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 www.c-mw.net 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????
FEATURE"International organisers may have toobserve local protocol where localdignitaries are involved," he adds. "Wherefood and beverage is concerned, pork andbeef are to be avoided for Muslim andHindu sensitivities while alcoholic drinks areoften not served during local officialfunctions."MAS' Francis says: "Outside theboardroom, teams can bond in uniquelyMalaysian activities and visit attractions sucha tropical rainforests, beaches and thehighlands."In East Malaysia, the states of Sarawakand Sabah on the island of Borneo, whichare the first and second largest states inMalaysia respectively, have improved theirmeetings offering in the hope to attract thelucrative convention market to the island. Known for its tropical landscape andbeaches, both have historically attractedhigh-end corporate incentive groups.Business visitors account for around 20 percent of Sabah's visitors and the state madeRM86.5m in meetings revenue in 2009.The chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board,Tengku Zain Adlin, notes that Sabahreceives the biggest share of business eventsfrom places such as Singapore and HongKong for small-scale businesses locatedaround the state. "Sabah is looking to attract more incentivegroups in the near future from countriessuch as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China,which have shown their interest in theregion," says Tengku Zain Adlin. "At themoment, we do not have sufficient facility toaccommodate large-scale conventions andexhibitions." Under the Sabah Development Corridor(2008-2025) government initiative, Sabah'sblueprint for a sustainable large-scaleconvention centre is planned for 2012. It willoffer three levels of meeting facilities with 26meeting rooms and VIP suites and a6,000sqm column-free convention hall. On the other side of Borneo, Sarawak isrunning full steam with the addition of theBorneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK),which opened in June 2009. The RM200mmeetings market," says Zulkefli Hj Sharif.Topics included 'Selling to Associations','How to Work a Tradeshow' and 'IndustryTrends'. "There is a strong core group of industryplayers who are committed to andunderstand the needs of the meetingsindustry," adds Sharif. "However, thesenumbers need to grow in order to ensureMalaysia's competitiveness in the globalarea."MyCEB aims to engage actively with localindustry players through its Industry PartnerProgramme, which is due to be launched bythe end of the year. Asian Overland's Wong says: "The localassociations that are hosting internationalconferences are slowly coming to accept theservices of local PCOs. Many think theirexperience of organising nationalconferences is sufficient enough to deal withthe expectations of international delegatesand speakers."But the number of local PCOs is limitedto a handful of players, competent enoughto provide professional services," he adds. As for the thousands of delegates reachingMalaysia, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) seniorGM for sales and marketing, BernardFrancis, says it can cause a headache fororganisers. However, "MAS can supportorganisers by discounting air fares, offeringexcess baggage and in some instances,provide sponsorship of air tickets".Francis adds that the airline also providessupport at the bidding stage for bringingevents into Malaysia.Over 50 airlines, including low cost carrierssuch as Air Asia X, provide access to over100 destinations worldwide. According tothe United Nations World TravelOrganisation, Malaysia is the ninth MostTravelled Destination in the World for 2009. Culture shockAsian Overland's Wong says Malaysia it iseasy to run a conference or incentive inMalaysia: "Generally, there is no need foradaptation as English is the internationallanguage of communication," he says. 10September 2010 Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.netBCCK is the first purpose-built conventioncentre in Borneo and its great hall offers2,793smq of meeting space together with14 additional meeting rooms. In August 2010, MAS announced thatKota Kinabalu in Sabah would be its easternhub, promoting it as a gateway to China,Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia. The hubwill be developed over three stages fromNovember 2010 to June 2011. MAS MDand CEO, Tengku Azmil Zahruddin, says:"We have seen an increase in demand fromthese countries into Sabah and Sarawak,which are ideal destinations for tourism andbusiness."In 2009, the Sarawak Convention Bureau(SCB) won 39 business events bids and saysits strike rate was 72 per cent, up from 68per cent in 2008. These wins, which includethe Diabetes Asia 2010 Conference,attracted 17,640 delegates to the regiongenerating RM39.45m for the localeconomy. "To date this year we have secured 27new national and international conferencesfor Sarawak," says the CEO of SCB, JillHenry. "We are currently running at 80 percent success rate, but our volume is stillsmall compared to Peninsular Malaysia." "Traditionally, the convention bureauderives the majority of its business from thenational market. In Sarawak's case, thistrend is reversed with 87 per cent of thebusiness secured coming from theinternational market," she adds. Henry says that Malaysia as a wholehopes to double its business traveller arrivalsin the next five years. "The hardest marketfor us to penetrate at the moment is thenational market with decision makers in KLstill reluctant to move their nationalmeetings to East Malaysia."Malaysia's national convention bureau ispicking up pace but is still yet to show anestablished track record. As its offering improves with industrysupport, and expands, Malaysia's presenceas an international business eventsdestination, and not just its tropical meltingpot of cultures, is sure to progress. In 2009, Malaysia welcomed over 1.8m international business visitors, contributing an estimated RM10bn