It started life as a tin-mining settlement on the muddy estuary that gave today’s city its name in Malay. Today the metal associated with Kuala Lumpur is more likely to be gold than tin, as the oil-rich country continues to prosper.
Malaysia’s capital is a city of vibrant contrasts. Its mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures offers a unique experience and creative options for planners.
Evident throughout the city’s food, language and buildings, this cultural melting pot is the result of Kuala Lumpur’s roots in the industry some 160 years ago.
One product of the ethnic linguistic mix and colonial legacy is the high level of English-language literacy.
Many Malaysians speak flawless English, with a growing number adopting it as their first language, making Kuala Lumpur one of the easiest cities in Asia for inbound delegates to navigate.
Much of the city’s colonial and pre-colonial architecture has been preserved, rivalling the sights of nearby Singapore. Beyond its distinctly Asian feel, and vibrant districts such as Chinatown and Little India, it also presents a modern, sophisticated urban environment.
Kuala Lumpur’s modern infrastructure, first-class facilities and authentic cultural activities were commended by the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE), which held its five-day fifth annual SITE Executive Summit at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
The event was attended by more than 1,509 delegates in March, including most of the leading movers and shakers in the incentives industry worldwide.
“We experienced first hand that this is a destination that can deliver a high level of incentive quality service,” says SITE CEO Brenda Anderson.
“The commitment of the industry leaders in Malaysia to provide education for their local professionals with the desire to support integrated messaging to the world on their market strengths is commendable.”
The Kuala Lumpur City Centre, which is a “city within a city” complex, also known as the city’s “Golden Triangle”, offers a cityscape that competes head-to-head with the skylines of Hong Kong and Shanghai. Renowned for its iconic Petronas Twin Towers (world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004), the KL Tower and other world-class architectural feats, it is also home to the country’s largest meetings industry venue, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
The centre opened in 2005 and became the first convention centre in the northern hemisphere to achieve Green Globe benchmark status for environmental sustainability last year.
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has more than 20,000sqm of function space, its own water-world Aquaria, and has more than 11,000 hotel rooms within a 10-minute journey.
Last year, it organised 628 events, attended by more than 2.1 million people, contrasting with the city’s population of 1.7 million. Bookings this year already exceed 300 business event groups.
Peter Brokenshire, general manager, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre says: “The centre’s facilities are of the highest calibre. The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre has a well-designed and well-functioning layout. It offers abundant space and flexibility. The logistics for planning vary according to the scale of a particular event, which remains the basic formula. We have five-star fittings already designed with organisers’ needs in mind in a destination that is proving excellent value for money for this type of business.”
Other major venues such as the Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre, Putra World Trade Centre, Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre and the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre bolster Kuala Lumpur’s formidable position in the region.
With top-notch facilities at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia’s capital is also confidently emerging as a regional transport hub. The city is served by three rail systems, RapidKL RAIL, MTM Komuter and KL Monorail, with KL Sentral being the main rapid transport hub.
The city is great value too. Malaysia was recently found to be the second most price-competitive country in the world by the World Economic Forum. It was also ranked as the sixth most important country globally, in terms of travel and tourism expos.
Strong government commitment and an innovative local meetings industry is creating a strong service-focused infrastructure.
“The Kuala Lumpur events infrastructure has improved tremendously over the past couple of years,” says Serge Huber, managing director of destination management company Asian Trails (Malaysia).
“Kuala Lumpur has excellent facilities now. It has superb five-star hotels, a world-class airport and an impressive convention centre. Other top modern places, which can be used for incentives, include the F1 Track and KL tower.”
A diverse choice of other activities lie within easy reach of the bright lights of the city centre.
Natural wonders such as the Batu Caves and the millennia old forests of the Klang Valley are a popular draw for eco-themed incentives and are less than an hour’s drive from the city.
Outward bound and action adventures for groups are on offer too, with 4×4 off-road driving excursions that occupy anything from an afternoon to two days.
Plus, the tropical islands of Langkawi and Borneo are a short plane trip away, and make for good wind-down incentives or post-conference tours after a hectic meetings schedule in the city.
However, for Huber, despite its fast-developing infrastructure and facilities, the best thing about Kuala Lumpur is the city itself.
He says: “Kuala Lumpur has its own charm. It combines the super modern with the traditional Asian culture. My description of the place is: ‘Take the best of Bangkok and Singapore and you’re going to end up with Kuala Lumpur’.”
KL UNIQUE VENUES
Kuala Lumpur is home to numerous unique venues and attractions, ranging from colonial mansions and cultural shows to towering architectural constructions and theme parks.
The Sultan Abdul Samad building at Independence Square is heavily influenced by Moorish architecture and features a copper dome and a 40-metre high clock tower. It was built in 1897 and is named after the sultan of Selangor.
