So close, so good

For associations looking to avoid big city prices for their events, Selangor – with its cheaper meeting and entertainment options but sitting close to Kuala Lumpur – may just be the answer

Setia City Convention Centre has successes in attracting national and regional association meetings

As event budgets get depressed in the tough global economic climate, cheaper alternatives to capital city destinations gain greater attention among cautious meeting planners.

Selangor state, where Malaysian capital city Kuala Lumpur resides, is one such destination that has seen a rise in popularity for corporate meetings and association events. It makes a clever alternative to Kuala Lumpur, as it is easily accessible from the city centre and international airport, has plenty of accommodation, meeting venues and pre/post-meeting tour options but none of the big city rates.

Setia City Convention Centre has successes in attracting national and regional association meetings

Arokia Das Anthony, director, Luxury Tours Malaysia, who has seen many national associations leaning towards meetings in Selangor, told TTGassociations: “Many national association headquarters or affiliated offices are located in (Kuala Lumpur). Due to budget cuts resulting in cost saving measures, organisers are looking for cheaper venues. Selangor is a natural choice because it is close by, there is less traffic which makes it easier to get around, and there are many choices for offsite dining options”.

Jai Kishan, general manager at New World Petaling Jaya Hotel, sees 2019 as a challenging year for association meetings. He said many domestic and international associations have reduced their event budgets, and some have “come back to us to renegotiate” for lower prices or additional value adds.

“Some clients have also scaled down their event sizes or cancelled bookings in favour of cheaper venues,” added Jai.

“To increase our market share of association events, we are responding with exclusive promotional packages, upgrades, relaxed credit terms, value additions of audio-visual equipment, LED screens and setups for repetitive association meetings,” he added.

Flexibility is also the order of the day for Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel, according to Rachel Lim, director of sales centre. The hotel is more open to customising arrangements to event needs and to include value adds to meeting packages in order to get clients to bite.

“Also, as part of the Marriott International group of hotels, we promote the Triple Perks programme for meetings and events which helps organisers maximise their budget with discounts on rooms and room upgrades, among others,” added Lim.

Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel has a strong base of repeat association clients mainly because the sales team has developed a close rapport with conference organisers and understand their needs.

Selangor’s growing popularity for meetings is also a result of a supportive tourism office.

Tourism Selangor grants association meetings with at least 100 confirmed delegates partial sponsorship of a gala dinner and cultural show and provision of a one-day sight-seeing tour.

Uzaidi Udanis, president, Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA), shared that Tourism Selangor is encouraging business and association events in the state by being a one-stop centre to help facilitate licensing and any assistance that organisers may need.

MITA benefitted from Tourism Selangor’s efforts when it organised its inaugural MITA Tourism Carnival at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) in March.

“The events team at MAEPS worked closely with Tourism Selangor which helped to facilitate licensing of the event, including getting a license to hold concerts during the three days,” he explained.

The tourism carnival included a B2C travel exhibition in a hall, another exhibition featuring 200 small- and medium-sized enterprises selling food and local products outside the hall, and concerts featuring local artistes over the three days. In all, the carnival attracted more than 100,000 visitors.

Uzaidi shared that MAEPS was chosen as a venue because of its large capacity. He said: “Initially we thought of holding it in Kuala Lumpur but we couldn’t find a venue large enough. And if it was in the city, we would have had to run around to get licensing from different government departments.”

Setia City Convention Centre has also seen success in promoting the venue as a smart alternative to the capital city for national and regional association gatherings.

Head, convention centre, Francis Teo, said his centre’s close proximity to nature, cultural and historical attractions in Klang, Kuala Selangor and Sekinchan, while at the same time, being only 40 minutes’ drive to Kuala Lumpur, makes it ideal for off-site dinners as well as pre/post tours in both the capital city and in Selangor.

Setia City Convention Centre is also leveraging its close proximity to the National Institutes of Health Malaysia at Setia Alam City to attract medical related meetings.

And the venue is hungry for more. Teo said: “While Setia City Convention Centre has a strong base of domestic meetings, exhibitions and events, we hope to attract more business events and association meetings from the Asia-Pacific region in the coming years.”

The centre’s ambitions will be easier to accomplish as two new hotels will open nearby soon, providing meeting planners greater accommodation options.

Wyndham Acmar Klang is scheduled to open in 3Q2019 with 488 keys while Courtyard by Marriott Setia Alam is scheduled to open in 4Q2020 with 425 keys. Courtyard by Marriott Setia Alam is adjacent to Setia City Convention Centre while Wyndham Acmar Klang is a mere 15 minutes’ drive.

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