Ashwin said that PCEB initially estimated revenue of RM 1.7 billion for 2020, together with Experience Penang 2020 and Visit Malaysia 2020, before the pandemic. – Photo by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, October 29 – Penang recorded a turnover of RM 66.214 million from business events held in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) Managing Director Ashwin Gunasekeran said it was a testament to the trust companies have in Penang and its strict Covid-19 SOP guidelines.

He said PCEB initially estimated revenue of RM 1.7 billion for 2020, together with Experience Penang 2020 and Visit Malaysia 2020, ahead of the pandemic.

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

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

He said it gives businesses and businesses the confidence to organize business events in Penang, including corporate meetings.

There were around 50 major business events planned for 2020 in Penang, but only five of those events were canceled due to the pandemic, Ashwin said.

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

He said that now, to adapt to the new normal, hybrid and virtual events can still be organized so that international congresses and conventions can attract even more attendees than conventional physical events.

The lockdown extended this year from February had also dampened the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry, but PCEB has continued to bid for events to be held in Penang for the next five years.

“We have managed to secure around 15 international conferences between 2022 and 2025, which are expected to bring in 900 million ringgit,” he said.

Even with the closures, he said many business event planners didn’t want to cancel their events but postponed them until interstate travel was allowed.

“At the time that interstate travel was authorized, we received calls from organizers to organize business meetings and events here,” he said.

He said the PCEB sales team in Kuala Lumpur had already fully deployed from August in anticipation of the state’s reopening of borders.

“Things move fast, so we need to be quick to get things done and support meetings for attendees of up to 20 people,” he said.

He said that for now, they are focused on satisfying the domestic market, but they are also planning when the country’s borders will be open to international travelers.

He can foresee that hybrid international conferences will take place in the future and this will mean that more participants will attend.

“While normally a physical conference can accommodate 1,000 participants, a hybrid conference can accommodate thousands of additional participants,” he said.

Some of the events that the PCEB has managed to attract to Penang include the World Marriage Congress in 2022, the World Congress of the International Advertising Association (2023), the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (2023), the Asia-Pacific International Association of Pathologists (2023) and E-Sport Congress (2023).

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