Friday, August 04, 2006

Sarawak the meetings resort

KUCHING: Sarawak has set up the country’s first independent agency to market conventions and incentive travel destinations.

The Sarawak Convention Bureau will market all the state’s meeting facilities and focus on attracting conventions, meetings and exhibitions, state Tourism and Urban Development Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said.

Former tourism minister Datuk Leo Michael Toyad will head the bureau, which is expected to be operational next month. Its chief executive officer is Australian Jill Henry, who has wide experience in destination marketing.

“The bureau was introduced to the international trade media at the recent International Meetings Expo in Frankfurt, Germany,” Wong said.

“The expo is Europe’s largest meeting trade show.”

He said a 1,500-people capacity convention and exhibition centre with over 30,000 square metres of floor area would be built here.

Other meeting facilities included the Sibu trade and exhibition centre.

Wong said the bureau would work closely with the Sarawak Tourism Board to sell products, like the Mulu National Park, to convention delegates.

“Convention delegates spend up to three times more than the average leisure visitors and many of them return with their families as holidaymakers,” he pointed out.

“More importantly, conventions provide a bridge between tourism and trade.

“They can open up new export opportunities for the local business community and foster closer economic ties with foreign business and trading partners.”

Wong said the bureau would launch an assistance package and campaign next month to encourage local organisations to make bids to host conventions.

He said some 4.48 million visitors were recorded last year, and those from China jumped by 56% to about 19,000, up from 12,000 in 2004.

Visitors from western Europe increased by 16%, and those from Australia and Britain by 6% and 5%, respectively.

Source: The Star

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