Abdul Karim: 80 events secured until 2026 prove Sarawak still destination of choice

Abdul Karim addressing the virtual launching of Meet Differently campaign in a pre-recorded video

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Feb 2: With at least 80 events secured last year that would take place in Sarawak between now and 2026, proved Sarawak is still a destination of choice for business and event planners.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah pointed out the events will bring about an estimated total economic impact of RM293.27 million and an expected direct delegate expenditure of RM159.38 million.

From this figure, he said that RM17.59 million of the total tax revenue is expected to generate at least 23,276 job placements for Sarawakians in the years that the respective events will be held.

“In a time where uncertainties reigned our business and travel outlook, this figure proved that Sarawak is still a destination of choice for business and event planners.

“What we must do now is to progress with the need of the industry. Without a doubt, hosting meetings and events in a world affected by Covid-19 requires us to make major changes and adjustments.

“Now we can see there’s a need to regulate the nature, format and size of an event for everyone’s safety and piece of mind in this post-Covid-19 world we live in. Hence, the need to meet differently,” he addressed the virtual launching of Meet Differently campaign by Place Borneo on Zoom Webinar today.

Gracie (top left) in a live chat with industry partners with (clockwise from top) Hii, Amelia, Muhd Fadhil, Dona, Premala and Mona

As more events are going hybrid or digital, Abdul Karim emphasised that it will be the key to help propel Sarawak forward in the future, as it gives the best of both worlds with attendees from all over the world can have a choice to attend physically or virtually.

He also noted that there will always be uncertainties even with new measures and as such, stressed on the need to mitigate the uncertainties among travellers and event participants with industry-friendly policies and guidelines.

“Destination hosts, event planners and travel organisers need to assure the public and this can be done through friendly policy, customised travel insurance and more.

“We must remember to instill confidence among attendees with clear and transparent information and communications (such as) via campaigns like Meet Differently, we can communicate directly on the state, readiness and measures related to health, hygiene and safety that we will take to boost delegates confidence,” he added.

The State government, he emphasised, is always ready to assist in giving out information on best practices and guidelines for venues and event planners to undertake when crafting their events going forward.

He thus called on business event planners to strengthen their collaborations with Business Events (BE) Sarawak especially with their internationally recognised marketing campaign known as Tribe Legacy Sarawak.

“The Bureau is welcoming industry players to further generate ideas and discussions on what can be done to mitigate and craft a worldwide experience for creating new best practices and guidelines to serve as the norm in event planning.

“Remember, the change is always constant to drive us to a better future,” he said while applauding Place Borneo for crafting the Meet Differently campaign and thinking outside the box.

Meanwhile, Place Borneo principle consultant Gracie Geikie revealed that this Meet Differently campaign is an initiative to reach out and test industry players to bring out other ways of doing business in this current situation by thinking outside the box, “instead of saying we can’t handle big crowds and this is not happening.”

“Sarawak is blessed with the full support from the State government as well as opportunity to market and promote MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) events differently,” she said of Sarawak government placing Business Events (BE) in the forefront of the tourism industry besides eco tourism and others.

With Sarawak’s great outdoors and nature just outside the backyard, Gracie wants delegates, clients and organisers to know that Sarawak has a variety of venues and unique attractions that can be packaged into the MICE events.

Even though Sarawak is categorised as a second tier destination due to its small population, she emphasised this not too dense and crowded venue provided the window of opportunity since major events have had to be scaled down.

“We want to be the best second tier destination for MICE. We got the uniqueness and beauty. We must hold on to this, we need to preserve and enrich our contents in cultures with many are diminishing as much as our nature and adventure.

“Hybrid (events) are here to stay so those who are wary and worried about travelling long distance, there can be a virtual delegate and we may run virtual tour for them. So this is all going to happen.

“This is just the beginning of the campaign. We are going to fine-tune from time to time as MICE events are rolled out so that we are able to attract regional business if not international yet,” she added.

Today’s webinar which was participated by industry partners and friends also discussed on how they were meeting differently and adapting to new ways of doing business.

Permanent Secretary to MOTAC Hii Chang Kee, Place Borneo chief executive officer (CEO) Mona Abdul Manap, acting BE Sarawak CEO Amelia Roziman, Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury Wee, Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) director of sales and marketing Premala Danapakiam and Damai Beach Resort general manager Muhd Fadhil Abdullah attended the webinar. — DayakDaily