With a sophisticated infrastructure geared towards the specific demands of the business events industry, Malaysia has positioned itself as a world leader in the field of international conventions, exhibitions and incentive activities.
Complementing the country’s meetings capabilities is a variety of sightseeing, cuisine, entertainment and touring options for pre- or post-travel needs.
Affordability and travel safety feature highly on a planner’s initial assessment list and Malaysia’s solid track record of stability places a tick besides those requirements.
Increasing flight schedules from international destinations and the growth of low-cost carriers have buoyed the business events focus in recent years. The contemporary model of the country’s business events facilities combined with an awareness of the specific needs of the industry is reflected in Tourism Malaysia’s overseas offices with their dedicated business events departments. Planners and PCOs around the world now have access to specific information on the various products and facilities the country boasts.
The Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has been established to market Malaysia as a business events destination, and to improve its effectiveness, is undergoing a structural review. The division’s mission is to develop a credible infrastructure for industry players within the business events sector and facilitate active communication with organisers looking at Malaysia for their events.
Malaysia’s infrastructure includes well-equipped facilities, accommodation and destinations to cater to all types of meeting requirements – the nucleus of which is the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre or simply known as The Centre.
The Centre dominates the Malaysian market in providing an extensive range of facilities that allow flexibility and professionalism in the execution of elaborate or simple events.
The 9th Hagemeyer Connections Conference & Trade Expo, organised by Melbourne-based Incentive House, was attended by 850 high achievers from Australia.
According to Incentive House’s Les Alford, this event was an exception to the rule and organising it presented certain challenges. Part conference, part trade expo and part incentive programme for employees, it had many faces which all required careful selection of destinations, venues and events. Not only were the employees and suppliers of Hagemeyer invited to the event, so too were their customers.
A Blank Canvas
Alford’s challenge was to confidently select a destination with pizzazz, professionalism and proven capability. It had to have significant accommodation options, a range of conference and exhibition facilities, adequate access from various carriers and most of all, as a destination, it had to have appeal to the delegates.
On first assessment, Kuala Lumpur ticked all the boxes.
The thing that sealed it for Alford was the response he received from his initial investigations. In a case of “delivery exceeding promise”, the joint performances of The Centre and Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur were flawless.
Much has been written about the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and for good reason. A dominant feature of the inner city of Kuala Lumpur and the centrepiece of business events activities in Malaysia, its central location and ready access to the vibrancy of Kuala Lumpur – along with its physical connections to quality accommodation such as Traders Hotel – makes it an ideal place to meet. As a purpose-built venue, the event capitalised on the flexibility of the various spaces in The Centre by hosting plenary sessions, lunches, a trade show, gala dinner and the all-important after-dinner party.
The conference’s opening ceremony and keynote sessions were held in the spacious Plenary Hall, with its two-tiered seating capacity of 3,000. Exhibition Hall 1 was converted into a tradeshow area, with booths set up on all four sides of the hall and the space in the middle alloted for daily buffet lunches. The flexibility and spacious surrounds gave Hagemeyer’s staff, suppliers and customers the opportunity to interact and share their knowledge on products and services in a fun and social atmosphere.
The adjoining Exhibition Hall 2 was transformed into a swinging party room – a nightclub called the “Volt”, where notable Australian acts were flown in to provide live entertainment.
Meanwhile, the Grand Ballroom was the venue for the gala dinner themed “Spy vs Spy”. Decorated in black-and-white, the event saw delegates dressed as their favourite superheroes such as Incredible Hulk, Superman, Power Rangers and Batman. The dinner featured culinary masterpieces by the Centre’s team.
Les Alford was glowing in his praise not only for the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre but for one of its neighbouring accommodation supplier – Traders Hotel.
Aside from the Traders, there is now the Impiana KLCC Hotel & Spa also standing adjacent to the Centre.
VAST HOTEL CHOICES
Other major events staged within the impressive confines of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in recent times include a “Hawker Night” in the ballroom for several hundred hungry Retravision delegates, the 550-delegate Harvey World Travel Conference that was held together with the 1,250-delegate Flight Centre Incentive, and various events hosted by leading pharmaceutical companies in the region.
According to Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre general manager, Peter Brokenshire, the centre’s capabilities are vast.
“The successful execution of these events is evidence that the expansiveness and flexibility of our spaces work well for events of any size and client requirements,” he says.
But a destination’s capability to host successful business events is not just the responsibility of a convention centre, no matter how well it performs. Accommodation in the vicinity is a major consideration for planners.
Located just a short distance from the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Jalan Ampang is Hotel Nikko Kuala Lumpur. Its location has positioned the hotel as a favourite for conventions delegates. Smack in the middle of the shopping and entertainment precinct, staying at the property provides the perfect balance between plenary and pleasure. When the day’s work is done, the delights of KL await in the food courts and unlimited shopping options – or for the less inclined to part with their ringgits, there’s always the mesmerising Petronas Towers to stare at from the hotel.
