Sarawak’s portfolio of eco-tourism and culture-centric activity options makes it ideal as an incentive travel destination, but a glaring misconception of its MICE capabilities remains in the way.

MIKE CANNON
SARAWAK CONVENTION BUREAU
MANAGING DIRECTOR

How has Sarawak been faring in its MICE business?

Until recently, Sarawak Convention Bureau’s (SCB) core focus in its founding years has been to win more conference bids for Sarawak. We now have plans to target more incentive groups. The bureau is in the midst of planning campaigns to target the corporate business segment and association meetings. This will include more sales missions, and more familiarisation programmes (famil) for incentive houses, associations and outbound travel consultants specialising in business events.

We also organise famils for media and/or prospective clients to Sarawak. These trips are planned to coincide with the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, or the Borneo International Jazz Festival in Miri, allowing us to work closely with local tourism industry partners such as Sarawak Tourism Board, DMCs, and more. Famils are a great way to showcase the destination and the type of activities available when planners bring their event here. Famils really provide an in-depth look on the destination and its offerings, and at the same time, the opportunity to meet the local suppliers, check out the venues and familiarise themselves with other industry members that will assist them throughout.

What characteristics/attractions make Sarawak an ideal incentive travel destination?

Sarawak’s unique selling point is its old-fashioned appeal and sense of adventure.
By leveraging the Borneo brand, Sarawak represents the land of charm and romance, of history and culture; unsullied by modern trappings yet able to marry the best of technology with its wild soul. Here, the Old World charm is complemented by modern technology and corporate culture. Nowhere else on earth offers such extraordinary and efficient business capabilities coupled with the natural wonder of orang-utans and 130 million-year-old rainforests.

As CSR and green meetings practices become important components of MICE, Sarawak is ready with the most diverse options and possibilities for incentives programmes, team-building and ideas for themed parties based on culture and eco-tourism.
This includes Heart to Heart with the orang-utans; Habitat for Humanity — getting connected with people from the longhouse or even programmes specially tailor-made for your group. Whilst those activities will be included in the conventions programme, they also make exciting options for pre- and post-event tours and for our spouse and family programme.

What are some challenges preventing Sarawak from gaining a bigger share of the incentive business?

SCB represents all the products and services of Sarawak and we need to match the facilities to the needs of the client. We are selling a whole destination package that goes way beyond just a venue facility. We need to develop a sound business case, promote the unique culture and attractions of Sarawak, and assist the organisation to identify their objectives and goals of the programme.

Another challenge would be the competition from West Malaysia, and a misconception that Sarawak is unable to deliver a world-class event due to the lack of facilities and service. But with the development of modern meeting facilities and accommodation, Sarawak along with its exotic appeal is more than equipped to host events.

What are some plans for 2014?

Aside from organising famils, we work closely with the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) to promote Sarawak as a business events destination.

In 2014, securing bids for Sarawak will continue to be our core focus, and at the same time establish media relations in West Malaysia on top of our local and international media relations. We will also take part in trade shows in Australia (AIME), Europe (IMEX Frankfurt) and America (IMEX America) to name a few. For 2014, we can expect to welcome and be kept busy by events such as ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), Routes Asia, Asia Pacific Orthodontic Congress (APOC) and Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), among others.

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