Tuesday, October 15

Taking Sarawak’s business events to the next level


As performers donned in cultural garb from top to toe sway on stage to a tribal medley, delegates from across the globe look on in awe at the variety and uniqueness Sarawak has to offer.

Such is a staple at any meeting, incentive, conference of exhibition (MICE) in Kuching. And such is part of the cultural identity offered and celebrated by business event planners in its efforts to pursue a booming industry within Sarawak.

Enter the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), a non-profit organisation by the state government with the mission to connect associations, corporate organisations and government bodies to ensure business events are a success.

The bureau has done a massive part in achieving things beyond expectations – a great example being the 55th International Congress and Conventions Association (ICCA) Congress in 2016 in Kuching, which marked the first time ICCA hosted its congress in the Southeast Asian region.

The four-day congress attracted more than 800 delegates to Sarawak from 61 countries across the globe, drawing praise from ICCA chief executive officer Martin Sirk who said it was “an important lesson for visiting delegates as Sarawak shared their story of they successfully raised the regional and global profile of what was a previously relatively unknown destination.”

Last year, the bureau also pushed out its global branding campaign, Redefining Global Tribes, issuing a challenge to business event planners and associations around the world to increase the impact of their events on their profession and economy, and change the very definition of how and why a business event is designed.

The bureau continued its legacy this year with the introduction of the Business Events Tribal Meet (TriBE 2018) which took place last week.

“Not only is business events a lucrative source of immediate economic contribution, but the spillovers to other key sector areas are essential in creating a sustainable and stronger Sarawak.

“Through a strong collaboration between other ministries and agencies, business events can be reinforced as a pivotal driver for the development of the state,” commented Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“Sarawak itself is very unconventional in many ways because it is an unusual mixture of nature, culture, modern development and heritage,” added on Amelia Roziman, chief operating officer of SCB.

“As a progressive and relatively young destination, Sarawak’s achievements have been truly remarkable. In order for us to achieve the same unprecedented growth in the decades to come, our next big chapter would need to be rooted from a common understanding that Business Events is the way to go,” she began.

“We have received tremendous support from several government ministries in the past. And in turn, their portfolios have benefitted these business events – the transmission of knowledge, the establishment of new partnerships, and renewed perspectives.”

Raking in economic benefits

The benefits are showing: Sarawak’s business events industry has accumulated more than RM645 million worth of economic value to the state, revealed Abdul Karim.

“Business events has contributed a greater impact in building our nation.

“The transfer of knowledge from experts to local champions, trade opportunities, expansion of global alliance – these are just some legacies of business events, which permeates so many sectors – medicine, education, technology, science, and other advanced industries,” Karim said in his welcoming remarks for TriBE 2018.

“Beyond this, the immediate economic value is lucrative. To date, Sarawak has brought in a total of 750 business events – equivalent to 286,000 delegates and 958,000 delegate days – since the establishment of SCB.”

These business events translate to an economic value of more than RM645 million to Sarawak, generated by direct delegate expenditure alone.

For this year, the minister said Sarawak’s progress for 2018 was right on track, having already attracted 30 business events this year.

“This amounts to RM34.6 million in direct delegate expenditure, welcoming close to 10,000 delegates who will be spending 34,000 delegate days in Sarawak,” he added.

Abdul Karim lauded SCB’s efforts in empowering the business events industry by ‘communicating, educating, and awarding’ as well as sector partners who have boosted the growth of the sector.

He also affirmed the ministry’s committment to supporting SCB and its efforts in championing business events.

Spotlight on Sarawak: How biz events are opening doors of opportunity

A highlight from TRiBE 2018 is the launch of the BESarawak Alliance – a dedicated associate platform for government ministries and agencies to further Sarawak’s economic transformation.

An initiative of the Sarawak Convention Bureau, this all-new platform aims to create collaborative opportunities between government ministries and agencies through business events as an effective gateway to accelerate trade and investment, further Sarawak’s key focus areas and multiply global networks.

Among the first ambassadors appointed for the Business Events Sarawak Alliance (BESA) were the Sarawak Multimedia Authority represented by General Manager Dr Zaidi Razak (second left), Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development represented by Minister Datuk Seri Hajjah Fatimah Abdullah (fourth left), Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture,Native Land and Regional Development represented by permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik (fifth right), Sarawak Centre for Performance Excellence represented by chief executive officer Dr Asleena Helmi (fourth right), and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports represented by permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee (third right). They were flanked by Roziman (left),Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin (third left), Abang Johari, Abdul Karim (sixth right), Sarawak Convention Bureau chairman Datuk Seri Dr Muhammad Leo Toyad (second right) and Mayor of Kuching North City Council Datuk Abdul Wahap Abang Julai (right).

