A major benefit of hosting conventions include direct and indirect expenditure of foreign exchange to a wide range of community beneficiaries. As a consequence, there is also greater tax flow to the government.
When asked on the estimated MICE expenditure generated in Sarawak, Henry said, “I can only provide an estimate in terms of direct delegate expenditure. On a broader spectrum, in terms of the 3.6 million people that crossed the border to Sarawak last year, the percentage of ‘MICE delegates’ is vague.”
At the moment, there are no detailed records of MICE delegates’ expenditure in Sarawak. Currently, data is based on the visitor arrival figures. This is where the immigration authorities can assist by getting data on purpose of visit upon entry into Sarawak. Currently a lot of data is lost as not all entry points are monitored.
She revealed that SCB was in discussions with the related authorities with regards to more detailed data that was required in order to guage where the Sarawak MICE industry was heading to. The bureau was willing to work with Tourism Malaysia also.
“We are putting in money as well. Let’s just have people at the airport doing sampling, talking to some people on departure or arrival and then we can not only get to know the role of that quantitative data but also a little bit of qualitative data as well.”
If such data was plausible, Sarawak MICE would then have the best market intelligences statistics, whereby the state government could use it to further strengthen industries that require such data.
“Asking 500 people that come across the border over a period of time and what you get is going to be a statistically true data. It’s not as good as counting every single arrival but is certainly better than not trying, isn’t it? Tourism Malaysia is already conducting such a survey. All we need is to add a few more questions which will also benefit Sarawak,” added Henry.
On the potential links between tourism receipts and MICE expenditure, Henry said travel given as incentives would tend to get included into tourism revenue. “Generally, because the delegates that are sent here never get into a meeting room, thus they are considered tourist. However, the reason that they are here is because they got an incentive from their companies. That is why I tend to use the term MICE expenditure instead of MICE revenue,” she stressed.
On top of that, MICE expenditure is divided into direct and indirect expenditure. Direct expenditure is the amount of money that a delegate spends individually on registration fees and hotel expenses, while indirect expenditure is the money that flows into the economy after the conference.
“MICE industry measures the impact of an international delegation through indirect expenditure. It does not centre around the amount of money that delegates spend but the impact of injecting that much money into the Malaysian economy,” she explained. “Nobody has done the actual full economic impact survey from the MICE industry yet.”
Based on the growth and facilities that Sarawak has at the moment, Henry pointed out Sarawak was able to achieve an even higher growth of expenditure through MICE industry. “I would love to see where 10 per cent of the visitors and tourist arrivals into Malaysia are business tourists and Sarawak is getting 10 per cent of the Malaysian business. We will be doing really well if we get to that point.”
“But to get there, we need to know what are the numbers coming into Malaysia. We are not going to be responsible for every business that comes into the destination, corporate meetings and incentives have always been the bread and butter of Sarawak, just some of it happened on its own,” she added.
She further said that SCB would not get involved in the private sector that was already doing very well but concentrate on areas that would make the biggest impact.
“We can’t cater for extremely large conferences held here in Sarawak as the state’s facilities would not be able to cope with them. An estimated 2,000 member convention is just perfect, anything above that figure will start to compromise on quality as the state’s existing infrastructure will not be able to sustain the crowd.”
SCB is not in direct competition with Kuala Lumpur as most events of that size and nature would only target a capital city of a country. “What we are saying is once in KL, the next destination should be Sarawak as the preferred choice or what we call the ‘second-tiers’ cities, such as Kuching, Miri or Sibu.