquet events at 50 per cent of venue capacity.

Events that have returned, Teo shared, include award recognition events from multi-level marketing and insurance companies, as well as local consumer exhibitions.

He remains hopeful that 2H2022 will bring corporate events, meetings and exhibitions with attendees that number in the thousands, from the region and beyond.

This hope is buoyed by two new hotel openings – the 453-key Amari SPICE Penang (opening September 2022) which will be connected to Setia SPICE Convention Centre; and the 225-key Courtyard by Marriott Setia Alam, which will be located adjacent to Setia City Convention Centre.

Setia City Convention Centre will soon get an adjoining hotel, making it easier for delegates

Recently, the two convention centres have also introduced all-in-one packages for exhibitions, inclusive of rental, booth set-up, cleaners and security. This is in addition to early-bird discounts for event organisers who confirm their events early.

Teo stated: “We realise event organisers may not have the capital to restart their exhibitions. So, instead of committing to pay for the entire hall, organisers can pay just for the number of booths sold.”

Elsewhere in Selangor, near capital city Kuala Lumpur, integrated resort destination Sunway City, has grand ambitions to become Malaysia’s premier hospitality and events destination.

From March 2022, its flagship property Sunway Resort, will reopen in stages after a US$60 million transformation. The resort will be feature 477 keys, which includes dedicated family rooms with direct access to a brand-new outdoor water playland, perfect for delegates with their families in tow.

In addition, event planners can look forward to hosting functions featuring Gordon Ramsay’s signature dishes at the new Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill, shared Alex Castaldi, senior general manager of Sunway City Kuala Lumpur Hotels.

He also hinted at two more premium restaurants opening by end-2022, which will provide more culinary experiences for corporate groups.

Comprising a theme park, three hotels, a convention centre, mall and Sunway Medical Centre, Castaldi is confident Sunway City holds an advantage as event organisers are more inclined to hold events in an all-inclusive destination post-pandemic.

Aside from offering 360,000m2 of event space, having Sunway Medical Centre, a world-class medical facility close by is all the more important.

Castaldi said: “It gives assurances to organisers, especially those holding large events. As the medical centre is also under our group, organisers can rest assured that delegates will be well taken care of.”

Sunway Hotels & Resorts is working out an insurance package to be built into the room rate or as a separate opt-in, which will cover hospital bills and quarantine fees for those who test positive for Covid-19 during their stay.

While the hotels in Sunway City Kuala Lumpur are currently welcoming small- and medium-sized bookings of up to 800 delegates, Castaldi is optimistic that larger events of more than 1,000 will materialise in 2H2022.

Over at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, general manager Alan Pryor shared that forward bookings for 1Q2022 are looking “positive”, and is 40 per cent of the venue’s overall target for the new year.

“We currently have about 60 events – primarily conventions and exhibitions – confirmed. As for meetings and corporate functions, they are still (planned on a) short-lead basis and will trickle in the new year onwards within the same event month.

“After having undergone a cycle of reopening and closures, organisers are treading the waters very carefully to avoid further cancellations and postponements.”

Elaborating on the centre’s strategies to drive more bookings, Pryor shared: “We are amplifying our customisation, where no two organisers would be advised with the same solution. Based on the event format and its requirements and after considering budgets and costs, we are tailoring every package to suit an organiser’s need.”

He pointed out that this new business model of “risk-sharing joint event partnerships” was developed during the pandemic, and has helped kickstart and stimulate the overall business events industry.

“We will continue with this strategy to bolster confidence in our stakeholders until we surpass the recovery phase and enter the growth period.”

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