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Sabah, Sarawak and Penang target more international business events for Malaysia

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Sabah, Sarawak and Penang target more international business events for Malaysia
Three Malaysian states are going big on international business events. Sabah hosted the UNWTO World Tourism Conference (WTC) in November 2022. This June, Sarawak welcomed the PATA Destination Experience Forum and Mart (PDFM), while Penang has secured the 45th edition of the International Advertising Association (IAA) World Congress in March 2024.

Sabah saw the potential of business events when some 1,000 WTC delegates from more than 60 countries gathered at the Sabah International Convention Centre in Kota Kinabalu in November 2022. The state government has approved the establishment of Sabah Convention Bureau, expected to be fully operational by the end of 2023.

“Pre-pandemic, Sabah hosted many incentive groups from North Asia. Specifically for Australia, our local DMCs, in collaboration with event organisers in Australia, curated great experiences for incentive groups. These included special charter flights to Sandakan where the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre are located,” said Datuk Christina Liew, minister of tourism, culture and environment for Sabah. “We look forward to hosting more groups to experience our destination.”

Sabah Tourism Board (STB) helps in bidding initiatives by organisers and planners and offers incentive support, working closely with local industry partners. Together, they will be heading to Melbourne and Sydney at the end of July to early August for roadshows to drive further interest in the region. STB is also participating in ITB Asia in Singapore this October.

PDFM 2023, held in Kuching, Sarawak, last month, attracted 272 delegates from 28 destinations – regional and Australia, Middle East, Europe and the US. Sarawak Tourism Board CEO Sharzede Datu Hj Salleh Askor said: “Sarawak’s tourism philosophy emphasises responsible tourism, gastronomy and sustainability in its effort to make Sarawak a preferred eco-tourism destination in the region.”

Underlining the “Sustainability in Action” theme, she encouraged delegates to engage in meaningful conversations to understand the importance of adopting sustainable practices, “to minimise the negative environmental footprint of tourism while enhancing the overall visitor experience”.

Sarawak has a rich, multi-ethnic culture and vast geographical landscape and biodiversity ranging from caves to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

PDFM tours took three different routes so that participants could fully experience Sarawak’s responsible tourism, ecotourism and gastronomy tourism offerings that highlighted Sarawakian culture, heritage and history.

Similar experiences can be curated for other meeting groups, including preceding the famous Rainforest World Music Festival as PDFM did.

In hosting the IAA World Congress, Penang is taking a new direction.

“The Penang Exhibition and Convention Bureau will be selective in the bidding and selection processes of future events, through which mutual benefits are gained by event organisers and the host destination, with the shared intent of creating high-value and high-impact events,” said its CEO, Ashwin Gunasekaran.

Scheduled from March 2024, the conference is expected to draw 2,000 delegates from 26 countries and generate MYR 12.5 million (AU$4.1 million) in economic impact for Penang.

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