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The recently established Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) seeks to build Brand Malaysia and to propel the country into the top ranks of the world’s MICE destinations. Meeting Planner talks to MyCEB’s Managing Director Zulkefli Haji Sharif for his industry insights.
The Formation of MyCEB
On 8th December 2008, Malaysia’s then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (now Prime Minister) made an important announcement that would change the local MICE industry forever. The announcement was anxiously awaited but warmly welcomed by all parties involved in conventions and exhibitions. It was about the establishment of MyCEB, Malaysia’s very own dedicated bureau for MICE.
The Bureau’s Managing Director Zulkefli Haji Sharif says, “MyCEB is a one-stop centre to promote Malaysia as a destination and venue of choice to the world’s meetings and exhibitions community and in turn, create economic impact for the city and country.”
Performance and Progress
According to the 2008 Statistics Report – International Association Meetings Market (Country and City rankings) by ICCA (International Convention and Conference Association), Malaysia, as a country destination, ranked 32nd with 81 qualifying meetings while Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, was ranked 27th with 61 meetings under the city category.
To progress further, MyCEB aims to strengthen the relationship and networking between local industry players and international association and corporate meeting planners; and incentive travel organizers, so that potential buyers will consider Malaysia as the destination for their next conference. Zulkefli adds, “In addition, MyCEB will continue to spearhead initiatives to attract more association meetings and events to Malaysia by working in close synergy with key players. Part of these initiatives entails strengthening the relationship between industry players and local associations, continuing to work with partners to provide bid support and incentives and the joint-hosting of events which will benefit the industry and further develop Malaysia as the destination of choice for regional and international business tourism activities.”
The Many Roles of MyCEB
• Provision of subvention assistance
• Research on international and regional conference leads
• Organising direct sales activities to attract incentives and corporate meetings and target business opportunities identified by the stakeholders e.g. government departments, state/local authority and industry players
• Obtaining bid support letters from relevant ministries or partners
• Preparing bid proposals
• Providing information on tourism/pre-post conferences
• Event promotion
• Delegate boosting promotions
A Value for Money Proposition
Malaysia is a cost-effective destination for international organisers, ranking among one of the most value for money destinations in the world. The country offers excellent value for international organisers due to the lower cost of conducting business here, making the country a cost-effective location. At approximately USD140 per night for a 5-star hotel room in the Kuala Lumpur city centre, the rate is at least 40% lower than those in neighbouring capital cities. This makes Malaysia a value-for-money destination, which is a compelling reason for people to hold their events here.
The World Economic Forum ranked Malaysia as the 4th most price competitive country in the world for travel and tourism in 2009, for offering excellent price competitiveness with its comparatively low hotel and fuel prices, low ticket taxes and airport charges, plus a favourable tax regime. In addition, Kuala Lumpur was rated the most price competitive city by Swiss banking giant UBS in 2008. The country also scored high marks for having the cheapest Big Mac among 34 countries surveyed under the latest Big Mac Index by The Economist.
By leveraging on what Malaysia has to offer and its value for money proposition, the country is in the enviable position to attract more international and regional meetings and events to the country.
Why is MICE Important to Malaysia?
If you look at the statistics, MICE visitors tend to have a higher disposable income and spend more. The average expenditure of a MICE delegate is RM3,133, while a leisure visitor only spends about RM2,100. One of the reasons for the higher spending among MICE delegates is that for many of them, their airfare and accommodation is paid for by their companies and hence, they have more to spend while they’re here. That is why many countries are promoting aggressively on business tourism or business events as it would generate significant tourism revenues to the country.
To date, one of the biggest conferences held in Kuala Lumpur was the XVIII FIGO World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 2006, which attracted 8,294 delegates. Zulkefli quotes this event as an example to highlight the spill-over benefits of hosting a conference in Malaysia. He elaborates, “Firstly, the delegates spent their money in Malaysia. Secondly, there was the exchange of ideas and business deals between the buyers and suppliers of medical products. Thirdly, the O&G doctors in Malaysia who did not have the opportunity to attend the conference abroad were able to learn about new discoveries, new products, new technologies and new equipment. At the same time, the students also had valuable exposure and firsthand information on the development in O&G. So, the spill-over effect of an event isn’t just within tourism, but a lot more. Revenues generated through tourism receipts is more than three times the expense but the business generated and the knowledge that we can gain from an event is substantial and impossible to quantify.”
The Bidding Process and Beyond
For conferences, it may take three to four years or even longer from the time of bidding to the actual event. Usually, the associations and professional bodies will know when the next industry event will be held and if they feel that Malaysia is in a good position to play host, then they can approach MyCEB for assistance in putting the bid document together.
“The bid document must be very impressive as it gives the first impression. This includes using high quality materials and sometimes, a CD is also included. There are some standard contents that must be present, but generally you must have a letter of support from, if possible, the Prime Minister. You must also have the letter of support from relevant Ministries, Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, the airline, Association of Hotels, Association of Tour Operators, etc. If the event will be held in Kuala Lumpur, we also obtain a letter from the city’s mayor. All these are included as the support in the front section of the bid document. Then, we also include all the items as required in the Request for Proposals (RFPs) issued by the event’s licensee. This is where our smart partnership with suppliers comes in handy,” explains Zulkefli.
