Hosting the 7th International AIDS Society Conference was worth more than money to Malaysia.

By Sirima Eamtako

The Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has expected the economic impact from the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013), which was held in Kuala Lumpur from June 30 to July 3, 2013, to stand at about RM44.6 million (AU$15.2 million).

But the legacy from being the first country in Asia and the first Muslim country to host the world’s largest scientific meeting on the latest developments in HIV/AIDS research is expected to further raise the awareness of Malaysia as a conference destination, said Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Malaya and director of the Centre of Excellence for Research in to AIDS.

Prof Kamarulzaman said she expected Malaysia to be attracting more medical and scientific conferences while the launch of 2013 World Health Organization’s (WHO) new global guidelines for antiretroviral therapy at the IAS 2013 would play pivotal roles in influencing more discussions on drug policy and ways to implement the new guidelines within the country. Meetings with WHO are expected to discuss possibilities for Malaysia to host future WHO conferences, she added.
IAS 2013 delegates voted Kuala Lumpur as a great conference venue. Jerry Okal from Kenya’s Population Council said it was a good choice to host IAS 2013 in Malaysia due to it being centrally located in Asia and the pleasant local people.
“This is a Muslim country, but very open because of its diversified culture,” he said.
However, Okal said he wished there was a direct flight between Kenya and Malaysia instead of flying via Bangkok. Another concern was having just one immigration line for both health-related quarantine and visa procedures. “I don’t have any problem going through these procedures, but because of the two lines, it took us about one hour to clear the airport.”
Brazilian immunology scientist Leandro Tarosso, who attended the previous IAS conferences in 2007 and 2009, said he “found it safe” in Malaysia during the four-day IAS 2013. Okal and Tarosso were among more than 5000 delegates attending the IAS 2013.

Medical related conferences constitute 15 per cent of all international events held each year in Malaysia, and are among 10 key industries identified by MyCEB including oil and gas, finance, technology and education.
In 2012, MyCEB secured 26 association and 109 corporate incentive groups representing 61,086 delegates and an economic value of RM634.6 million. It also assisted 112 meetings and conventions, 15 exhibitions and 128 corporate incentive groups, which contributed an estimated economic impact of RM 1.2 billion to Malaysia.
MyCEB’s goal is to grow international business tourism visitors from five per cent of tourist arrivals to eight per cent by 2020 or from 1.2 million to 2.9 million. The overall tourism arrival to Malaysia for 2012 is 25.03 million, with tourist receipts of RM60.6 billion.

MyCEB general manager sales and marketing Ho Yoke Ping said the success bid rate for all bidding activities in 2012 was 65 per cent. In 2013 Malaysia won the bid to host the ICCA Congress 2016 in Sarawak. m