Travel And Tour World: How Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM) is planning to flourish Malaysian MICE market in post COVID-19 time?
Alan Pryor: There has been a very strong collaboration taking place within the business and events’ industry supply chain and our bureau, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB). MyCEB has been heavily involved in facilitating and elevating our engagement with Government on our recovery plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in order to demonstrate the state of readiness and preparedness undertaken by industry to resume business events.
We are also undertaking advocacy and lobbying through direct engagement with key Ministries, such as the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture; Ministry of International Trade & Industry; and Ministry of Defence, to communicate and differentiate business events from mass gatherings. The focus will be on stimulating the domestic market first and we will then focus on regional events once borders open up. The long-term focus will be on targeted global business events once access issues have been addressed and attendee confidence has been restored.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the impact of COVID-19 in the event industry of Malaysia.
Alan Pryor: For Malaysia, like most world-class business events destinations, the impact has been extreme. Event cancellations or postponements affect the whole supply chain from event planners and exhibition organisers, to the accommodation and aviation sectors, to name just a few. We are really experiencing major challenges with respect to business continuity and revenue losses.
According to a Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) survey, a few thousand business events will be affected, and this includes over 300 trade and consumer exhibitions, as well as hundreds of local and international conferences and other events. The losses from these cancelled events will total around RM2.4 billion (US$551.1 million), and more than 10,000 employees will be affected.
Travel And Tour World: How the Malaysian government and Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau is working to combat COVID 19 crisis?
Alan Pryor: In collaboration with MyCEB we are also engaged in supporting and delivering a few industry wide-campaign initiatives to stimulate and kick-start our domestic market. For example, MyCEB is creating packages for the domestic market called Let’s Meet Locally, while the regional market will have a similar initiative called Let’s Meet Tomorrow. There is strong collaboration between MyCEB with venues and hotels to kick start and simulate the resumption of bookings and enquiries for business events.
Travel And Tour World: Are you facing any challenges, while you are planning to reopen Malaysian MICE market?
Alan Pryor: Our major challenge is getting a clear distinction made between business events and mass gatherings, which is delaying the process of us being able to get back to running business events. This is why collectively as an industry, we came together to create our own business events industry SOPs to demonstrate to the Government that Business Events take place in controlled environments combined with internationally recognised and high-quality operational standards to ensure the health and safety of our employees, clients, suppliers and attendees.
Travel And Tour World: How the Malaysian business events industry will operate safely under comprehensive standard operating procedures (SOPs)?
Alan Pryor: We as industry place a high priority on safety and wellbeing and maintain best practice in this regard. We remain focused on adherence to directives stipulated by the Malaysian Government and guidelines and standards outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Malaysia’s business events venues and facilities can offer controlled environments combined with high quality operational standards to ensure the health and safety of people.
The comprehensive SOPs, which will be further customised for each venue and event, have been developed to help ensure a safe, hygienic and healthy environment for all. As an industry we are able to run extremely well organised events tracing every one of our attendees, speakers and exhibitors as well as monitoring, tracking and putting in place a range of other measures.
We understand that it is crucial in this new environment to deliver assurance and trust, so we are recommending a phased approach to event commencement and delivery. Subject to Government approval we are targeting July for commencement of domestic eventswith up to 250 participants. Once we secure more Government and customer confidence and support, we will move to phase two with an increase in meetings size and start reaching out to the regional market. Phase three would see us moving to secure meetings with an international focus and rotation, dependent on airline recovery and access.
Travel And Tour World: Can you please explain the comprehensive standard operating procedures that Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau has put together?
Alan Pryor: It has been very uplifting to see how our industry supply chain has come together and worked so closely and in solidarity. The comprehensive SOPs outline the new protocols and processes our venues will have in place once they can re-open. Collectively developed by the industry, the SOPs incorporate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), food safety measures, air quality control, surface cleaning, and physical and social distancing requirements. Based on these SOPs, Malaysian business events venues will also be required to implement a variety of other measures including temperature checks, thermal cameras, hand sanitizers, reduced touch-points, contactless transactions and daily monitoring systems.
We are now encouraging the Malaysian government to consider our industry SOPs, which demonstrate our state of readiness and preparation. We will continue to actively lobby the Government on the value of the business events industry to the economy, and to secure grants and subsidy support for the industry supply chain.
Travel And Tour World: Are you planning to focus on virtual events and remote conferencing in post coronavirus time?
Alan Pryor: I believe that the global MICE industry as a whole is embracing the new reality that has shifted everyone’s focus to virtual events as part of their event delivery portfolio. We expect that there will be various technological innovations that venues and industry players in Malaysia will implement in the new environment.