What is the real power of association conferences? The hot topic has become part of the core of Business Events Sarawak or BESarawak (formerly Sarawak Convention Bureau) that is now looking beyond the narrow limits of business tourism financial benefits. Malaysia’s biggest state and second-tier conference destination with rapidly-increasing popularity has recently expanded its focus towards the social impact and remote legacy meetings can leave behind.
BESarawak’s Redefining Global Tribes (RGT) campaign began in 2017 and has received much praise among the meetings industry experts putting out tribal values of community, identity and unity. The innovative campaign has helped Sarawak win a place both in conference organizers and delegates’ hearts alike as the state has been moving up the rankings of the global market.
According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)’s global ranking report released in May, Malaysia is ranked 9thin the region with Sarawak being a huge contributor in the nation’s success, while Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, shot to #32 on the city rankings. Such great success means only the beginning of progressive ideas and values for the state, who is yet again rising to the challenge of a new era.
New year, new focus
The start of 2019 found the bureau with a new name, image and a diverse focal point which heightens the intangible payback of business events. Not so long ago business events were assessed merely by delegate expenditure on travelling, shopping, commuting, eating and sleeping. BESarawak’s contribution has reached over RM720 million in total since 2006.
The economic impact is only the facade of what business events can offer society. BESarawak is now eager to demonstrate that the power of knowledge and the power of associations and academia can advance research, science and innovation. Using the global network of an international association new talent will flood in the country creating clusters and higher standards for any industry.
Chief Operating Officer of BESarawak, Amelia Roziman, shares that “BESarawak’s focus this year is on advocating legacy impact in every business event held in this state. This means looking beyond the economic input and expanding our focus to the significance of conferences through the promotion and usage of knowledge exchanged to have a positive effect on various areas of sectors. Asides from sharing knowledge and expanding our education outcomes, we are also measuring business events’ capability to enhance future research capacities and fundraising opportunities, and whether it can reform public policies or even create new ones.”
The visionary target will not be achieved without close collaboration and support. Business Events Sarawak and the Sarawak government have placed 7 Key Focus Areas (KFAs) as crucial factors, namely Urban Development & Redevelopment (inclusive of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy), Social, Environmental and Agricultural Development plus Service Industry and Digital Economy. These distinctive elements of community growth are set to trigger a domino effect of impactful motions in their respective areas in favour of the state and the nation.
“Associations are vying for a bigger purpose that is closely linked to their objectives, hence government support is unquestionably vital,” Amelia emphasizes. “Regardless of which market we are aiming for (this year we have set our sights on ASEAN countries, Australia and Europe), the support that is received from the government such as local government agencies and industry partners is undivided.” This support is prominent in every step of the way, even before bidding begins, making the planning of a conference as smooth as it gets.
In fact, Sarawak is creating a win-win situation with its Legacy Impact Programme. Through helping associations fulfil their ‘bigger purpose’ and leave a legacy by leveraging from this support, the state reaps the benefits of economic growth and knowledge influx, which in turn leads to better standard of living for the future generations.
Four major pillars of legacy impacts laid out by BESarawak are meant to vest more power to business events in order to extract their full value and drive change. These pillars are identified as Advancing the Field, Economic Outcomes, Community Benefits and Public Policy. The first assigns the leading role to local associations and global networking, which will lead to wider trade opportunities and industrial development. Cultural, social and public welfare outcomes can be achieved for the community, which in turn can also benefit by policy changes.
The forward-looking mentality is already taking root in Malaysia. Conferences such as the 2019 Borneo Coffee Symposium and the 8thInternational Conference on Bioprocessing, both held recently in Sarawak, have had tangible effects in their respective sectors.
The 2019 Borneo Coffee Symposium
Business events had the sweet taste of coffee on 6 and 7 April this year during the very first Borneo Coffee Symposium, held at the Old Court House in Kuching. Over 250 renowned coffee scientists as well as experienced coffee farmers and estate owners gathered in East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, all sharing the same purpose: to show the world the potential of high-quality coffee cultivation in the area in a sustainable way.
Organized by Earthlings Coffee Workshop, the Symposium was the first of its kind to be held in Borneo and aimed to find the possibilities to produce a sustainable coffee cultivation model in rainforests. Particularly, to solve the lowland and warmer climate challenges by introducing the right species and varieties of coffee and introducing the knowledge of modern coffee cultivation to the Sarawak state.
Coffee cultivation in Sarawak has been growing rapidly, but the local tribes need the right guidance and knowledge in order to enter the global market successfully. The Symposium managed to do just that; well-known speakers and international coffee education systems such as “CoffeeCraftsman Education” from Germany, which was brought to Sarawak right after the Borneo Coffee Symposium, provided tailor-made support for local coffee growers.
Events like the “Liberica Coffee Roasting Competition” and “Cross-Species Coffee Cupping” that happened during the Symposium were also organized to support the direction of the right coffee species for the region. Dr. Kenny Lee Wee Ting, founder of Earthlings Coffee Workshop, believes that “with proper coffee education and the thorough understanding of the global coffee market, coffee is a type of environmentally-friendly crop that would benefit Sarawak not only financially, but also in terms of helping to protect our natural environment.”
The Symposium made great impact within the government. The Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development has already increased financial investment for coffee planting and is now looking into socio-economic benefits for farmers in crop diversification, moving from subsistence to specialty production, recognition of farmer identity and their contribution to labour and identity of state too.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Sarawak government represented by Department of Agriculture Sarawak (DOA) and Earthlings Coffee Workshop on the last day of the Symposium proves the point of collaboration and mutual benefit deriving from business events. Based on BESarawak’s drivers, the acquired knowledge and skills gained at the Symposium provides a platform for the formation of new associations in the industry with the goal to educate the younger generation and put Borneo on the world’s coffee map.
The immediate impact of the Symposium is indisputable as every coffee related business segments in Sarawak or even entire Malaysia will benefit from the rise of local grown coffee independent of brand identity or cost considerations. In the long run, such a knowledge intensive symposium will stir the waters for coffee players in Malaysia, forcing them to update their products and market knowledge in order to catch up with the international competition. According to Dr. Lee “this would lead to a healthier competition throughout the whole coffee industrial chain in Sarawak. If everyone in the industry demand better quality coffee and have the knowledge to produce it, they will surely work with the local farmers to reach the desired result.”
The full version of this article, written by Boardroom editor Vicky Koffa, is available in the September issue of Boardroom. The right to use this article, in part or in full, has to be granted by the Publisher.