by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua & Chief Marketing Officer, SITE
I was asked to deliver a workshop recently on “How Malaysia can build & sell compelling incentive travel experiences” and took advantage of my time there to explore some new and, indeed, not so new products relevant to the global meetings, incentives, conferences & events (MICE) marketplace.
Malaysia styles itself as “Asia’s Business Events Hub” but this is much more than fancy MarCom-speak. Simply arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and experience the seamless, intuitive journey through the airport to the awaiting metro that’ll take you downtown in jig time. There you’ll find a brand new world class exhibition facility – Malaysia International Trade & Exhibition Centre (MITEC) and the multi-award winning Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), both supported by an dense forest of hotels of all shapes and sizes.
Malaysia for Business Events: Conference Precinct, KL
KLCC is located at the heart of the downtown area in Kuala Lumpur facing a beautiful park with the majestic Petronas Towers in the foreground. This extraordinary setting – rus in urbe meets urban iconography – arguably, would be sufficient to elevate KLCC towards the top of any “Best Global Convention Centre” list. Add in the extensive footprint of the facility – 22,000 square metres – and the supporting hotel infrastructure and the proposition becomes well nigh unbeatable.
New hotel investments continue to arrive – locally owned The Kuala Lumpur Journal adds a uber-cool, boutique hotel to the mix with decided hipster appeal and truly zeitgeisty meetings and events spaces. And, of course, the global chains continue to thrive with the following luxury properties either recently opened or soon to be so: Four Seasons, W Hotel, Banyan Tree, So Sofitel and CitizenM.
Malaysia for Business Events: Tierasa Escapes
Developments in Business Events in Malaysia, however, are not restricted to the capital city. About 45 minutes from the city centre there’s a brand new “glamping” development with massive appeal to the corporate market. Lost in the middle of a luscious rain forest, Tierasa Estate is an oasis of calm, a haven of happiness, a hideaway of hope.
Based on the African Safari Lodge model, Tierasa offers escape, retreat and restoration in a special tented village, surrounded by dense vegetation, laid out around 2 wading pools with magnificent natural landscaping. Guest rooms are luxurious tents with airy private bathrooms, decorated with individually curated furniture pieces.
Tierasa also provides meetings facilities to stimulate creativity – one of the meeting rooms is actually a tree house. Outside of brainstorming, corporate guests can also partake of team-building including traditional archery. Food is provided at the estate in one of two cafes and, in the cool of the rainforest evenings, you can watch movies al fresco or sit around the fire pit and join in the singalong.
You’re only 45 minutes from a major cosmopolitan hub in South East Asia but once you’re at Tierasa, time and space enters another dimension. You’re transported to another world where deadlines are ancient history and all that separates you from nature is the thin veil of a mosquito net. Definitely a winning venue for building connections, high level learning or a corporate retreat.
Malaysia for Business Events: Resorts World Genting
Resorts World Genting is also another world, albeit for different reasons. No advance explanation can quite prepare you for what awaits there. I kept thinking of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and the part where Jack climbs high up the beanstalk into the clouds to discover an entire kingdom there, home to the giant he eventually defeats.
Resorts World Genting is that kingdom beyond the clouds, an astonishing development encompassing hotels (one of the hotels, at 7351 guestrooms, is currently the largest hotel in the world), a convention centre, a concert venue, hectares of high quality retail, kilometres of theme park (twentieth century Fox), multiple casinos, countless restaurants.
Perched on the peak of Mount Ulu Kali at 1,800 meters high, the development, in total, can accommodate a staggering 20,000 people – the population of a mid sized town! Predominantly a leisure-play that attracts city slickers in search of some weekend fresh air, Resorts World Genting (RWG) has obvious appeal in the world of Business Events, particularly for mega-incentives from China and Asia but not only …
Some of the existing elements and assets at RSG have an definite “incentive” characteristic. The nice people at RWG arranged for us to take a “walk on on the wildside” with veteran eco-warriors and team builders, Eddie and Pat Chan. Eddie and Pat led us deep into the rain forest and connected us with the dense forest’s rhythms and moods, highlighting its mysteries and magic, its savage beauty and immense grace. Two hours passed in the blink of an eye as we were spellbound by Eddie’s stories and tales.
At the other end of the spectrum the Awana Premium Outlet Mall offers great retail therapy as well as access to the mountainside Gondola which takes you from the Outlets back up to the main resort. It operates continuously and even has a glass bottom Gondola for VIP experiences.
Malaysia for Business Events: Malacca
About 150km south east of Kuala Lumpur lies the port town of Malacca, a UNESCO heritage site shaped over the centuries by Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. It’s a wonderful day long excursion from KL and merits inclusion in any Business Events programme with KL as its host city.
Our Malacca excursion commenced with a river cruise to the historical centre of the town followed by a climb to the ruins of St Paul’s Church, built originally by the Portuguese in 1591, and officially the oldest Church building in South East Asia. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary had previously visited Malacca in 1545 establishing a Christian community there.
If Malaysia is a melting pot of Asian cultures – Malay, Chinese and Indian – then Malacca adds some European spice to the mixture to create a deeply cultural city that truly embraces diversity, a town full of colour and exuberance, a place in a permanent state of celebration. Malacca is renowned for its street art and is home to Charles Cham, a contemporary artist who has exhibited his distinctive Ying | Yang paintings all over the world. A visit to his studio is a must.
Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, venues and hotels on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events industry. Padraic and Aoife also serve as Chief Marketing Officer and Director of Digital Marketing respectively for SITE.