Sunday, August 05, 2012

MICE: Showcasing Sarawak’s strides into the future


Situated on the third largest island in the world, blessed with the world’s oldest tropical rainforests and home to the ‘state-of-the-art’ conference facilities, Sarawak has all it takes to be the next world-class MICE haven.

BizHive Weekly takes an in-depth look at the Sarawak MICE industry putting the puzzle together to discover where the industry is heading in the future.

MICE: Sarawak striving to attain world class status

“It’s not tourism …But it supports tourism”

Situated on the third largest island in the world, blessed with the world’s oldest tropical rainforests and home to the ‘state-of-the-art’ conference facilities, Sarawak has all it takes to be the next world-class MICE haven.

“Its name alone conjures up images of vast forests, caves, rivers, mountains and unique wildlife but outsiders are not aware that it is also equipped with the latest infrastructure and ‘New World’ facilities,” lamented Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) managing director Mike Cannon, who preferred to call the state, ‘virtual paradise on earth.’

“Whether it is termed MICE, business tourism, meeting and incentives travel (MandIT), business events or any other of the myraid names that serve to further confuse the identity of the industry, the meetings industry is a distinct area of enterprise with its own unique markets,” emphasised Rod Cameron, International Development director for International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC).

“When you look at every single business event that is scheduled, they choose the destinations for completely different reasons but at the same time, when they come, what’s the draw card? It is the destination…,” Cannon told BizHive Weekly in an exclusive interview.

He pointed out that the core growth connection between the MICE industry and tourism was in the use of tourism products and services.

Whilst the marketing of business events versus leisure visitation was completely different, these two elements of visitation were multipurpose and came together when every visitor arrived.

Business events helped to induce leisure visitation by around 60 per cent within two years.

Further, a significant number of the international conference delegates were likely return to the destination, according to the National Business Events Study (NBES) of Australia.

“As this relates to Sarawak, many of the delegates don’t just return back with their family but will also come back with corporate events such as product launches, or their corporate meetings or another convention in the future,” said Cannon.

Meetings and conventions grew their visitor base by attracting people who were coming to attend the events rather than having chosen that destination on the basis of its own merits.

As a result, these were typically incremental visitors consisting of people who might other wise not have come at all.

“And it’s not just that they come, it’s when they come – often at times of the year when other kinds of visitors won’t,” Cameron commented.

The fact of life is that business events could not survive without tourism infrastructure, products and services.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Rashid Khan concurred by saying MICE was always an important element or component of tourism.

“I look at it as an industry which is climbing up the value chain because of the higher yield contributions.

“It’s not tourism whereby making the most of what we have.  It’s about breaking new grounds, things that we have never touched before such as business tourism,” he said.

“STB flies the flag of Sarawak as a destination and the bureau channels the deals and the brand of business events into the state,” Khan stressed.

“It requires focused balancing from both the destination marketeers and the destination management to ensure sustainable growth for the tourism industry moving forward.”

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