MALAYSIA has some of the finest exhibition and convention centres in the region, but it needs to beef up its MICE (meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition) sector if it wants to garner a larger slice of the regional exhibition and convention market.
There seems to be two schools of thought on how to get this done. One side believes it can be achieved by making full use of the conventions that we already have. Others, however, believe there is a need for more convention space.
Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector, Malaysia (PEPS) president James Wong believes there is already sufficient convention and exhibition space, especially within Kuala Lumpur.
“Even the existing ones, like the current Matrade (Malaysian External Trade Development Corp) centre, is under utilised,” he tells StarBizweek.
Among the more prominent exhibition venues in Kuala Lumpur are the KL Convention Centre (KLCC) (9,710 sq m), the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) (23,504 sq m) and the Matrade Centre in Jalan Duta (13,000 sq m).
Wong believes that the country’s convention centres are just under-promoted.
“The main challenge that we face is the lack of marketing. We do have good convention centres but we’re not doing enough to promote Malaysia as a MICE destination, and we’re losing out to countries like Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong,” he says.
Despite Malaysia being known as a food haven, not enough is being done to promote it, Wong adds.
“We have cultural diversity and all the infrastructure, but we don’t see many food fairs or exhibitions. In Hong Kong, food fairs are very well promoted.”
Another exhibition centre that is not well marketed is the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC). It boasts state-of-the-art design and facilities but is very under-utilised, says an industry observer.
“Unfortunately, the location could be better and it is more ideal for government events. In the first two years after it was built, there were no proper road signs and getting there was a nightmare!”
Recently, the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) said Malaysia needed a large exhibition centre to boost its MICE sector.
Miti secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Mamat was quoted in a news report last month as saying that by having the relevant facilities, Malaysia could promote not just its MICE sector, but the tourism industry as well.
The statement was in reference to the proposed new Matrade Centre that will be built at Jalan Duta by the Naza Group. Phase one of the project will comprise a 90,000-sq m expo centre on 13.1 acres, which is set to be the largest exhibition and convention centre in the country.
The construction of the new exhibition centre will bring the total exhibition space in Kuala Lumpur to more than 130,000 sq m.
Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed reportedly said the new centre would be ideal for hosting very large-scale exhibitions that existing centres in Malaysia could not accommodate, such as the Defence Services Asia Exhibition and Conference, Malaysia International Halal Showcase and International Trade Malaysia.
In a news report last month, Malaysian Association of Convention Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Maceos) president Jonathan Kan said he was supportive of the Government’s call to have more convention space.
In the report, he said Malaysia had only hosted 3,418 international events exhibitions and conventions in 2007, less than half of that organised in Singapore during the same period.
Kan said the total available exhibition space in Malaysia currently was about 46,214 sq m, which was about 37% of Singapore’s total exhibition space of 124 000 sq m.
The report claimed that Malaysia was ranked among the lowest in the region in comparison to Hong Kong’s 389,000 sq m, Bangkok’s 210,000 sq m and Dubai’s 108,538 sq m.
RAM Holdings Bhd chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng agrees that the MICE sector is in a good position to be a growth industry, but feels that having more space is not necessarily the way to go.
“If the new Matrade Centre can create sustainable demand for niche (large-scale) exhibitions such as aerospace conventions, only then would it be viable.”
“Places like the PICC is under-utilised. We need to beef up promotions and encourage regional and international conventions if we want to make Malaysia a MICE hub for Asean and even Asia,” he says.
Malaysian International Furniture Fair Sdn Bhd (MIFF) senior manager Karen Goi, meanwhile, feels Malaysia lacks convention space. The company has been forced to hold its annual MIFF in multiple locations in recent years.
“There’s just not enough space. That’s why we’re organising the MIFF 2010 in three locations simultaneously, namely KLCC, PWTC and at the Matrade Centre.”
She says a typical furniture fair requires a gross floor space of at least 80,000 sq m. “Having it in just one location would make it very convenient for our exhibitors and cheaper to organise. Having it in three locations means triple the cost. Managing transportation for multiple venues is also difficult,” Goi adds.
Malaysian Automotive Association Datuk Aishah Ahmad says the association is quite satisfied with the convention space available based on its experience organising the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show every few years.
“We often have it in PWTC. With multiple levels, it is enough for us. It’s ideal also because of its easy to access via public transport,” she says.
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