Take 5: Malaysia marvels

Kuala Lumpur
As the capital of Malaysia, KL is also the most happening city from a business and leisure standpoint, with a diverse population and an excellent metro system that makes it easy to get about.  

What’s it like? KL’s premier conference facility – Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre – stands right in the middle of the city beneath the 452-metre Petronas Twin Towers. There are alternative MICE venues in the city, but this contains everything under a single roof, with plenty of shopping, dining, entertainment and accommodation options.

Atmosphere It’s a tremendous combination of big city splendours and small town vibe. Traditional market areas face off with the glittering malls; a handful of restaurants flaunt Michelin stars, others are just content to pack tables with enthusiastic diners; and there’s every form of entertainment from racing (Grand Prix or horse) to plunging into the heady delights of Chinatown. Delegates will love the luxury hotel offerings and the city’s nightlife.

The island’s business event credentials just keep getting better as the success of Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau shows. There is also the combination of beach, city and heritage with the capital George Town. 

What’s it like? Penang picks up extra points for Setia Spice, the world’s first hybrid solar-powered convention centre. By way of contrast, groups will be just as impressed with the Unesco World Heritage site of George Town where local DMCs use local landmarks in teambuilding activities. Add in the sun, sand and sea element, and the result is somewhere that’s pretty much tailor-made for groups of all types and sizes.

Atmosphere There are few better ways to get any sort of event in Penang rolling than with a group cycle rickshaw tour, spinning round the major sights of George Town. The island’s cuisine – Indian, Chinese, Peranakan, Malay – lends itself both to sit-down meals and hawker food style cocktail parties. Of course, being an island makes a sunset cruise nigh obligatory.


Built from the ground up to accommodate Malaysia’s civil service in 1999 when Kuala Lumpur got too crowded, “PJ” may lack historical reference points and be a tad short on charm, but it’s the obvious choice for mega MICE.

What’s it like? Like Langkawi, PJ’s international conference centre was an initiative dreamed up by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, and nothing was left to chance in its planning. The centre’s largest hall can seat 3,000 with ease, while there are plenty of smaller venues as well as an on-site restaurant. 

Atmosphere It would be unfair to label Putrajaya as dull. What you see is what you get: a venue for big gatherings, with all the supporting facilities in the form of the showpiece Putrajaya International Convention Centre. Le Méridien is one of the newest opening and has access – through one of the Malaysia’s largest shopping and dining malls – to District 21, a thrilling indoor adventure park that can be hired for groups. 


Off the northwest coast, this is something of a manicured destination – conceived and constructed on government orders in the 1980s – though that can be regarded as a plus rather than a minus. An archipelago rather than a single island, Langkawi serves up a neat mix of rustic attractions and sophisticated accommodation. Nobody has yet complained about the duty-free shopping.

What’s it like? This is no desert island – the international convention centre – linked to the Westin Langkawi – is thoroughly up to date, likewise shopping and hotels, and this gem of a MICE destination is easily accessed by air or by a 90-minute ferry ride from Kuala Kedah.

Atmosphere For meetings and incentives, Langkawi has numerous advantages, not least of which is the sense of getting away from it all, allowing delegates to concentrate on the task in hand without the distractions found in metropolitan areas.
Eco-conscious meetings and CSR, along with excursions such as cruises, are the most obvious ways to de-stress, though the jungle canopy expedition is one of the most exhilarating in Asia.


“Don’t ignore Johor” might just work as an advertising slogan for Malaysia’s southernmost state, which may not be able to boast a marching band of MICE whistles and bells just yet, but still manages to punch above its weight. It may prove a highly cost-effective alternative to other destinations.

What’s it like? Persada Johor International Convention Centre does a fine good job for small- and medium-sized events. Incentive planners can hardly fail to notice the proximity of Legoland (an automatic choice for teambuilding) and Pinewood Studios, which can be persuaded to cooperate with training sessions. Numerous hotels, including the Berjaya Waterfront, are dab hands at hosting business events too.

Atmosphere Comparisons are odious, as the old saying goes, and Johor is well used to being placed as runner-up to Singapore. That said, the Lion City’s airport comes in handy, and Johor is both earthy and lively.

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