The power of legacy

Sarawak has made the impact of events its top priority. By Angela Antrobus

‘Legacy’ and ‘tribe’ have been buzz words in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, in Malaysia, for some time. Its indigenous people comprise 27 very different ethnic groups, or tribes, and Business Events Sarawak uses the tribe element to differentiate itself from other destinations. “In the context of business events, tribe is about being part of a community that matters, such as medical tribes or PCO tribes,” says CEO Amelia Roziman.

BESarawak has always made the legacy impact of events its top priority but since the start of the pandemic it’s combined the two concepts in a powerful message. It launched the Tribe Legacy Sarawak campaign in 2020 to support its efforts to secure more legacy conventions when it came out of lockdown that year. Little did it know then that the situation would continue until 1 April this year when Malaysia finally reopened its borders to overseas visitors.

“The campaign was designed to give strength and assurance to the meetings industry that collaborations in and out of the business events sector were vital in getting through and recovering from the pandemic,” says Roziman. “Tribe is still relevant. The partnerships we have been forming since 2020 are some of the biggest reasons why our destination is thriving even in the face of uncertainties.

“Speaking of partnerships,” she continues, “we will soon sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the Malaysian Aviation Group and Travel Safe Alliance Malaysia to provide more benefits to business events groups and continue positioning Sarawak as a safety-first destination.”

BESarawak was formed in 2006 as Sarawak Convention Bureau to establish Malaysia’s largest state as a leading second-tier business events destination in the ASEAN region. It went from strength to strength, creating an enviable track record of business events mainly in Kuching, the state capital. Now, despite suffering cancelled events and economic losses in the past two years, it’s coming up with new initiatives to secure more legacy conferences.

No fewer than 13 sectors have been identified and targeted for social and economic growth supported by conferences: digital transformation, innovation, education and human capital, manufacturing, commercial agriculture, tourism, forestry, mining, social services, basic infrastructure, transport, utilities and renewable energy.

“Legacy is a snowball effect,” explains Roziman. “When you achieve your desired return on objectives, you’re also achieving a return on investment. A legacy is not a CSR activity. A CSR activity is just one of many vehicles to promote legacy. As the pioneer of legacy impact in Malaysia, Sarawak is able to provide the resources and support for organisers to deliver legacy-driven conventions.”

She adds that Sarawak is also a technologically connected destination capable of hybrid events and one that cares about environmental sustainability.

Zoey Ting, president of the Sarawak Digital Media E-Platform Association, agrees. “The Sarawak government actively promotes the development of digital technology,” she says. “At the Borneo Digitech Forum in March, we found that young people are very interested in this topic and everyone hopes to apply the latest technology to their work and life.”

Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) is another of the main catalysts in Sarawak ensuring growth in the meetings market. During the pandemic, the centre had its fair share of event cancellations and postponements, often without any promise of when or if the event would ever take off. “This encouraged BCCK to begin producing its own home-grown events,” says CEO Eric van Peggelen. “The idea is to grow these events and roll them out in the region in the future.”

The centre has signed an MoU with several organisations in Sarawak to invest in and organise home-grown events. As a result, it will host the Asia Pacific Tourism Expo & Conference and Travel Mart Exchange in September and Engage and Taste Borneo (E.A.T. Borneo) in October.

Nevertheless, many other significant international conferences are coming to the centre this year and next, including the 18th International Conference on Clean Energy, the Men’s Health World Congress, the World Engineering, Science & Technology Congress, the World Traditional Medicine Forum and XXIX International Primatological Conference.

“We have been focusing on upgrading our facilities and a long-deserved revamp - after all, we have been here for over 10 years!” says van Peggelen. “It will lead to increased functionality, efficiency and ease, whether it is digitising and automating our behind-the-scenes processes or creating new products and services for our clients to use.”

The BCCK website has been updated and AV upgrades implemented throughout the centre for improved in-person, virtual and hybrid events and digital signage of various sizes has been introduced to reduce print waste and labour.

The centre can seat up to 5,000 delegates in plenary, 2,000 in the banquet hall, has 14 meeting rooms, 8,815 sqm of exhibition space and a public restaurant. It’s a 15-minute drive from Kuching city centre and 20 minutes from Kuching International Airport. Most long-haul visitors arrive there via the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The flight takes about one-and-three-quarters of an hour.

“Legacy is a snowball effect. When you achieve your desired return on objectives, you’re also achieving a return on investment."

BESarawak CEO Amelia Roziman

New builds

Sheraton Hotel: five-star, 22-storey high-rise in the heart of Kuching with a conference centre, expected to open 2024.

CIDB Convention Centre, Kuching: 4,800 sqm gross floor area with a capacity of 800 people.


Anedia Kahar
Head of Business Research & Development
Business Events Sarawak
T: +60 (0)82 242 516
F: +60 (0)82 242 519
E: [email protected]