The Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has been active in the MICE market for only the last couple of years, working with U.S. planners from its New York office. Already, there have been several record-breaking conferences, especially for associations, some of which were the organizations’ first meetings in Asia. Groups include the Internal Auditors Association, the UNI World Congress and the IAS Conference.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Malaysia for the 2013 Women Deliver conference with her daughter Chelsea, which gained huge recognition for the country.
“Right now we are getting on the ground and we have been quite successful because Malaysia is a new, easy place to do business,” Ping Ho, GM of MyCEB. “When speaking to [the association] organizers, they were quite happy in Malaysia because they attracted about 4,000 delegates—even more than they expected,” says Ho.
She adds that Malaysia is a competitive destination for groups, especially when trying to bring in delegates from some of the neighboring countries.
“We get a lot of attendees from Asia and from the Southeast. For most countries in Asia, there’s no Visa required. If so, it’s a very simple process. We have very strong support from the government,” says Ho. “Our goal is to have it be totally developed by 2020.”
There are three main cultures in Malaysia: Malay, Indian and Chinese. Combining all of them into one destination is what separates the country from many others in Asia.
“You get an introduction to all-Asian cultures in one place; it’s like an Asian sampler!” says Ho. “One of the destination’s biggest drawing points is that it’s affordable to stay at luxury hotels similar to a Westin or a Mandarin Oriental in a beautiful location, but it’s more affordable.”
Popular pre/post events are trips to Penang, Langkawi, Sarawak and Sabah.
Only 15 minutes from Penang International Airport, the 101-all suite Eastern & Oriental Hotel was originally built in 1884. The classic colonial design includes a gorgeous 750-foot promenade with a swimming pool and numerous dining options. The hotel lies just half a mile from the main cultural and entertainment districts of Penang and walking distance to Fort Cornwallis, Penang City Hall and Penang State Museum. The largest meeting space accommodates 400 pax.
Schedule a day trip to Sipadan on the island of Sabah for a diving excursion. There are no resorts onsite so it’s totally private. The island is often rated for the best diving in the world, with only 120 people allowed to dive per day. You’ll scuba or snorkel through the crystal clear waters and view over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of types of coral. Be sure to check out the famous turtle tomb, an underwater cave filled with turtle and dolphin fossils.
For island luxury, stay on Langkawi, one of the most high profile resort destinations in Malaysia. The 91-room Four Seasons Langkawi is set along the sandy beaches on the northeastern cape of Tanjung Rhu on the Adaman Sea. The hotel landscape was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Spain, complete with Moorish details throughout. The indoor/outdoor spaces include woven wooden screens, hanging mirrors with antique patina finishes, batik finishes and pillows. There are three restaurants onsite, each servicing locally sourced Malaysian ingredients like lemon grass, curry leaves, Turmeric, ulam leaves and Kaffir lime. Total meeting space is 2,150 sf.
Also check out the 424-room Berjaya Beach & Spa Resort on Langkawi. The resort is located on the UNESCO World Geo Park with stunning views of the mountains and crystal clear waters. Be sure to book the fabulous oceanside cottages for instant beach access. For groups, the resort has eight meeting rooms and the expansive Matsirat Ballroom for 900 pax.
Malaysia was recently ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the most price competitive destinations in the world. The country also ranked high when it comes to proficiency in English.
“For meetings, we can communicate well and there’s not really a language barrier,” says Ho.
For flight options, visit Malaysia Airlines.