Penang taps into RM11b business tourism industry through new bureau

Penang is looking to tap into the growing business tourism industry with the setting up of PCEB. — Picture by KE Ooi
Penang is looking to tap into the growing business tourism industry with the setting up of PCEB. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 18 — The Penang government has set up the Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) to tap into the lucrative business tourism industry that has earned Malaysia a cool RM11.3 billion over the last five years.

The new bureau is to bring in more Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions (MICE) programmes to the island state.

“We are in charge of promoting Penang as a MICE location to international events and to also bid for international events to be held here,” said PCEB Chief Executive Officer G. Ashwin in an interview.

Though there is less publicity on the industry, it is one that brings an economic spinoff that far surpasses that of the leisure tourist because each business tourist spends at least 3.5 times more than a leisure tourist.

The figures are impressive, as according to Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), the national body for MICE, business tourists spent about RM6.8 billion in Malaysia between 2010 and 2015.

MyCEB general manager Ho Yok Ping said the industry is rapidly growing and even though Malaysia only started focusing on this industry in recent years, it is already seeing economic spinoffs along with other non-economic benefits such as strengthening Malaysia’s reputation as a MICE hub, knowledge transfer, investment and export opportunities and social development.

MyCEB was only formed in 2010 and it had already successfully bid for 654 events bringing in 415,616 delegates in five years that brings in RM4.1 billion in economic returns and RM2.5 billion in visitors expenditure.

As for other events supported by MYCEB, Ho said the five-year period saw 1,350 events with a total 692,869 delegates that brings in RM7.2 billion in economic returns and RM4.3 billion in visitors expenditure.

“These data is only based on events bid and supported by MyCEB and may not represent the entire industry in Malaysia,” she said.

She projected that by 2020, the country’s business events industry will create 16,720 jobs, bring in 2.9 million business visitors and record more than RM3.9 billion gross national income.

“There are also beyond tourism benefits to this growth such as elevating Malaysia’s profile globally, stimulating the trade and export opportunities, helping Malaysians build a global network and connections and create a lasting legacy for the current and future industry thought leaders in the country,” she said.

Ho said the setting up of PCEB by the Penang state government was a good move as the island state is a very strong market to push.

“The setting up of the bureau now is a good time for them to start bringing in events for the next few years when the Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre is completed and be able to host large-scale events,” she told Malay Mail Online.

She said Malaysia is relatively new to the industry compared to Singapore or other countries but it is slowly making inroads in bidding and attracting international events to tap into the huge industry.

On the Penang side, Ashwin said PCEB was formed only in January this year but the number of events the state is pulling in are already increasing and gathering momentum.

“We have a total 37 events confirmed for this year that brings in 29,130 delegates to contribute an economic impact of about RM285.8 million,” he said.

PCEB is also working hard to bid for and support more MICE for 2017 and 2018, especially after the scheduled completion of SPICE expected at the end of the year.

The MICE sectors Penang is targeting are medical sciences, technology, transport and communications, social sciences and industrial.

“We are working closely with MyCEB on attracting more MICE events here,” he said.

MICE events are not only relegated to large conventions and conferences but also included smaller events like corporate meetings of between 20 to 50 people.

“So, we are working with smaller venues such as cafes within the heritage zone with spaces available to be used for meetings,” he said.

Penang is the second state to set up a bureau to attract MICE to the state after Sarawak and according to Ho, Sabah is also setting up its own MICE bureau.

PCEB is now actively seeking partners in the MICE industry that includes hotels and venue owners so that they could work together to attract more international events to the state.

Find out more about PCEB or to register as a partner at

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