PLANS are underway to set up a state-based convention bureau in Penang in the near future, part of the northern Malaysian state’s scheme to upgrade its infrastructure in order to attract more MICE.
It is yet undetermined if the convention bureau will be government assisted or 100 per cent privately run, said Penang Global Tourism managing director, Ooi Geok Ling.
“With the setting up of a convention bureau, the state can then go into active bidding,” said Ooi.
The creation of the bureau is timely with the opening of subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (sPICE) in Bayan Lepas scheduled for 2015. The centre will have a floor area of 4,459m2 and incorporates a business class hotel and F&B services. Another existing 1,200 rooms are available within a 10-minute drive from the site.
sPICE will be Penang’s first purpose-built MICE venue, located within 10 minutes from Penang International Airport and a short distance from Penang International Sports Arena (PISA). Ooi said the close proximity to PISA is an added advantage because PISA can also be used to hold exhibitions and dining functions should the need for more space arise.
The opening of sPICE has been delayed by a year due to the late handover of the site from the state government to the private construction company, Eco Meridian.
Another convention centre is slated to open in 2016 in Jelutong Expressway. The Light Convention Centre is also privately funded and developed by IJM Land. According to Ooi, the architectural details are still being finalised.
To raise awareness and source for MICE opportunities, Penang Global Tourism is holding its first international MICE conference in Penang, roughly scheduled to run this year-end. Ooi said that earlier MICE conferences hosted in the state only had local participants and speakers.
Penang has moved up the ranking of the International Congress and Convention Association from number 45 in 2010 to number 32 in 2011. The number of international association meetings increased from eight in 2010 to 12 last year.