Tuesday, August 4

Promoting Sarawak as an international meeting destination


KUCHING:  Sarawak, also known as ‘land of the Hornbills’, and popular for its natural splendor and colourful history, is now being promoted as a Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) venue.

Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) has, through strategic planning, arranged for 18 international events to be held in Sarawak between 2011 and 2016, attracting at least 600 participants per event.

These events include the ASEAN Australian Engineering Congress (AAEC) event (25-27 July, and the Global Conference 2011 (30 Nov-3 Dec).

Some of the preferred venues for the MICE programme are the five-starred Pullman Hotel; Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching (BCCK); Damai Beach Resort; Sarawak River Cruise; and Four Point by Sheraton, Kuching.


More events planned for 2012

A total of nine MICE events have been lined up for 2012, including the 50th MD 308 Lions Convention 2012. This will be held at the Pullman Hotel from 19-22 April, and will bring 2,000 participants.

Others events include the CDA/MDA 69th AGM Malaysia Dental Association Conference and Trade Exhibition 2012. This will be held between 30 May and 1 June at BCCK, and will attract 3,200 participants. Additionally, the 9th World Congress of Chinese Medicine 2012 (WCCM) will be held during 20-23 Oct, attracting 1,000 participants.

SCB’s chairman Datuk Seri, Dr Muhamad Leo Michael Toyad Abdullah, said Sarawak is not in competition with Kuala Lumpur and other cities as a destination for MICE, since it has its own unique attractions.

“When they are looking for a new perspective, they can consider the Sarawak River Cruise, as it is unique. They can watch the beauty of the sunset while cruising,” he said.

“This is about what is different in Kuching and not available elsewhere.

It’s our focus. We can provide both river-cruise packages and rainforests, depending on what they are looking for,” he said.


Growing as a mice destination

Explaining the purpose of SCB, Dr Muhamad Leo said that the non-profit organization, established in 2006 by the state government, has a mandate to promote the state as a leading MICE destination.

Chief executive of SCB, Jill Henry, added that an estimated RM57 million will be spent by the attendees of business meetings here, between 2011 and 2016, based on the number of confirmed international association meetings.

A driving force in MICE-industry development in Sarawak, SCB does not, however, intend to stop at this figure. It is aiming for a larger slice of the global industry, worth RM11 billion.

Malaysia currently has a 1.1 per cent share of this pie.

As the first agency created exclusively to promote the MICE industry in the state, SCB is confident the state has what it takes to achieve this objective.


The road ahead

The SCB recently confirmed it would host two association meetings in Kuching, namely, the 1st Regional Conference on Solar and Hybrid Energy, and the World Clown Association Annual Convention 2013. It has bid for another 45 events.

Henry said the conventions would promote Sarawak as a competitive new MICE destination.

Chief executive officer of Borneo Isthmus Developments Sdn Bhd, and the owner of BCCK, Paul D’Arcy, said BCCK brings together world-class facilities such as a spacious design, flexible and elegant conference halls, a professional and experienced management team, and 5 star services, creating a unique event experience.

He said BCCK has a rainforest-themed architecture. When viewed from the outside, its roof is patterned like a leaf of a ‘Ririk’, a rainforest plant important in indigenous cultures.

“Within these walls, our team of culturally-diverse, dedicated professionals attends to the requests of our clients,” she said.


Unlimited possibilities

Director of sales and marketing at Pullman Kuching, Yip Lai Pheng, said the hotel is a perfect location for conferences, exhibitions and incentives.

“The hotel boasts 3,660 square meters of meeting spaces, with nine comprehensive banquet and conferencing venues,” she said.

“The state-of-the art ballroom is the largest banquet space in the city, and can accommodate up to 1,500 people for a sit-down banquet.”

“Pullman Kuching has confirmed events for 2012 & 2013 and is forward-bidding for events to 2016,” she said.


The potential of the cruise

Meanwhile, Sarawak River Cruise’s managing director, Fiona Marcus Raja, said the river cruise programme can benefit the MICE industry, in addition to attracting tourists to the land of the hornbill.

She said the company has invested RM1 million in retrofitting a ship and enhance its meeting room facilities.

“Other than meetings, the ship can be used to host weddings, social gatherings and dinners. It can accommodate 80 people at any given time,” she said.

Fiona said packages offered include the Silver Package (RM148 per person), Gold Package (RM158) and Platinum Package (RM198). Bookings can be made through hotels or the Sarawak River Cruise.

Sarawak River Cruise has one ship that leaves daily at 5.30 p.m. from Kuching Esplanade, and cruises along the Sarawak River. – Bernama