SCB’s Roziman revealed that the BESarawak Alliance will also strengthen Sarawak position as a role model for second and third tier destinations within the region.

SCB’s general manager of Government and Industry Relations, Chew Chang Guan, also the project manager for the BESarawak Alliance, was thanksful of the help from all these ministries and agencies towards the success of TriBE 2018.

“Without their unceasing support, Sarawak would not be where it is today. Not only am I excited to acknowledge their contributions at TriBE 2018, but also to welcome new alliances in bridging gaps and open new conversations,” he concluded.

The first homegrown Business Events Tribal Meet 2018 has garnered unwavering support from sector partners in accelerating the state’s economic transformation through business events.

“TriBE 2018 is a breakthrough to the Business Events sector. This is a projection of a truly unified vision – creating a generation of business events leaders in driving impactful legacy impacts.

“I am incredibly excited to forging stronger alliances within the sector, our global counterparts, and especially with other state government ministries and agencies,” stated Roziman.

Trickle-down effect

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Zohari Tun Openg, who officiated the event, also celebrated not just the digital transformation of Sarawak through Business Events – but also its impacts to other key sector areas.

“Embarking on this digital vision is not a trend, but it is the blueprint that will guide us forward. Business Events has continued to aid our vision in doing things differently,” he said in his speech.

“This is especially relevant to the spillovers to other key sector areas – the impacts beyond tourism. For example, the knowledge and expertise transfer between global experts and local champions. Trade and investment opportunities which could not have happen without Business Events.

“We form global alliances and network – from associations to inter-country relations. The safeguard of communities dignity through social development, and most importantly – the legacy of business events which contributes to the economic growth of the state.

“The safeguard of communities dignity through social development, and most importantly – the legacy of business events which contributes to the economic growth of the state.

“Business events are key to develop a stronger Sarawak and a stronger Malaysia. It is more than a platform – it is a hub for economic transformation, and now with digital tools, we can address the relevance of a digital economic shift.

“For this to come together, the future of Sarawak and the country needs to be built on alliances – between the federal and state government, the private sector which specialises in all forms of Business Events – be it in meetings, incentives, conferences or exhibitions, associations, media, and state agencies such as the Sarawak Convention Bureau to spearhead these changes.

“I believe that our alliances have been strong over the years, but it can grow even stronger in a collaborative economy.

“Therefore, I urge all associations, private sector, all ministries and their agencies, as well as the media, to work together as one strong alliance – to support each other when the time arises.”

Abang Johari said the change begins with the government sector via BESarawak Alliance.

He called on all ministers, as well as their head of agencies, to be a member of this alliance as Business Events is a pivotal driver for development.

“Each with their unique strength to complement what the other may be lacking in. Tied by the same mission, each segment will accelerate their growth, and in turn accelerating Sarawak’s and Malaysia’s growth in a trajectory – that is only made possible by working together.

“I am glad that SCB has taken these initiatives by launching events like TriBE 2018 – to continuously push the Business Events agenda. With the introduction of TriBE, I believe it is a new chapter for how Business Events are run.

“From the earlier education element of TriBE XChange and now towards the awarding component, the Anak Sarawak Award – this is the way forward to cultivate a Business Events ecosystem that will continue to be a beacon of motivation for all Business Events players worldwide.”

Also a boon for tourism

Meanwhile, Abdul Karim further noted that for 2017, Sarawak registered 4.86 million in tourist arrivals. This year, up to June 2018, there has been an increase of about 16 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year.

“That is only from China and Singapore,” he said. “We can see that we are getting more tourists. We are hoping to reach a target of 5.2 million.”

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports hoped there would be more conversations sparked and solutions gained for the betterment of Sarawak 00 and Malaysia in times to come.

“The participation of our local industry key figures and strong industry players today is much appreciated.

“The synergies of our tribal meetingwill be a stepping stone for greater things to come.

“Combined with strong marketing campaigns such as the award-winning Redefining Global Tribes, we are on the right track to secure more business events to this manificent land. Beyond this, the immediate economic value is lucrative.”

Perhaps SCB chairman Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Leo Toyad described it best in his analogy during his welcoming address:

“You might have noticed that we have the mighty Sarawak River at the foot of this hill. I grew up by the river. Growing up during the time, I watched and listened the fishermen’s way of life – preparing the essentials like the nets, which at times need to be mended, supplies for the boat, and preparing the boat itself.

