WINNING the bid to host the 55th ICCA Congress in Kuching, Sarawak, was a joint effort between several parties collectively known as Team Malaysia.
Team Malaysia comprises Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK), Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, UCSI Communications, and AOS Conventions & Events.
At BCCK, retrofitting work carried out in 2016 to ensure the centre offered ICCA delegates the best experience and that it would continue to do so for other visitors.
We are now considering several options to expand the centre’s core business offerings, including increasing the 36,500 sqm floor space and even taking meetings and events on to the River Sarawak – by adding a catamaran.
This could make us the only convention centre (or at least one of the very few) that operates cruise-style business events aboard a catamaran.
Business meets adventure
The ICCA Congress Local Host Committee, of which I am a co-chair, wanted to make this congress a world-class experience that our peers from around the world would concur as one of the best. And the Sarawak experience and the renowned charm of Borneo, its history, its colourful and diverse cultures and the state’s ethnic groups are part and parcel of the experience.
We offer the world the mystique of Borneo combined with international-standard amenities in one package. Sarawak is where business meets adventure, as well as pleasure and a truly extraordinary experience.
Sarawak has all the elements – plus more – to ensure a unique business event experience with a mixture of old-world charms and modern amenities: from new and ungraded road networks to modern hotels, amazing scenery, a world-class convention centre, and a fascinating cultural heritage.
Visitors to the state can call on the Sarawak Cultural Village, known as the “living museum”, where the various ethnic groups showcase their indigenous activities in their traditional houses, alongside cultural performances.
The diversity of these different cultures is truly exceptional and yet everyone lives in harmony. I can still recall my first experience of the state’s culture and traditions, which have remained intact through hundreds of years. It was at the annual Gawai Dayak festival, a religious and social occasion celebrated by the Dayak people of Sarawak.
The different tribal costumes, food, festiveness and the most heartwarming hospitality during the Gawai celebration amazed me. It’s even more special if you are in a longhouse and among all these people who welcome guests from all walks of life without the slightest hesitation.
Another unforgettable cultural experience is Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. When I first experienced it in 2014, I was astounded by the magnitude of fireworks heralding the arrival of the new lunar spring.
Amid all this, BCCK is the only convention centre in Borneo and only a few years old. This was one of the main attractions for me taking on the responsibilities as the centre’s chief executive officer. After working in three different continents, building the reputation of BCCK has proven to be a fulfilling task.
And the centre has not gone unrecognised. BCCK honours include:
- Conference Venue of the Year at the 2016 – MICE Asia Pacific Awards in Singapore on 21 September;
- In 2015, BCCK received the Business Events Award for Excellence in the Purpose-Built Convention & Exhibition Centre category (below 15,000 sqm gross saleable space) at the Malaysia rAWr (Recognising Award Winning Results) Awards;
- Also in 2015 and 2016, luxury lifestyle magazine Malaysia Tatler ranked the centre’s in-house restaurant The Raintree Restaurant as one of the best in the country.
These accomplishments are a morale boost to the BCCK team as we focus on building BCCK and The Raintree Restaurant brands. I am immensely proud of my team who have worked incredibly hard to showcase BCCK as a convention centre that can stand alongside all the top centres.
Eric van Piggelen is the CEO of Borneo Convention Centre Kuching