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FEATUREMalaysia still conjures imagery ofremote humid jungles, wild andunknown creatures and theharmonious melting pot of Malay, Indianand Chinese cultures together with 47 otherethnic groups. It is, however, a newly industrialisedcountry and also one of South East Asia'sleading education and healthcare providers.In 2009, it claimed a GDP per capita (PPP)of US$13,769. This ranked the country 59thin the world, and second in Southeast Asia,after Singapore, by the InternationalMonetary Fund. Its capital Kuala Lumpur (KL) jumped fivespots in 2009 to 22nd position in the latestInternational Congress and ConventionAssociation (ICCA) city rankings with 72international association meetings held.These latest figures place the capital amongthe top five meeting destinations in the AsiaPacific after Singapore, Beijing, Seoul andBangkok. In the country rankings, Malaysia shiftedup one spot from 32nd in 2008 to 31st with92 meetings. It also stepped up one place inthe Asia Pacific and Middle East rankingsbehind countries such as Japan, thePeople's Republic of China andneighbouring Thailand and Singapore. CEO of the Malaysia Convention andExhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Mr Zulkefli HjSharif, says this is testimony to the growingpopularity of the country as an internationalmeetings destination and recognition ofMalaysia's unique selling points byassociations and meetings planners globally.He argues the improved rankings are aresult of a stronger collaboration betweenMyCEB, which was create in 2009 to targetbusiness events promotion for the country,and the local meetings industry. "There hasbeen growing interest from the governmentto further strengthen Malaysia as thepreferred meetings destination. "Therefore, MyCEB was established andhas recently moved to a new office in KL'scentral business district and staff will beincreased from five to 24 by mid-September2010," he adds. Group MD of professional conferenceorganiser (PCO) Asian Overland andsecretary-treasurer of Pacific Asia TravelAssociation (PATA), Anthony Wong, saysMalaysia is beginning to emerge as animportant destination for meetings as thegovernment is now putting in more effort topromote the meetings industry. The GM of Kuala Lumpur ConventionCentre (KLCC), Datuk Peter Brokenshire,says there has been a more cohesiveapproach between tourism authorities andconvention centres in the marketing ofMalaysia as a meetings destination, which isnow starting to see dividends. "The addition of new infrastructure andthe upgrading and refurbishment of hotelsaround the country has also helped us togrow the business in Malaysia," Zulkefli HjSharif adds. In 2009, Malaysia welcomed over 1.8minternational business visitors (six per cent oftotal visitors), contributing an estimatedRM10bn (US$3.1bn) in visitor spend to thelocal economy. Last year, MyCEB supported15 convention bids, representing 16,150delegates and RM147m in delegate spend.Zulkefli Hj Sharif says the bureau alsoassisted in 130 meetings, conventions andexhibitions, and 40 corporate incentiveMalaysia's meltingpot of meetingsRejoicing at its step up in the 2009 ICCA rankings, the country's Team Malaysia is helping to securelarge numbers of business events. With the sudden need for space to keep up with demand, Malaysia islooking to break new ground, literally and figuratively. Sarah O'Donnellreports. September 2010 Conference+Meetings World 9New developments due by 2014Construction of pedestrian linkages andcovered walkways around KL will join thePavilion KL (shopping centre), BerjayaHotel and Convention Centre and theKuala Lumpur Convention Centre(March 2011)The proposed RM628m (US$120m)MATRADE Centre is due for completionby 2014. Taking the shape of a rubberseed, the new convention and exhibitioncentre will have 93,000sqm of meetingspace. International Trade and IndustryMinister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed saysMalaysia currently lags behindneighbouring countries in developing itsmeeting industry. "We have beenpromoting MICE in the past but we wereconstrained from going for large-scaleconferences of 5,000 to 10,000participants due to space limitation." There will be a total of 1,615 new hotelrooms in Malaysia including a six star StRegis with 200 rooms and 3,000sqm ofmeeting space in KL.The Borneo Convention Centre Kuchingopened in 2009 and the Shah AlamConvention Centre opened its doors inApril 2010. groups. Since January 2010, MyCEB has initiateda series of seminars to educate the localmeetings industry on how to improve theirunderstanding of associations' requirementsand "to enhance their industry knowledgeand expertise to cater to the growing????