Malaysia looks at seducing MICE planners


KUALA LUMPUR (eTN) – Singapore and Thailand have for a long time been providing financial incentives and discounts to meeting and convention planners in a bid to lure their business. The strategy has paid off so far: Singapore is now Southeast Asia’s premier MICE and convention city with a market share of 25% of all events in the region. By 2015, the city-state targets to generate US$7.5 billion from MICE, up from US$4 billion in 2009. Thailand has set up a budget of US$22 million to attract MICE, a fund which has grown over the last three years following political turmoil. “Believe in Thailand” is the newest campaign from the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and just took off in January. In 2009, MICE events to Thailand represented 730,000 overseas visitors generating US$1.7 billion in estimated revenues.

Malaysia is also bringing a more competitive offer to the marketplace. The Malaysian government presented at the end of last year a new scheme to boost MICE activities into the country. Malaysia tourism Minister Dr. Ng Yen Yen has announced funding of US$16 million for the business tourism sector for 2011. Bringing more MICE activities is part of the country’s official “Economic Transformation Program” (ETP) that will turn Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020. MICE is seen as a key economic activity as it brings high-spending, high-yield travelers to the country. Average spending from business travelers is three times higher than spending from leisure tourists.

Under the ETP vision, Malaysia wants to increase the total number of business tourism arrivals market share from 5% to 8% of Malaysia’s total arrivals. This would translate into an increase of business travelers from currently 1.2 million to 2.9 million by 2020. Business tourism is expected to contribute to Malaysia’s GDP by an additional US$1.2 billion in 2020. In 2009, MICE generated some US$3.2 billion in visitor spending, with 1.2 million international business tourism visitors coming to Malaysia.

From the US$16 million budget, at least half of it will be affected to provide financial incentives to attract more high-profile events. According to Zulkefli Hj Sharif CEO of MyCEB – Malaysia Convention Bureau created in 2009, “Financial support will be based on an economic assessment, agreed performance criteria, as well as mutual benefits for the government and the local host organization to be sure that the event will provide a significant boost to Malaysia’s business tourism industry,” he explained.

“We remain focused to propel Malaysia to [the] top five in the ICCA, International Congress and Convention Association, country rankings in Asia Pacific by year 2020,” added YB Dato Sri Dr. Ng. Malaysia is currently building new convention and exhibitions facilities such as the MATRADE Center in Kuala Lumpur and also new facilities in Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Penang, and Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah.