Words Vicky Koffa
Penang has long been a key player in Malaysia’s economic landscape. With a diversified economy spanning manufacturing, technology, tourism, and trade, the region has positioned itself as a strategic and affordable business destination. The state’s capital, George Town, is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also a vibrant business district with a dynamic mix of traditional shop houses and modern office high-rise complexes.
Sustainable practices within this business spirit are present throughout the chain of bringing people together to meet in person. The Northern Malaysian state of Penang honors its culture and heritage by incorporating activities within the frame of a conference in order to educate delegates about the local community. Furthermore, it encourages social sustainability by offering companies like Kloth (which repurposes clothing materials) a place in the conference design.
Penang’s meetings infrastructure follows the same values. The state’s biggest meetings facility, the Setia Spice Convention Centre, was awarded the title of the most sustainable venue in Asia in 2022. It is the world’s first hybrid solar powered convention centre, featuring expansive green spaces, green technology, energy efficient systems, redevelopment of an existing building and social inclusive design. Its flexible grand ballroom can accommodate up to 8,000 people.
BE @ Penang
The local stakeholders of the meetings industry are responsible for Penang’s success the last 15 years, with Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) uniting and educating all parties involved. With the goal to remain relevant for associations, PCEB has been organizing content-focused events to keep the local business event planners, suppliers and venues up to date with the global expectations and challenges.
In its 8th edition this year, Penang’s signature conference – BE @ Penang – took place last week at the Setia Spice convention centre with the presence of 200 attendees. Under the theme “BE Reinvents”, the event highlighted the need for innovation, adaptation, and a fresh perspective. Ashwin Gunasekeran, CEO of PCEB, said: “This year we focus on sustainability as it is the only way forward. We aim to foster collaboration, innovation and growth among our participants in order to expand and improve our business events offerings.”
Organized by PCEB and supported by the Penang State Government, this year’s conference included the signature of a Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) among five major convention centres in the Asian region. The “Asia Venue Alliance” members are: Ariyana Convention Centre Danang from Vietnam, Bali Nusa Dua Convention Centre from Indonesia, International Convention Centre Tainan from Taiwan, Borneo Convention Centre Kuching from Sarawak and the Setia SPICE Convention Centre from Penang, Malaysia.
The meeting took off (and closed for that matter) with the distinguished keynote speaker, Julius Solaris, founder of Boldpush (a management consultancy agency for the event industry). Julius presented the trends of the industry, i.e. sustainability concerns, DEI implications and technological advancements, reassuring the delegates that in-person events will be the most trustworthy marketing in the future. Key takeaway was that in order to stay relevant in the industry, the frequent use of social media with customized content is crucial and that business events will remain on the rise next year.
His views on sustainable events were reinforced with a presentation by Dr. Jane Gew, Associate Professor at Sunway University, who gave practical examples of green events (go paperless, introduce digital communication, repurpose materials etc.). Similarly, Datin Lorela Chia, President of the Malaysia Association of Sustainable Supply Chain & Innovation (MASSCI) held a lively session on the benefits of ESG reporting as the driver for process and resources optimization.
Giving priority to inclusivity and accessibility, the event introduced two speakers that moved the audience. Aveena Devi, Author, Artist and Motivational Speaker who was born with spina bifida, and Ernest Teoh, Undergraduate Blind Student, both shared their experience and perspective on study, travel, work and getting around so that our industry doesn’t leave anyone behind. “More inclusive events are not just good for the society”, Aveena said, “they are good for business. Make a positive impact through your emotional intelligence.”
The BE @ Penang conference serves as evidence to Penang’s multifaceted strengths, combining economic dynamism with a resolute commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and innovation. As the region continues to thrive as a strategic business destination, epitomized by the Setia Spice Convention Centre’s groundbreaking sustainability initiatives, it sets a global standard for responsible and forward-thinking practices in the business events arena.