King’s House, now Carcosa Seri Negara, was constructed at the turn of the last century. The Victorian colonial mansion sits atop a hill in 16ha of manicured gardens, and is renowned for its high tea.
The 88-floor Petronas Twin Towers (www.petronastwintowers.com.my), designed by the Argentinean-American architect Cesar Pelli, stand at 452m, and were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004. The Skybridge joins the two towers at the 41st and 42nd floors, currently making it the world’s highest two-storey bridge.
The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (www.malaysianphilharmonic.com) is located in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre near to the towers. The 105-member orchestra performs more than 100 concerts per year. Comprising musicians from 22 countries, the ensemble plays a range of music from chamber music to jazz.
The Istana Budaya national theatre (www.istanabudaya.com.my) puts on traditional Malaysian cultural performances and is also home to the national symphony orchestra.
Aquaria (www.klaquaria.com) at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, is built around the concept of a journey from land to sea and has six main zones, featuring aquatic life from fresh and saltwater environments. Delegates can enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity to swim
Mines Resorts City (www.mines.com.my) was opened in 1997 after the world’s largest open cast tin mine, Hong Fatt mine, was transformed into a 526-hectare entertainment park. It features two hotels, a spa, golf course, lake with a man-made beach, the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre, shopping mall, business park and the Mines Wonderland theme park.
Sunway Lagoon Theme Park’s (www.sunwaylagoon.com) 324-plus hectare site features seven theme areas with more than 30 rides, as well as an interactive zoo, a convention centre and five hotels. It also has the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, a lake with a surf machine, plus the world-renowned London club Ministry of Sound opened the Euphoria nightclub there.
Kuala Lumpur has two airports, with most flights landing at the Kula Lumpur International Airport, 20km from the city. More than 45 international airlines service this facility.
Visa-on-arrival is available in for most western nationalities and Commonwealth citizens. Visas typically last for 30, 60 or 90 days and are available for tourists and business travellers. Passports must have a minimum six-month validity beyond the intended length of stay.
Kuala Lumpur has a tropical climate all year. Due to its near equatorial location, temperatures are fairly constant from 22°C to 33°C . It has plenty of rain, with the main southwest monsoon running from September to April. June and July are the driest months.
Malaysia is a liberal Islamic country, which respects freedom of religion. However, delegates should respect local culture in terms of modest dress and be aware that certain places may not serve alcohol.
Nestling in the shade of the Petronas Towers and featuring 643 guestrooms, suites and apartments, the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur offers event planners the room inventory and variety that makes organising medium- to large-scale events so much easier. Located in the heart of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre complex, shopping and dining options exist aplenty. Aside from its own meeting and function spaces, which can accommodate from 10 to 2,400 people, the Mandarin Oriental is a short stroll to the activity-filled Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
HILTON KUALA LUMPUR AND LE MERIDIEN KUALA LUMPUR
Located at the KL Sentral Station hub, these two hotels manage to maintain their own separate identities while marketing themselves jointly thanks to a single owner. Aside from offering a combined total of over 900 rooms and suites, the hotels offer a large choice of meeting and function rooms effectively under one roof. Another key advantage is the connection via the KLIA Express to the airport, allowing a swift and painless transfer process.
SHANGRI-LA KUALA LUMPUR
After a recent renovation, the Shangri-La’s 701 rooms and suites provide a substantial accommodation resource. For top incentive winners, your global CEO, VIP speaker or as a venue for cocktails, product launches and the like, you could consider the Royal Suite. This 240 square-metre luxury suite is accessible via its own lift and occupies the hotel’s top floor.
Centrally located in the city’s Golden Triangle, the 565-room JW Marriott is close to major business and shopping centres. Closer still is the Feast Village at Starhill Gallery. This is a network of 13 different restaurants offering around 1,000 seats. Event organisers can work in themed concepts to the dining experience, allowing their groups to mix and match cuisines in a setting of old-style alleyways and a “time-tunnel”.
Carcosa Seri Negara
Steeped in history, this 13-suite Victorian mansion-turned-boutique hotel was built in 1904 to house Malaysia’s highest-ranking British officials at the time. Situated on elegantly manicured lawn, the hotel is perfect for executive incentives and offers one of Kuala Lumpur’s best colonial dining experiences, with award-winning French cuisine at The Dining Room, and fine Malaysian cuisine on The Gulai House veranda.
Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa
With 441 rooms, this five-star resort is the flagship of the Sunway Kuala Lumpur’s largest single resort development and part of the larger Sunway Lagoon theme park. Its Meet-on-10 facility has 25 meeting rooms, measuring from 84 to192sqm, and is supported by The Circle executive refreshment area.
