Over the past few months, there has been an increase in cancellation and postponement of events in the Klang Valley as a preventive measure in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
This has seen a ripple effect as event postponements inadvertently affect the business of exhibition and conference centres.
In fact, some of these venue providers report that up to 30% of pre-booked events were pushed to a later date.
While acknowledging that some things remain out of their control, the management of these centres are doing their part by taking health and safety precautions for guests and staff.
StarMetro spoke to three major venue providers in Kuala Lumpur to find out how they are coping with the sudden drop in business.
Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) chief executive officer Gunther Beissel said the biggest challenge was dealing with the spread of unverified news regarding Covid-19 on social media.
Fake news on the disease, he said had put fear in people resulting in them not wanting to go to public places.
Beissel said this in turn affected businesses and their profitability.
Some 11% of confirmed events at Mitec as of end of last year were postponed to the first and second quarters of this year, he said.
On a positive note, Beissel said it was commendable that the Covid-19 outbreak was well-contained in Malaysia.
“Malaysia is safe and the low number of cases is a testament as to how well the issue is being handled in the country,” he said.
Mitec, he said took all precautionary measures when the outbreak first made its presence in the region.
“We have health safety checks at all entry points to our building. We also check employees’ temperature daily.
“Mitec is the only trade fair venue in the country with its own in-house medical clinic as well as an isolation room.
“We have also stepped up hygiene and disinfecting practices at highly frequented places such as toilets and lifts,” he said.
From Mitec’s perspective, business tourism was largely economy driven and it would be good if this sector was given some form of tax waiver or incentive to cope with the business during this challenging time, said Beissel.
He said the RM20bil Economic Stimulus Package 2020 should include the business tourism sector by providing incentives such as tax waivers.
“The business tourism sector should not be overlooked. When there are 5,000 guests coming into Malaysia for conferences from around the world, this will certainly benefit the local economy,” said Beissel.
Mitec is the largest trade and exhibition centre in the country with over 51,000sq m of exhibition space. It is operated by a team of 113 staff.
The centre sits on a 30.5ha land in Kuala Lumpur metropolis and is an integrated development within the Kuala Lumpur’s International Trade and Exhibition District.
World Trade Centre KL
Thirty percent of meetings and conferences at World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL) have been postponed but none were cancelled.
Its chief operating officer Fauzy Wahab said business was somewhat slow in January and February because of the festivities.
“But due to Covid-19, events slated for March and April have now been postponed,” he said.
He said the MATTA Fair by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents was one such example.
The travel fair, he said was to have taken place this month but was now postponed to early May.
The Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) which was scheduled for early this month has also been moved to late June and early July.
“We were also targeting the China market to bring in events
to WTCKL and there have been many enquiries, however, due to the Covid-19 outbreak in China, these plans were stalled,” he said, adding that the famous exhibition and conference centre, an affiliate of the World Trade Centres Association, which was previously known as Putra World Trade Centre, has rebranded itself to WTCKL.
Fauzy said demand for space was expected to pick up towards the year end.
“We believe organisers who are postponing their events in the first and second quarters will move their events to the later part of the year.
“This will create demand for hall space and we expect to see an increase in bookings from the middle of this year,” he said.
Fauzy added that WTCKL was concerned as to how long the Covid-19 disease would affect economies and businesses globally.
“For now, we will focus on the domestic market.
“We have the Malaysia International Book Fair taking place in late March.
“We also have the Malaysia Association Tour Agency (Mata) which is having a travel fair from March 13 to 15.
“We have several other domestic events in April,” he said, adding that extra precautions were taken to increase cleanliness at WTCKL to keep Covid-19 at bay.
KL Convention Centre
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) general manager Alan Pryor said a few local corporate events had been cancelled and some international events were postponed and rescheduled for later this year and early 2021.
Pryor said the company was proactively looking at cost saving measures to mitigate the challenging situation.
The centre is the venue for the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in November. It is also working with organisers and stakeholders by adhering to the guidelines set by the authorities to ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone attending the event.
“We remain open for business as there has been no advice from the authorities to indicate the need to curtail business events.
“We are working with our clients individually on a case-by-case basis to address any concerns they have and come up with mutually acceptable solutions.
“Our approach is to remain
flexible and supportive, while ensuring we create a safe environment for the continuance of events at the convention centre in line with guidelines by the Health Ministry and World Health Organisation,” he said.
Some of the major international events that have been postponed at KLCC include the 19th International Congress on Infectious Diseases (ICID) 2020, Asiawater 2020, World Tunnel Congress 2020, Offshore Technology Conference Asia
2020 and Export Furniture Exhibition (EFE) 2020.
“The deferment of events had some impact on our business, however, so far, most events have been postponed or rescheduled, so we expect things to bounce back strongly once the situation improves,” he said, adding that as a venue provider, KLCC took the safety of both their guests and staff seriously.
“Our management team is meeting daily to discuss latest information on Covid-19.
“We have increased frequency on the sterilisation of public surfaces such as handrails and door handles.
“We have also upgraded safety measures in relation to our catering to reduce any risk of contamination. These include extra butlers at all buffet counters to monitor food handling, more buffet stations to minimise queues and higher frequency of utensil replacement.
“We have also placed additional signage throughout the venue reminding both guests and staff of basic hygiene protocols.
“There are also sanitising stations throughout the venue, including all entrances, washrooms, food court and in our function spaces on Ground Floor, Levels 3 and 4,” he said.
Pryor added that the Covid-19
situation had put pressure on the Malaysian business events industry and hoped the government would provide incentives for this sector under the Economic Stimulus Package.