Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Lahad Datu fallout as yet on MICE in Sabah, quick resolution critical

It is a well known fact that while reputations and image can take years to build, sometimes a single event can cast a smear that takes a painfully long time to erase. The impact of any single event, especially when of a negative nature is magnified many times over in this day of always on communications and social media platforms.

In light of this, the recent events in Lahad Datu, Sabah will likely cause some concern for Malaysians, especially those in the travel, tourism and MICE sector. With 2014 being Visit Malaysia Year, a lot of time and effort is being invested to ensure a roaring success for these sectors come 2014.

For the MICE sector in particular, which has a stronger multiplier effect within the Sabah tourism industry, any negative impression of Malaysia will hurt ongoing efforts to land international events.

Business Circle spoke to Anthony Wong, CEO of Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd. Better known as AOS, the company has more than 35 years experience in the leisure and incentive sectors of tourism. Wong coincidentally, was at an industry exhibition in Berlin, ITB Berlin. He says that not many of the visitors at the event are aware of the Lahad Datu incident, “But we make the effort to point out that Lahad Datu is far away from Kota Kinabalu. So we do not feel it will affect us when we do a conference in Kota Kinabalu.”

For Peninsula Malaysia, when bidding, Wong says they will give clients a map of Malaysia. This is to show them the distance [of Lahad Datu] from Kuala Lumpur and all the other conference venues like Penang, Langkawi and including Singapore. “This is because safety is the most important factor for any MICE event organiser. Even sponsorships of MICE events takes the safety factor into consideration,” adds Wong.

He offers a suggestion to quickly counter any lingering effects of the Lahad Datu incident. “After such an incident, we need to invite the international media down for them to asses the real situation and share their stories with the global audience.”