GEORGE TOWN, Oct 29 — Penang has recorded a revenue of RM66.214 million from business events organised in 2020 despite being hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) Chief Executive Officer Ashwin Gunasekeran said this is a testimony of the confidence that companies have in Penang and its strict Covid-19 SOP guidelines.

He said PCEB had initially estimated revenue of RM1.7 billion for 2020, in conjunction with Experience Penang 2020 and Visit Malaysia 2020, prior to the pandemic.

However, after the pandemic hit, a number of events were postponed and some were transformed into virtual format instead of being cancelled.

“Penang was the first to launch new normal guidelines for events with input from over 30 industry stakeholders including hotels, suppliers and agents,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail.

He said this gave companies and businesses the confidence to hold business events in Penang that included corporate meetings.

There were about 50 major business events planned for 2020 in Penang but only five of these events were cancelled due to the pandemic, Ashwin said.

He said the remaining 45 events were either deferred to between 2022 and 2025 or were converted into virtual events.

He said now, to adapt to the new normal, hybrid and virtual events can still be held so international congress and conventions might draw even more participants than the conventional physical events.

The prolonged lockdown this year from February onwards had also dampened the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry but PCEB continued to bid for events to be held in Penang over the next five years.

“We have managed to secure about 15 international conferences for between 2022 and 2025 which are estimated to bring in a revenue of RM900 million,” he said.

Even with the lockdowns, he said many business event organisers did not want to cancel their events but postponed it till interstate travelling was allowed.

“The moment interstate travelling was allowed, we have been getting calls from organisers on holding business meetings and events here,” he said.

He said PCEB’s sales team in Kuala Lumpur have already gone out in full force from August onwards in anticipation of the reopening of state borders.

“Things are moving fast so we have to be fast to push it along and support meetings for participants of up to 20 individuals,” he said.

He said for now, they are focused on meeting the domestic market but they are also planning for when the country’s borders are open for international travellers.

He can foresee that hybrid international conferences will be held in future and this will mean more participants will take part.

“If normally a physical conference can take in 1,000 participants, a hybrid conference can accommodate thousands more participants,” he said.

Among the events the PCEB has successfully attracted to be held in Penang included the World Wedding Congress in 2022, International Advertising Association World Congress (2023), World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (2023), Asia Pacific International Association of Pathologists (2023) and World E-Sport Congress (2023).