It's time to go wild about meetings

In Sabah and Sarawak, meeting groups and incentive travel attendees can mix a little bit of business with a whole lot of pleasure.

Proboscis monkeys in Borneo's unspoiled wild.
Proboscis monkeys in Borneo's unspoiled wild. Photo Credit: Sabah Tourism Board/Ramble and Wander

Why go?
Blessed with unspoilt natural beauty and a host of new and refreshed meetings venues, East Malaysia is made for conventions and incentive travel rewards where attendees can mix a little bit of business with a whole lot of pleasure.

If Kuala Lumpur can be described as fast-paced and hectic, with bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants, sky-high office towers and bars bursting with live music and celebration then East Malaysia, or Malaysian Borneo, is the exact opposite.

Of course it has many of those mod cons but life on the eastern side of Malaysia definitely moves at a slower pace. It is a destination made for conventions and incentive travel rewards where attendees can mix a little bit of business with a whole lot of pleasure. A place where groups and individuals can slow down, recharge and refresh.

East Malaysia, or Borneo, really has two beating hearts: to the north, the stunning region of Sabah and its main city Kota Kinabalu, and to the south, Sarawak and its capital Kuching. Both are of a similar size in terms of population – under four million people each. And, with plenty of stunning and pristine wilderness around them, it feels like even less.

Many adventure activities can be had at Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest peak.
Many adventure activities can be had at Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest peak.

It’s no wonder Sabah and Sarawak are popular holiday destinations for busy residents of Kuala Lumpur. A short domestic flight from the Malaysian capital and you really are in another world. A destination where rainforests, nature parks and beaches are matched only by the beauty of the hotels and resorts that surround these natural wonders. And who can forget the people. Hospitality here is as good as can be found anywhere in the world.

As was the case around the world, Sabah and Sarawak were heavily impacted by the global pandemic, but having reopened once more, the early signs are that it is going to be a very strong decade ahead.

CEO of Business Events Sarawak, Amelia Roziman, says Sarawak switched to hosting local and national business events during Covid and is now gearing up to welcome a greater number of international groups. 

Sarawak is gearing to welcome a greater number of international groups. The latest in the calendar comes from the Travel Agents Federation of India organising their 2022 Annual Conference in Kuching.
Amelia Roziman, CEO, Business Events Sarawak
Amelia Roziman, CEO, Business Events Sarawak

“Sarawak is gearing to welcome a greater number of international groups. The latest in the calendar comes from the Travel Agents Federation of India organising their 2022 Annual Conference in Kuching," Roziman said. “Another bid win this year is the 4th Asia Pacific Conference on Performance Analysis of Sports by the Sarawak Sports Psychology Association, scheduled for October 2022. We are expecting approximately 650 delegates.“

In June, Sarawak hosted the Innovation Technology Exposition (InTEX22) organised by UNIMAS. The expo, together with a forum in between, attracted around 200 delegates and 100 exhibitors from around Malaysia.”

Sabah, similarly, relied on domestic business to keep moving through the pandemic but is now picking up steam and turning its focus beyond Malaysia for new business. 

Raia Hotel & Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak
Raia Hotel & Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak

Fresh from participating at IMEX in Frankfurt, CEO of Sabah Tourism Board, Noredah Othman, is upbeat about the prospects for Sabah in coming years.

In May this year, the destination played host to 1,200 participants from 49 countries at the 2nd Asia Parks Congress held in the state-of-the-art Sabah International Convention Centre. It was jointly convened by Sabah Parks and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Othman said it was exciting to see in-person attendee numbers grow with the reopening of international borders as the meeting came closer. And, it seems there are more major international events on the way, with the destination hosting the World Tourism Conference later this year. 

Sabah has always been a leisure destination. Now, with an international convention centre, we have to move forward and be more involved in attracting business events.
Noredah Othman, CEO, Sabah Tourism Board
Noredah Othman, CEO, Sabah Tourism Board

Othman sees a particular strength of Sabah in small incentive-style programmes. “Our MICE market has always been more focused towards incentives [than meetings],” Othman said.

“Incentives are more like a leisure holiday – more focused on having a good time than having meetings. That’s where Sabah is. We’ve always been a leisure destination.

“Now, having an international convention centre, we have to move forward and be more involved in attracting business events so that our centre is as fully utilised as possible.”

Participating in trade shows like IMEX Frankfurt and greater international marketing campaigns will no doubt help.



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