A Decade of Success – The Sarawak Convention Bureau
2016 is an important milestone for the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), for this year, the state government agency celebrates ten years of operation. Within this timeframe of existence, SCB has established an enviable track record, building itself a robust reputation as an effective catalyst for the growth of the business events ecosystem in Sarawak. Take a look at the influence of business events on Sarawak, and what the Bureau has done to facilitate its grip on the state.
The Business Events Effect
One cannot underestimate the impact business events have had on Sarawak. In 2015, 59 conferences took place in the state, bringing with them a staggering number of international delegates – 17,910 to be exact. This substantial figure heralded another considerable one, RM32.6 million, which is the estimated direct delegate expenditure.
“To understand Business Events in Sarawak is to understand that these events have a profound effect on every industry and profession,” Mike Cannon, Managing Director of the Sarawak Convention Bureau notes.
“By providing the platform for the convergence of brilliant minds, Sarawak itself will grow to equal and exceed its own ambitions of development. The impact to our home-grown industries is both diverse and long lasting,” he adds. These industries comprise a diverse mix, including education, export trade, and research capacity.
The magnitude of this fact was not lost on SCB, as they created BESarawak, a special campaign dedicated to all aspects of business events. Its objective was to empower industry players towards new heights in professionalism and excellence through a 3-pronged programme: Communicating, Educating and Awarding for associations, corporate organisations, government agencies, media and industry partners.
The Endorsement of Key Players
The business events landscape in Sarawak is populated by a myriad of industry players who are integral to government and private sectors. From ministries to hotels, it is the involvement and contribution of these bastions that help keep the business events wheel turning.
Mary Wan Mering from Sarawak Tourism is one such example. She claims that the Board emphasizes on the overall marketing of tourism as it is multi-faceted. “We have variations of tourism, such as medical and education tourism. However, business events is the strongest delivery funnel to date as it has helped to raise the profile of the destination and reinforce our brand. For instance, we have long since advocated Sarawak’s brand as a place of ‘Culture, Adventure and Nature’ but the Business Events initiative has really helped to push the envelope!”
According to Nora Wee, the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) Manager for the Imperial Hotel Kuching, business events is definitely good for business. “Business event delegates contribute more revenue to the hotel than a leisure traveller; up to 3 times more! Gone are the days when hoteliers depended on FITs (Free Independent Traveller) or even GITs (Group Inclusive Tour) as their main source of revenue.”
As expected, the local tourism industry has plenty to gain as well. Mok Venia, Managing Director of Cat City Holidays, says, “Business Events has transformed the mind-set of tourism operators. Destination Management Companies (DMCs) were born because the rise of business events in Sarawak had endless opportunities. The arrival of this profession provided not only a learning curve but it also sharpens skillsets which are invaluable to penetrate into the profession. Engaging with business events means going the extra mile in promoting the state of Sarawak.”
CPH Travel Agency, a Destination Management Company (DMC) is another beneficiary, and Oscar Choo, its Director of Operations reveals why. “In 2012, when we managed the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), we were unaware of the scale of such a congress. Even the term Destination Management Company was non-existent in our dictionary! From then, we progressed with the help of SCB and the conference organizers. The smooth handling of 1200 delegates from around the world led to a succession of other international conferences under CPH’s belt. This built our confidence and a MICE department was created to focus on Business Events.”
Terence Lim, General Manager of Borneo TRU Events reveals the perspective of an event management company. “We are truly committed to progressing in the Business Events profession. We are also a member of The Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS), and currently in the process of joining Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB). We believe that Business Events is definitely the way forward.”
Jason Chew, Managing Director at Events Horizon, also has a positive outlook on the industry. “Business Events has always been our core focus the ‘bread and butter’. The Sarawak Convention Bureau has led the way forward, revolutionising how we see the business events in Sarawak through Business Events Sarawak. The ball is in our court and we need to ensure our tasks are delivered professionally and with great passion! Only by doing this can we sustain this profession.”
Summing up the importance of these key members of the industry, Mike Cannon stressed that the synergistic partnership amongst all players has never been more important. “The efforts by conference hosts, industry members, government agencies, and suppliers – matched with their extraordinary passion, leadership and commitment is ensuring the success of Business Events here in Sarawak.”
Recognising Greatness in the Industry
To commemorate its 10th Year Anniversary, and to honour top achievers in the industry, SCB threw a bash that lasted three days and two nights in the state capital of Kuching, beginning on the 5th of August, 2016.
The celebrations included the 8th Anak Sarawak Award (ASA) ceremony, which started the ball rolling for the gala event. Held at the Imperial Hotel, the ASA is touted as the first award in Malaysia that accredits the contribution of convention hosts and industry partners to the growth of the meetings industry.
“As Malaysia’s inaugural award for business events, the 8th ASA recognized 90 meeting hosts and honoured 7 special winners to acknowledge the contribution of hosts and industry partners to the growth of Business Events – formerly known as MICE or meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions,” remarked YB Dato’ Sri Dr. Muhammad Leo Michael Toyad Abdullah, Chairman of SCB.
The awardees were presented marketing and training grants of RM10,000 or RM20,000 to be used for international marketing efforts or to attend conferences to build or reinforce influential business events networks, skills, capacities, and knowledge.
The limelight was also shone upon SCB’s impressive accomplishments. In the last decade alone, the Bureau has tucked under its belt 424 events that signified the arrival of almost 167,000 delegates from around the world. In the same period, SCB has also supported 194 other events, with an estimated 56,000 delegates, bestowing a further RM92 million into the state’s turnover.
The 8th ASA was chased by a sharing and education forum at the Grand Margherita Hotel, followed by a series of site inspections and workshops, before culminating with an excursion into Sarawak’s greatest tourism asset; the Rainforest World Music Festival.