Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau’s general manager – business events, Ho Yoke Ping, discusses challenges and opportunities to educate local players and engage young talent.
The business-events industry in Malaysia suffers from a lack of awareness. There are not many government or corporate players who really understand the needs of the business- events industry. To ensure Malaysia’s competitiveness in the global arena, it is crucial for us to invest in our people — and increase the number of local event and meeting planners who are professionally certified.
We only have a couple of internationally qualified PCOs who can handle larger international conferences. And, as Malaysia continues to attract more international business, I see this as a future challenge. Between now to 2028, we have already secured more than 120 conferences which are expected to attract some 375,000 international delegates to our shores, so we need to be prepared. This means having the right skills and the right talent.
And as regional competition heats up, our local DMCs also need to innovate and be more creative in designing and pitching ideas to their clients.
In an effort to address these challenges, the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCeb) launched the Malaysia Business Events Week in 2014. It’s a platform for event professionals (buyers and suppliers) to converge, network, learn, share, and resolve challenges related to the industry. We are now working with the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) to develop industry certifications and garner support from local government to endorse our training programmes.
Attracting young talent to our industry is another challenge. In Malaysia, there are no universities or colleges that provide a degree or syllabus specific to business events (such as conference or venue management or organising exhibitions). Instead, degrees focus on tourism, hospitality, and event management.
The level of awareness among students, and even lecturers, about the industry is also lacking. Working in the business events industry is not perceived as exciting or glamourous — and, as an industry, we’re not very good at communicating what it is we actually do.
Additionally, many employers are not willing to invest in training their staff and empowering the younger team members. It’s still very much “an experience based” industry — you need to have a number of years’ experience before you can be given certain responsibilities. Thus, it’s difficult to retain young professionals who are eager to climb the corporate ladder.
By 2020, the future workforce will be made up of the Gen Y and Gen Z. That means in just two years’ time, more than 50 per cent of the workforce will be under the age of 38. So, it’s imperative that we understand the way they think and how to motivate them.
It’s important for industry leaders to share their success stories and spend time to mentor the young people. Admittedly, mentoring requires a lot of time and effort, but if we are passionate about sustaining the future of our industry, we should all seriously consider being a mentor. I’m certain that you will find it an enriching experience. I wouldn’t be where I am now, if I had not had my mentor.