How to Target Long-Term Legacy

28th February 2022

As destinations are opening up their borders, and conferences are resuming in person across the globe, some spots are looking to not only offer a warm welcome to delegates, they’re also developing long-term legacy plans that would have an impact on both the community and society as a whole. A prime example: Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, which is located on the island of Borneo.

Words Lane Nieset

Business Events Sarawak (BESarawak), the Malaysia’s first convention bureau, has launched the first legacy planning framework in the country for organisers to create a legacy-driven event that will help define a higher business purpose and create real change. Dubbed Business Events Sarawak Legacy (BESLegacy) Initiative, the step-by-step guide designed to develop and advance sectors and help groups reach their big-picture goals is separating the Southeast Asian destination from many others on the globe.

“Legacy impacts of business events are one of the key strategies to help achieve the Post Covid Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 goals under the tourism sector,” said Sarawak’s Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts, The Honourable Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah. “We strive to secure at least 50% of the total bid wins from now until 2030 to be legacy-driven and beneficial to our sectors, economies, communities, environment, and policy transformations.”

Over the past 15-plus years since launching, Business Events Sarawak has secured more than 1,000 business events, which have generated RM 182 million in tax revenue and 241,238 employment opportunities. Since resuming business events after the pandemic and launching incentivised packages, Sarawak has lined up 93 business events since 1 January 2022 that are worth an estimated RM 310 million. “We are very proud to see how far Sarawak’s business events sector has come, especially as it is gaining traction as a contributing sector in the national and global arena,” said Amelia Roziman, CEO of BESarawak. “In 15 glorious years, Sarawak has successfully grown a ‘tribe’ of industry players and stakeholders who are fully equipped to harness the community-changing benefits of business events.” 

Development by design

Last summer marked a landmark moment for Sarawak when it became the first Malaysian state to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) for Business Events and Tourism by launching the GDSI Partnership Programme – Sarawak Region (GDSI-Sarawak Partner), which brings together 30 committee members from local government ministries and agencies, academia, associations, and industry partners. Aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Criteria, joining the Index is a key step to Sarawak’s Post COVID-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) for Tourism, which is intended to help transform Sarawak into a leading destination for ecotourism and sustainable business events by 2030.

As The Honourable Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Sarawak and appointed GDSI-Sarawak Partner’s Patron, put it, the value of the Index “will support every industry in Sarawak to adopt best practices of sustainability. A proven and trusted system such as this will give us the necessary information and tools to help us make better decisions, improve business strategies, foster collaboration and innovation, promote Sarawak on a higher scale that is lucrative in today’s world thus, making our state a place we all want to live in.”

The first plan of action: a pilot project to transform Sarawak’s capital city, Kuching, into one of the 75 progressive destinations in the world according to the GDS-Index. Following the success of the project, other towns in Sarawak like Sibu and Miri will follow in Kuching’s footsteps. “For business events and tourism, our move toward a sustainable future will drive Sarawak’s visibility and branding around the world,” the Minister explained. “It will give us the power to create strong destination stories and position Sarawak as a potential role model for other second tier destinations to implement a similar action.”

Greener futures

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) has been working for some time on greening initiatives to help promote responsible tourism and environmental sustainability, which falls perfectly in line with BESarawak’s Legacy Impact motion to create long-term, positive impacts. Through BESLegacy, planners can design convention activities that are geared toward a legacy outcome. The way Business Events Sarawak describes the initiative and legacy plans is that the economic impact (flights, venues, accommodations, attractions) is just the tip of the iceberg; below the surface, the legacy impact has an even deeper effect on five core areas: sectoral, economic, environmental, community and social, and political.

For example, the 8th IBA-International Forum on Industrial Bioprocessing 2019 revolved around the theme of “Bridging Sustainability and Industrial Evolution Through Green Bioprocessing” and offered a platform for discussion and development on subjects like bioenergy and biofuels, environmental biotechnology, and food technology and engineering. The 2nd Sarawak Conference on Inclusive Childhood Education, meanwhile, drew 800 participants from around the globe to Sibu in an effort to “create a centre of excellence” and showcase the city as a leader on an international level in this particular sector. 

In terms of legacy projects already in play, one example is the Batang Ai Community Library, which was sparked during the 59th ICCA Asia Pacific Regional Hub Congress 2020 held in Sarawak. The event marked the first time a regional hub advocated for legacy impacts, and the Minister declared the congress fortified Sarawak as a “knowledge hub in the field of legacy, which we strongly believe will be the next big topic in the global events industry.”

The congress-led CSR project created a library in a longhouse in remote Batang Ai that benefits children and young adults in seven longhouses and communities. Thousands of books from West Malaysia and abroad now fill the shelves of the former run-down, multi-purpose hall, and the project is being used as a pilot to see if having a neighborhood library within easy reach contributes to children remaining in school. 

As these conferences and projects show, Sarawak is placing the proper programmes and initiatives in place to create an environment that gives associations the chance to design a bright future with sustainability and legacy at the forefront of the conversation.

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