The five-star hotel has its own conferencing facilities and 473 rooms and suites – all sumptuously decorated and generous in proportions. Also close by is the Crowne Plaza Kuala Lumpur, which again has substantial meeting facilities in its own right.
One of the many reasons for choosing Kuala Lumpur is its highly competitive hotel rates and range of quality in the four- and five-star sector. Hilton and Le Méridien at Kuala Lumpur Sentral offer a convenient cluster of rooms and venues as well as the added bonus of being located by the Kuala Lumpur Sentral station, which connects to Kuala Lumpur International Airport by the Kuala Lumpur Ekspres rail link.
Most of the top names in Asian hospitality have a presence in Kuala Lumpur or at Putrajaya, the new administrative centre, such as Shangri-La, JW Marriott, Westin, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton and Renaissance to name the most well established.
But the cosmopolitan nature of Kuala Lumpur is only one aspect to Malaysia’s appeal for business events.
Spa retreats in Penang
Groups out for leisure on an incentive trip will enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere in Penang, which has maintained its position as the premier Malaysian destination outside of Kuala Lumpur.
Right now, the island is in the midst of a spa-building frenzy.
The rise in popularity of spa treatments has caused most major hotels, especially resorts, to present a reasonable spa offer to their guests. Professionally operated and well marketed, they can generate more income for a property than their core business of accommodation and F&B.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa in Batu Ferringgi has recently injected more investment into its CHI Spa.
A bold step, but one that reflects the Rasa Sayang’s appreciation of the revenue generated from a plush spa, was to demolish over 100 rooms to make way for the pleasure palace, which covers a large footprint of precious garden space.
The CHI Spa is indeed one of the most elaborate, luxurious and indulgent experiences to be found in Penang – arguably, Malaysia. In individual bungalows, decorated and furnished exquisitely, a range of spa treatments is delivered to pampered guests daily.
A recent all-female incentive group of 30 picked the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang based on its ability to deliver a range of requested pamper packages. The group from a leading cosmetics company enjoyed three days of indulgence with the sound track of rolling waves adding to their bliss.
Penang and particularly Batu Feringgi provides a well-balanced variety of activities and accommodation for groups and caters to all budgets.
For the ultimate in historical colonial charm, the recently restored Eastern and Orient Hotel in the heart of Penang proudly offers the finest traditions of luxury and service. If Singapore has its Raffles, Penang has its E&O Hotel.
The E&O’s modern facilities within its enchanting ambience enable guests to pursue their business interests as well as network, socialise or simply relax. Personalised and attentive service is one of the hallmarks of the E&O.
With various suites within the magnificent structure of the building bearing the names of famous guests and residents who have stayed over the past 150 years, the hotel offers a unique accommodation experience. Elegance, history and a sense of grandeur ooze from every square metre of the hotel.
Millions of dollars have been invested in the faithful restoration of the gleaming white property to restore its place in Malaysia’s high-end accommodation market. In its service offer, the E&O Hotel is a contemporary operation but great care has been taken to preserve and celebrate its colourful past.
Incentive delegates lap up the luxury as the hotel boasts a genuine themed ambience. Many events have been held In this place where colonial spirits abound.
In finding a destination that will provide all the necessary components of a programme in a varied and colourful palette while addressing security and access issues, Malaysia answers many of the challenges facing event planners.
BRINGING IN THE BUSINESS
Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) aims to be a one-stop shop, coordinating business events activities in the country. MyCEB is an advisory council made up of experienced individuals and leaders from the private and government sectors.
An initial budget of RM5 million (US$1.4million) has been allocated to MyCEB for its work. Based on Tourism Malaysia statistics, a total of 1,013,104 visitors came to Malaysia for business events in 2007. It was an improvement of more than 23 percent on 2006, which recorded some 820,243 visitors. Business events accounted for 5 percent of the total 20.7 million tourist arrivals to Malaysia.
These conference delegates collectively contributed a total of RM3.17 billion (US$900 million) in revenue to the country’s coffers in 2007, about 6.9 percent of the tourist receipts. The average per capita expenditure of a MICE tourist was RM3,133 (US$895) compared to an average per capita spending of RM2,196 (US$627) by a leisure tourist.
Kuala Lumpur has two airports, with most flights landing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which is 20km from the city. More than 45 international airlines service KLIA.
The city has warm weather all year. Temperatures are fairly constant from 22 to 33 degrees centigrade. It has plenty of rain, with the main southwest monsoon running from September to April. June and July are the driest months.
Visa-on-arrival is available 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 be valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay.