THE wheels are already in motion to prepare Putrajaya for its role as South-East Asia’s largest hub for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions). This is following the ground- breaking of the Malaysia Exposi-tion and Convention Centre (MyExpo) by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at Precinct 5 recently. Upon completion in 2021, MyExpo will approximately be the size of 250 football fields. It will be located next to the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).
Putrajaya Corporation (Ppj) corporate communication director Tengku Aina Tengku Ismail Shah said the bid to play host to international conventions has started. She confirmed that the administrative capital would host the International Board on Books for Young People convention in 2022 and with it, the participation of 700 industry professionals. As Putrajaya’s local authority, Tengku Aina said PPj will adopt a proactive and aggressive approach to marketing efforts. She cited a luxury hotel in the heart of the city that began announcing its presence a year before opening for business as case in point.
Commenting on the readiness of the administrative capital to accommodate the influx of tourists coming from the MICE sector, Tengku Aina said there were already venues to accommodate large groups. Apart from PICC, with an approximate capacity of 11,000 people, there were at least 12 other venues in Putrajaya capable of hosting group sizes of between 750 and 1,500 people at a time. “Our unique selling point is we are no stranger to big events,” said Tengku Aina.
But to move forward and compete globally with countries like Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, she stressed on the need for support from relevant agencies such as the Tourism and Culture Ministry and the neighbouring local authorities to work hand in hand with PPj. Unlike leisure tourism, she said events coming under the MICE category were usually announced no less than six months in advance.
“This makes it possible to organise fringe events and for tour companies to devise sightseeing packages for the spouses or family members accompanying the MICE participant, for example. “Within its jurisdiction, PPj is looking to engage important players such as restaurants, hotels and transport providers,” she added. One incentive for food and beverage operators is the prospect of free advertisement on its websites and publications, if they could maintain a Grade A rating for cleanliness.
This year, PPj will also introduce an online licensing system to allow one-stop applications for establishments running composite businesses such as hotels and buildings where there are florists, souvenir shops and boutiques. In the pipeline, is an online development that will allow express permits for low-risk businesses to be issued in a day. This will not include restaurants and spas.
Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) vice-president Alun Jones said Malaysia was now ranked third after Thailand and Singapore as a MICE hub. He said this ranking will change once there is ample infrastructure. “The unique selling proposition of MICE tourism is you must be big enough,” said Jones.
By size, this means surpassing proportions such as the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) and Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC). “Think of it as an investment for the country,” said Jones.
According to MACEOS records, there is an existing 200,000 sq m of total space across 14 venues in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Melaka, Johor, Sarawak (Kuching) and Kedah (Langkawi), which are suitable as MICE venues. Sabah will come into the picture next year.
Based on conservative estimates, 2016 saw a total of 503 trade and consumer exhibitions involving over 500 local and international businesses of which 90% were held in the Klang Valley. To cater to MICE tourists, Jones said it was crucial to remember that it was not a case of ‘one size fits all’ for this segment of the tourism industry. “Putrajaya, for example, could find its niche market in religious and government conventions for example.
“In addition to considerations on lettable areas and easy accessibility, entertainment is an important criteria in the bidding process. “ If the event involved international participants, an organiser must think beyond the venue and see if there is night entertainment for exhibitors and delegates to unwind for example,” he said. If a convention centre does not allow alcohol to be served and night entertainment is non-existent, it will need to package itself differently from Kuala Lumpur or Penang for example, he added.
MACEOS president Datuk Vincent Lim said manpower was another crucial consideration pointing to the hotel and tourism industry as important contributors. “At the moment, there are only three universities teaching events and conferences as a subject. “What we also need proper human resource training due the logistics involved in handling large groups of people,” said Lim.
In finding a unique selling point for the capital administrative, it must brand itself differently, said Tengku Aina.
“We really need to think about the kind of experience we want people to have when they come here. As Putrajaya is a Garden City with a goal to become a low carbon city by 2025, we can bank on ecotourism. In fact, not many know that our wetlands has become a destination for case studies by other countries. But to maintain this image, we have to be able to deliver on this promise,” said Tengku Aina.
However, as the administrative capital is swinging into its 23rd year, the plan now was to upgrade its current attractions to remain fresh and relevant.
Source : The Star