The bidding is usually performed collectively as Team Malaysia, comprising MyCEB, Tourism Malaysia, the airline, MICE operators, the convention centres and other relevant parties. Regular members of Team Malaysia include Malaysia Airlines, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), the selected PCOs and DMCs. The many advantages derived from the Team Malaysia partnership include collective strength in numbers, shared resources, transfer of knowledge and industry developments, manpower and much more that, in the medium to long-run, will increase the country’s profile in the global marketplace as an attractive destination which delivers quality products and services.
MyCEB plays an important role in Team Malaysia as the Bureau will coordinate, facilitate and take the lead. The real work begins when the team is informed that they’ve won the bid, typically a few years before the actual date of the event. The team will start immediately to promote the event to boost attendance right until the event date to ensure that they attract more delegates or at least at par with the number registered at the previous host country. It is MyCEB’s responsibility to take into account every single detail for every single moment of the event and to deliver everything that has been promised during the bidding process.
MyCEB and its partners provide useful information on Malaysia to delegates even before their arrival, so that they can plan ahead and decide what to do when they’re here. “We also offer pre and post-tours for delegates at very special rates, to entice not only the delegates but also their spouses to extend their stay and enjoy the ambience and experience our hospitality at various destinations in Malaysia. All these enticing packages at special rates are made possible with strong partnerships with our MICE tour operators and service suppliers, as they bring good tourism revenues for the country,” he says.
Countering the Effects of Recession
MyCEB has recently announced its Subvention Package to encourage conference and exhibition organisers to choose Malaysia as the destination of choice for their business tourism activities. The Subvention Package has a bulk quantity requirement, offering a RM100,000 financial subsidy to planners that bring in a minimum of 300 delegates. The funds can be used for delegate boosting purposes, event enhancements and promotional activities. In addition to the Subvention Package, MyCEB will also be introducing a Partnership Programme where selected industry players across the board will be invited to become members of the programme.
Going the extra mile for meeting planners, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre is offering the Conventions Value-Add Programme, worth an estimated RM60,000 for all international meetings held at the centre. In addition to hosting site inspections, the enhanced deal for conventions comprises the Cultural Showcase of six Malaysian arts and crafts, pre-function meetings, plus a cocktail reception or press conference hosted by the centre.
MYCEB also works closely with the Sarawak Convention Bureau, to assist and support their efforts and commitment in developing the state convention and meetings industry. A five-year RM 17 million convention bid fund has been allocated. This fund is in the form of cash and in kind support to assist in securing more conventions for Sarawak.
Immediate and Future Plans
MyCEB’s immediate plan is to continue working closely with the local MICE service providers by providing the platform to strengthen their business relationships and networking with international association and corporate meeting planners; and incentive travel organisers in order to entice and facilitate the potential buyers to stage their next conference or incentive trip in Malaysia. The MICE Advisory Council, comprising a group of experienced industry leaders, will be formed in 2009 to establish the marketing direction for MyCEB and to seek the key players’ feedback on various issues and opportunities pertaining to the industry. This serves as an excellent opportunity for MyCEB to further develop its relationship with venue providers and key players.
Zulkefli shares, “Most importantly, I would like to get the Malaysian MICE suppliers together to aggressively market our products and to make Malaysia the preferred MICE destination. So, we are continuously participating in international trade shows and organising road shows abroad together with strong MICE suppliers to enable them to meet foreign buyers and thus offer their products and services. One such recent trip was to IMEX in Frankfurt and prior to that another trip to GIBTM in Abu Dhabi.”
MyCEB will also be organising the 7th edition of their branding event called Global Meet Malaysia this year, where they’ll be bringing in some 150 international buyers to meet up with local MICE suppliers. The event features a Travel Mart, which is a platform where buyers meet sellers through pre-scheduled appointments, as well as testimonial speakers who are invited from abroad to relate their success stories. After the Travel Mart, the guests, as well as members of the media will be feted to a post-event tour of numerous popular destinations in Malaysia. From this tour, the buyers will get a first hand experience of the attractions and therefore would be in a better position to convince their clients to hold their events in Malaysia.
Advice to Local Organisers and Promoters
Zulkefli urges organisers and promoters to compete by prioritising their service offerings delivery and variety. “By this, we mean to devise flexible packages that can be customised to an individual client’s needs, yet to be competitive and value-added to fully capitalise on the resources Malaysia has to offer,” he advises.
MyCEB strongly encourages local organisers and promoters to engage with them and in turn, gain access to their resources such as capital, expertise and network. The Bureau offers many incentives and assistance options which can be explored to launch the industry players onto the global arena. With such strong backing, local MICE suppliers simply can’t go wrong by approaching and opting for the assistance of MyCEB.
For more information, contact:
Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB)
18th Floor, Menara Dato’ Onn
Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC)
45, Jalan Tun Ismail
50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-2615 8188
Fax: +603-2693 0207