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Sarawak’s World of Business and Adventure – Eric van Piggelen, CEO of BCCK

One of the most critical aspects to business events is the venue, which sets the stage for how successful a business event is going to be. Drawing on the unique cultural heritage of Sarawak, the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) will be host to the annual International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Congress—a gathering of the global community of meetings professionals to exchange knowledge, and generate and maintain a competitive advantage. Eric van Piggelen, CEO of BCCK, talks to about the Centre and its role in advancing business events in the state.

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Winning the bid to host the 55th ICCA Congress in Malaysia in November was a joint effort between a number of parties collectively known as Team Malaysia. The group comprises BCCK, Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), UCSI Communications, and AOS Conventions & Events (AOSCE). To showcase BCCK to visitors, ensure that the Centre offers ICCA delegates the best experience and continues to do so after the event, the Centre has undergone significant retrofitting works this year.

Eric revealed that the BCCK is considering a number of options to expand its core business offerings, including increasing the floor space of the 36,500-square metre Centre and adding a catamaran—a water vessel that features two equal-sized parallel hulls. “We could possibly be the only convention centre (or one of very few convention centres around the world) that operates cruise style business events on a catamaran,” he explained.

The Local Host Committee, co-chaired by Eric, is also looking to make the event this year one of the best to date. He recognised that while achieving the goal would require significant commitment from the stakeholders involved in the project, he expressed confidence in the team to deliver a world-class experience, “one which our peers from around the world will concur to being among the best.”

The Sarawak Experience

Visitors to Sarawak also get to experience the renowned charm of Borneo, the history, and colourful and diverse cultures and ethnic groups in the state. “We offer the world the mystique of Borneo and international-standard amenities in one package,” Eric said, adding, “It’s where business meets adventure, as well as pleasure and a truly extraordinary experience that will endure in your heart.”

The state has all the elements—plus more—to ensure a unique business event experience with a mixture of old world charms and modern amenities; from new and ungraded road networks to ultra-modern hotels, amazing scenery, a world-class convention centre, and a fascinating cultural heritage. Visitors to the state can call on the Sarawak Cultural Village, known as the ‘living museum’, where the various ethnic groups showcase their indigenous activities in their traditional houses, alongside cultural performances.

“The diversity of all the different cultures is truly exceptional and yet everyone lives in harmony,” Eric pointed out. He recalled his first experience of the state’s culture and traditions—which have remained intact through hundreds of years—at the annual Gawai Dayak festival, a religious and social occasion celebrated by the Dayak people of Sarawak.

“The different tribal costumes, food and festiveness and the most heart-warming hospitality during the Gawai celebration is amazing especially if you are in a longhouse and amongst all the people. They embrace guests from all walks of life without the slightest hesitation,” he said. He also recalled the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in 2014, where he was astounded by the magnitude of fireworks heralding the arrival of the new lunar spring.

Public Verdict

BCCK being the only convention centre in Borneo and only a few years old was one of the main attractions for Eric in taking on the responsibilities as the Centre’s chief executive officer. He noted that after working in three different continents, building the reputation of BCCK has proven to be a fulfilling task.

It has not gone unrecognised. BCCK won the Conference Venue of the Year at the 2016 MICE Asia Pacific Awards in Singapore on 21 September this year, a recognition for playing a defining role in the events and travel industry in the Asia Pacific region.

Last year, BCCK was awarded the Malaysia Business Events Awards of Excellence—Purpose Built Convention & Exhibition Centre Award for Excellence category (below 15,000 square metres gross saleable space) at the rAWr (Recognising Award Winning Results) Awards 2015. Also in 2015 and 2016, luxury lifestyle magazine Malaysia Tatler ranked the Centre’s in-house restaurant The Raintree Restaurant as one of the best in the country.

“These awards are a moral boost to the BCCK team as a force to be reckoned with, as we focus on building BCCK and The Raintree Restaurant brands. I am immensely proud of my team,” Eric commented. He added, “My team and I have worked incredibly hard to showcase BCCK as a convention centre which can stand alongside all the top centres. We have achieved many objectives internally that are significant for the successful operations of our Centre.”