Hotel Imperial Kuala Lumpur
Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Imperial boasts 10 meeting rooms with full-length glass windows, including the impressive Nusantara Ballroom, with an overall floor space of 14,000sqm. The Imperial Club Lounge is open to privileged delegates and serves food and refreshments throughout the day. Cook-on-demand chefs are available during breakfast and cocktail hours, and an around-the-clock butler service delivers exclusive service for Club Level guests.
East West Executive Travellers
+603 2026 8652
Asian Trails (Malaysia)
+603 2272 3828
Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel
+603 4252 9100
Tour East Malaysia
+604 227 4522
Last March, the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE)hosted its fifth annual SITE Executive Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC).
Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines and KLCC sponsored the five-day, 150-delegate event, while Starwood officially hosted the stay.
“International incentive organisers are constantly looking for new emerging destinations offering different experiences. To keep up with the competition, Kuala Lumpur has to seize this opportunity and what better way to showcase Malaysia than to bring them here,” said Janet McNab, regional director of sales and marketing for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Southeast Asia.
“This affirms Kuala Lumpur as a superb incentive destination.”
Delegates were taken to Langkawi in the Andaman Sea, prior to the summit’s start in Kuala Lumpur. The Westin Langkawi Beach Resort and Spa and Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort hosted their two-night stay, and the itinerary included boat trips around the island and its surrounding areas, plus group adventures that presented team building and problem-solving opportunities.
On return to the capital, separate events and gala dinners were held at each individual Starwood property across the city – namely, The Hotel Imperial Kuala Lumpur, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur and The Westin Kuala Lumpur.
The grand finale for the incentive group was the extravagant indigenous banquet that was held at the Jungle Lodge Alang Sedayu in Ulu Gombak. The Jungle Lodge is a Malay-style house built in the rainforest of the lush green Klang Valley. Asian Overland Services managing director Anthony Wong, a pioneer in eco-tourism in Malaysia, founded it in 1991.
A nature trail and team activity centre by day, Jungle Lodge was transformed into a kampung – a traditional Malaysian village. Delegates were given traditional batik attire, a sumptuous Malaysian cuisine and a cultural show by the Asli tribespeople.
This was in keeping with the SITE summit’s sustainable tourism agenda and its emphasis on understanding indigenous people and local customs.
9am-12pm Shopping with a personal shopper
Kuala Lumpur is a well-known shopping destination and is home to some of Southeast Asia’s biggest shopping malls.
Guests will be greeted at the hotel lobby by a personal shopper. They will be chauffeur driven to shopping malls and assisted by the personal shopper in buying branded goods and local crafts such as batik textiles, wooden blowpipes and hand-carved figures.
12pm-2.30pm Bijan Restaurant
Specialises in fine Malay cuisine, modern in its surroundings with distinctive Asian accents. Bijan is warm, chic, intimate
1pm-2.30pm Kuala Lumpur Sky Tour
An exciting aerial tour of the city. From 1,000 feet, delegates will enjoy the excitement of Kuala Lumpur, making out impressive landmarks such as the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers along with their surrounding landscape.
Set in a bungalow in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Spa Indrani sprawls across one-acre of greenery and lush foliage. Holistic therapies are provided in seven treatments rooms and three outdoor pavilions, surrounded by tropical gardens.
7.45pm-10.30pm Tamarind Springs
Set amid a lush tropical jungle and golf course, Tamarind Springs blends fine dining and intimate settings, and serves dishes from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
9am-1pm City run-around tour
King’s Palace: Surrounded by a beautiful park, green lawns and ponds, the King’s Palace, Istana Negara, is the official residence of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.
Thean Hou Temple: This is a spectacular example of Chinese architecture, complete with a fountain of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The main shrine features the Thean Hou Goddess, the Goddess of the Sea on the third floor of this four-floor temple.
Precious Café: This antique and art gallery is guarded by two century-old stone lions from southern China, and displays collected works from Malaysian and Chinese artists and other Southeast
China Town: Petaling Street is the centre of Kuala Lumpur’s original Chinatown. It is closed to traffic and its bustling market is a bargain hunter’s paradise.
Batu Caves: A sacred Hindu site, consisting of three main caves and a number of smaller ones. The caves are made of limestone – 400m long and 100m high – and were discovered in 1892. Visitors must climb 272 steps to get to the caves.
Selancar 4×4 Extreme Adventure
Team-building exercises abound with this exciting off-road driving adventure. Muddy, exhausting and exhilarating.
A sumptuous BBQ is served to delegates sitting in 10-person high-topped tens. Diners sit on comfortable scatter cushions in traditional Malaysian style, while the food is served on elegant low-rise wooden tables. The decor is distinctly Malaysian with local fruits, orchids, Wayang Kulit figures, and tribal wood carved statues.