More details of Penang's largest convention and exhibition venue has been revealed as its opening draws closer.
The RM350 million (US$78.78 million) Setia Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (Setia SPICE), which will open in March 2017, will be the first solar hybrid convention centre in the world, have a seven-acre park on the rooftop which will house a spice garden and a playground for children with special needs, a 4,546m2 pillar-less ballroom that can accommodate 8,000 people in theatre style and be sectioned into four smaller halls, among other features.
Setia SPICE is part of an integrated project which includes the refurbished Penang International Sports Arena – now known as Setia SPICE Arena – with capacity for 10,000 people in theatre seating and can be used for plenary sessions, the Setia SPICE Aquatic Centre, and the Setia SPICE Canopy recreational area. By 2019, a four-star business class hotel with 453 keys will join the mix.
Koe Peng Kang, executive vice president of S P Setia, believes that the green credentials of Setia SPICE will give the complex an advantage in courting international clients who have a strict CSR policy and prefer to work with like-minded suppliers.
Senior manager, Yeoh Kheng Ho, said Setia SPICE, is looking at a business mix of 80 per cent local and 20 per cent international business in its first year of operations.
Ahead of its opening, the complex already has a stream of bookings, comprising annual dinners, weddings, small local conferences and meetings, said Yeoh. Two large international conferences are also in the bag, one of which is for over 8,000 people in May.
With this dedicated centre complemented by 2,000 rooms within a 10km radius, Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau will be able to bid for large conventions that require many breakout rooms, said its CEO, Ashwin Gunasekeran.
Hooi Lai Ngoh, honorary secretary of the Malaysian Thoracic Society and Malaysian Medical Association Penang Branch chairman, said Penang’s newest convention centre will fulfil the need for a single venue large enough to support massive medical meetings that usually have several concurrent sessions and an exhibition component.
Tony Goh, honorary secretary for Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter, said the state needs more business-class hotels to support Setia SPICE and the projected increase in business events once the centre is operational.
Currently the state has an inventory of around 11,000 hotel rooms and an average occupancy rate of over 60 per cent.