“After journeying into the river, the real work begins. I recall the hustle and bustle on the boat as we catch fish. At the end of the day, the fishermen would bring in abundance from the river which would be enjoyed and shared equally with the village back on shore.

“The river represents Sarawak. The net represents TRiBE 2018. The catch symbolises the business opportunities hat we can share or they within our reach. there is a team effort in striving for a good catch.

“This act of sharing, especially sharing of knowledge, opportunities, experiences, is greatness waiting to unfold.”

Connecting with global leaders

The inaugural TriBE 2018 brought together four leading global business events authorities – the International Congress and Convention Associations (ICCA), International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Union of International Associations (UIA) – with some of them making their debut in the state.

During an Associations Fireside Chat, the four entities explained in deep detail the inner mechanisms of business events and association management:


The International Congress and Convention Association represents the world’s leading suppliers in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, and now comprises 1,100 member companies and organisations in almost 100 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment 55 years ago, ICCA specialises in the international association meetings sector, offering unrivalled data, communication channels, and business development opportunities.

ICCA members represent the top destinations worldwide, and the most experienced specialist suppliers. International meeting planners can rely on the ICCA network to find solutions for all their event objectives such as full convention planning.


The IAPCO mission is to raise the standards of service amongst its members and other sectors of the meetings industry by means of continuing education and interaction with other professionals.

IAPCO strives to achieve global accreditation and acknowledgment of truly Professional Congress Organisers.

IAPCO is a membership-driven organisation whose members upholding trust, setting the benchmark, and education.

Its members are committed to a continuous quality assessment process throughout their membership.


The UIA is a research institute and documentation centre, based in Brussels.

It was founded over one hundred years ago, in 1907, by Henri La Fontaine (Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1913), and Paul Otlet, a founding father of what is now called information science.

Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organisations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.

The UIA has consultative status with ECOSOC and associate status with UNESCO.

Transforming the future of business events

It is undeniable that changes in technology will evolutionise the way we do business and subsequently, business events.

Independent analyst Corbin Ball – renowned globally for being a specialist in meetings, trade shows, and event planning – gave compelling insights as to what will drive the future of business events during his session at TRiBE 2018.

He pinpointed three trends which will impact this, the first being business marketing.

Ball gave compelling insights as to what will drive the future of business events during his session at TRiBE 2018.

“Technology allows us to track everything, at any time or place,” he said. “With these technologies, every touch is trackable in real time – these are goal-minded data that is essential for business marketing.

“For example, mobile event apps can tell you how many users are present, what type of devices are being used, and see a sense of what most popular speakers are.

“It can help to identify where speakers, attendees and products exhibitors are having different interests at the same event.

“Event planners can know who speakers that attendees like – it registers interest areas those people are, identify what the most popular topics are. It tells you most influential people are during the event – from a meeting planner standpoint it’s important to ID them as the amplifier effect.”

Ball further said with things like mobile voting and polls surveys, it helped changed the way event planners obtain feedback from attendees.

The second trend that emerged was that attendees’ engagement was becoming more essential to an event experience. This, he said, was a major drive for changing how events are being managed.

“Mobile engagement is expected. Social engagement is expected. It is now a part of how people are being engaged and are connecting with each other.

“The role of speakers are changing as well. They are no longer just dispensers of information: they become facilitators of learning,” he added.

“The event or exhibition is an experience with examples such as challenge bar trivia, virtual prize wheels, Twitter touchscreen voting, social media leaderboards and social media photo booths, just to name a few.”

Ball went on to list a plethora of technologies that are revolutionising meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.

“A new way of tracking people is wearable computing, such as activity/engagement bands and lightweight biometric wristbands,” he gave as an example. “It utilises GSR – galvanic skin response – to obtain distinct measures of motion, energy and excitement data.

“There are collection points out there that we have never had before that are leading to newer, better engagements,” he added. “The advent of smartwatches also fall under this aspect.”

He also highlighted virtual reality and augmented reality being new forms of immersive multimedias. Augmented reality gives a view of the real world supplemented by computer generated sensory input. Virtual reality allows people to immerse themselves in a whole new world that many not be easily accessible to them

Virtual reality is quickly growing, Ball said, and combined with wearable imputing allows for new attendee experience such as VR booth demos, VR booth designs, VR room diagramming and VR event attendance.

“Definitions are quickly changing with technology,” he said. “Instead of attendee, the better word is participant.”

The third and final trend changing up business events is that advanced analytics techniques are becoming more essential.

“How do you collect data on-site? We have many choices today, such as live polling, event mobile app interviews and feedback. Most of these didn’t exist five years ago.

“Companies now have to think about their social media channels pre-event, onsite and post-event.”