MALAYSIA government officials are coming under pressure from Asia Pacific business event leaders to allow exhibitions and conferences in the country to go ahead for vaccinated and Covid-tested participants.
Maceos, Malaysia’s association for business events has issued pleas over the past few months for changes in policy, but now Informa Markets in Malaysia, along with regional representatives of PCMA and ICCA are adding their weight to the campaign.
Extended lockdowns and a ban on organising business events are blamed for damaging Malaysia’s competitiveness in the business events industry and denying chances for companies across all sectors to recover from the negative impact of the pandemic.
“We haven’t been able to organise any exhibitions and trade shows for almost two years,” says Francis Teo, president of the Malaysia Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers.
“Yes, it’s hurting all the companies that are involved in organising these business events. The bigger repercussion is that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Malaysia have nowhere to go to market and sell their products and services.”
Informa Markets Malaysia, part of the world’s largest trade show organiser, is among the bodies now calling on government to follow other countries and reopen business events as a vital part of the economy.
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“We strongly support the cry for the opening of the business events industry in Malaysia. Business events are not mass gatherings but efficiently regulated business meetings essential to kick start economic recovery in the country,” said Gerard Willem Leeuwenburgh, general manager of Informa Markets Malaysia.
“People going to these events are vaccinated, identified, registered and have clear targets whom to meet. They want to conduct business. This can be done in a safe environment.”
Leeuwenburgh pointed to the United States, China, Germany and the UK where governments have allowed business event to be organised safely.
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“They’ve proven that trade exhibitions, organised in a professional manner, do not pose any risk to public health. More and more countries are opening the business events industry, also in the region, and Malaysia should not be left behind,” he said.
Informa has been unable to organise in-person events in Malaysia for the past two years and Leeuwenburgh said the impact has been severe on the many industries and companies it served, especially small to medium-sized enterprises.
“Our yearly trade exhibitions like Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) for the furniture industry, and Metaltech for the manufacturing and automation industry provide lifelines for our clients to sell their products and services. Biennial trade shows like Food & Hotel Malaysia (FHM) for the hospitality industry, Asia Water for water technology, and Oil & Gas Asia for the oil and gas industry do the same.”
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Informa Markets Malaysia organises 10 trade exhibitions a year in in the country, Maceos said, generating hundreds of million ringgits for the economy and providing direct and indirect jobs for thousands of people.
Florence Chua, managing director of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) in Asia Pacific, said: “It’s a challenging situation for Apac. We are behind the global curve in enabling business events to return. Europe, the US, and even Latin America are now all back in business.
“It is important to allow our industry to reopen, to operate and to gradually pick up the momentum to be competitive,” Chua said.
Malaysia is targeting a “living with Covid” model and 83 per cent of the adult population is reported to be fully vaccinated.
Much of the vaccinations have been encouraged by Malaysia’s MICE industry leaders.
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Ashwin Gunasekeran, Malaysia committee chair of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), said: “The Malaysian government should take the various contributions and safety measures of association meetings and business events into consideration and reopen this important sector, especially the domestic association meetings segment.”
He pointed out that association meetings were not social gatherings but professional congresses, conferences and conventions and forums where knowledge exchange on the latest trends, technology and findings of industries take place.
“Association meetings have the potential to contribute lasting legacies to the community and professional development of locals on top of being vital economic contributors,” Gunasekeran said.
Maceos points out that business events and association meetings take place in dedicated venues that adhere to strict SOPs on hygiene, physical distancing and health to ensure a regulated and safe environment for all delegates, crew and staff.
“These events are not open to the public and require pre-event and on-site registrations, where organisers are able to control the number of delegates and support contact tracing,” it said.
Maceos has written to the Malaysian prime minister saying venues had been used safely for mass vaccinations, showing that business events can also return to the facilities under similar controls.