Business Events Council Malaysia appeals to the government to restart business

The association has submitted new standard operating procedures to demonstrate its state of preparedness and distinguish business events from mass gatherings

Safe for business: Business Events Council Malaysia's chairman, Alan Pryor.

KUALA LUMPUR - Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM) has appealed to the government to establish a restart date for its businesses. Currently, under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), conferences and exhibitions are prohibited from taking place. Malaysia recently extended its CMCO for a further month until 9 June.

BECM is a national council representing the voice of Malaysia's business events industry. Among its nine members are the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS); Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA); Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH); and Malaysian Society of Association Executives (MSAE). The association has submitted a new set of standard operating procedures as a means to appeal for government approval to relaunch this "crucial economic sector".

"[The Malaysian] industry supply chain has collectively worked on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for business events…to demonstrate our state of preparedness and willingness to resume business operations," said Mr Alan Pryor, chairman of BECM.

The industry has yet to secure the approval to resume business operations, despite nearly half of the country's workforce being allowed to return to work since 4 May. An estimated 6.64 million people have since returned to work as restrictions on businesses were eased.

BECM appealed on 12 May 2020 to the government to "make a clear distinction between business events and mass gatherings". The government has classified business events as mass gatherings where social distancing is "difficult to enforce".

Mr Pryor underscored that it is crucial that the government understand that business events "can operate safely under comprehensive SOPs" and "should not be subject to the mass gathering restrictions that apply to other large-scale events such as weddings, religious gatherings, sports events and concerts".

He asserted that "Malaysia's business events venues and facilities can offer controlled environments combined with high quality standards to ensure the health and safety of people". This includes contact tracing of all event attendees and strict compliance with government guidelines on hygiene and physical distancing.

He concluded, "We do hope that the Malaysian Government takes this distinction into account moving forward, as has been happening in other international markets such as China and Germany. Gatherings and events are not all equal and come in many different shapes and sizes.

"Purpose-built convention centres are required to maintain international standards with controlled environments and stringent operational processes. As such, it is encouraging to see that some governments have recognised this and are applying appropriate regulations so that business events can resume with the necessary precautions in place."

Recently, the German government classified exhibitions, trade fairs and congresses as activities that can potentially resume under strict health and safety conditions, rather than as mass gatherings, which currently remain prohibited in Germany until the end of August.

"Event venues are economic engines for their cities and communities, creating significant tax and travel revenues as well as jobs. We have developed highly comprehensive SOPs, which demonstrate our focus on ensuring the safety of our employees, clients, suppliers and attendees," he said.

New procedures include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), food safety measures, air quality control, surface cleaning, and physical and social distancing.

Business event venues will also be required to implement a variety of other measures including temperature checks, thermal cameras, hand sanitisers, reduced touchpoints, contactless transactions and daily monitoring systems.

Prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that despite improvements in controlling the spread of COVID-19, efforts have not fully succeeded. The restrictions have reduced the number of new infections in Malaysia, which have come down from a three-digit hike to mostly two-digit increases from mid-April.