Malaysia Looks to Business Events for Growth

This Southeast Asian nation sets an ambitious timetable for wooing events, with goals set for 2020.

By Rémi Dévé

An emerging destination for business events, Malaysia is home to a vibrant mix of cultures and a wide range of natural resources (orangutans anyone?) that will leave the most demanding visitors in awe. In addition, its strategic location at the centre of south-east Asia, amid the booming economies of India, China, and the Middle East, makes the country quite easy to access.

However, the country does not consider itself a developed nation as yet and has a goal to achieve this status by 2020, with business events being part of the strategy. Tourism is already one of Malaysia’s key economic sectors, and plans for expansion include growing business tourism arrivals from 5 percent to 8 percent of overall tourist arrivals by 2020, targeting more international events. Under the Malaysian government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), business tourism has been identified as one of the Entry Point Projects (EPP) of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA). In fact a Business Events Roadmap, a strategic plan to raise the profile of Malaysia as a preferred business events destination by 2020 and beyond, has been set up to position the country as one of the top five destinations in the Asia Pacific region for international meetings.

One of the examples of these efforts is the establishment of the Malaysian Society of Association Executives (MSAE) in response to the need for a single body to regulate the profession of association executives in Malaysia. Initiated by the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), its mission is to advance the stature and professionalism of associations in the country through advocacy, education, and advisory services. The idea is for Malaysian association executives to join so they can access cutting-edge insights, exchange ideas, network, share thoughts, and debate issues that impact the future growth sustainability of the associations and, in turn, of the country through the hosting of association events. With this development, Malaysia hopes to raise its profile, as well as its ability to bid on and host international conventions.

MSAE President Dato’ Dr. Zaliha Omar, of the Malaysian Association of Rehabilitation Physicians, explained how one of MyCEB’s strategic goals is to deeply engage Malaysia’s ministries and agencies and communicate how business events can play a role in the country’s growth and in helping the government achieve the objectives of its ETP.

“The recent creation of the MSAE is part of a broader vision of the country as a great association destination, with champions in all kinds of fields who can help leverage knowledge and leave a legacy,” she says. “After an event is over, it’s important for Malaysia to gain a greater understanding of the benefits of being the host destination. By ‘professionalising’ the profession of association executives, we will be instrumental in achieving the goals the country has set for itself. ”

Of course, nothing would be possible without some strong government support. Datuk Zulkefli HJ Sharif, CEO of MyCEB, says: “Business events play an important role in connecting industry leaders and accelerating innovation through the exchange of information and ideas. With Malaysia increasingly being recognised as a destination for business events, the strong government support will not only help to bring in more international business events to our shore but also amalgamate the efforts of all ministries through multiple advocacy programmes toward achieving the nation’s goal.”

Rémi Dévé is chief editor of The Boardroom magazine. This article was contributed by Boardroom and has been excerpted and modified for Convene.

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