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Oleh Chris Maskilone

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) must be managed by a special agency under the Chief Minister’s Department or Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture lest it will just be another ‘white elephant’ project.

An artist impression of the SICC at night time. SNT Pix/Credit YayasanSabahGroup.org.my

Making the suggestion, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) President Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that without a dedicated agency to properly manage the SICC, it would only end up underutilised.

As a result, Sabah would not be able to capitalise on the lucrative Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) market.

Datuk Tan Kok Liang. – PIX / SNT FILE

Once completed,  SICC is expected to offer world class fully functional facilities, a Convention Bureau is crucial in order to do its bidding for a segment of the MICE market, he said.

“Bidding to secure major events are done at least two to three years in advance. In Malaysia, we have the Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau, Sarawak Convention Bureau and the Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Shah Alam Convention Bureau and the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) that specialises on tapping the MICE market.”

“Other states like Johor and Pahang had recently announced their plan to set up their own Convention Bureau. I suggest the Sabah Government does the same,” Tan said.

But, Matta is worried that at the rate they were going these facilities will be underutilised.

Between January and September 2018, Sabah recorded 33,613 pax from 241 events, generating tourism receipts of RM82.6 million, where events were held in existing major hotels, he said.

Tan added that besides generating good businesses for Sabah’s major hotels, it also help create new opportunities for the local players to set specialised Destination Management Companies (DMC), Professional Conference Organisers (PCO) and other MICE related suppliers.

He noted that MATTA is currently a member of the Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM) that seeks to promote business events industry as a distinct and important part of the Malaysian economy.

“Kota Kinabalu is strategically located, blessed with nature-based attractions, and with 230 direct international flight connectivities weekly and 430 flights weekly from Peninsula Malaysia, it makes the City a favorable destination for the MICE market.”

“But since it is a competitive market, lots of data analytics, marketing intelligence, aggressive and effective bidding process must be done to lure people to do business here.”

Tan also cautioned the State Government that MICE and BE (Business Events) is a totally different ballgame from leisure tourism, which has been very well managed by the Sabah Tourism Board.

“Honestly, the State Government will be in self-denial if they think that the tourism board can equally do the job as leisure tourism, because it is not the same as business tourism.

“All successful MICE/BE destinations have a dedicated Convention Bureau,” he said.-SabahNewsToday