MACEOS urges government to utilise tourism funds to prop up MICE industry

The Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) has called on the government for assistance to save the business events industry from going under by making use of two separate funds – the tourism tax fund, and the money set aside for Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign.

As the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign has been deferred, the more than RM2 billion (US$458.2 million) fund meant for the campaign should be reallocated to save the business events industry and help it avoid retrenchments, MACEOS’ president, Vincent Lim, said.

Lim: Malaysian government needs to financially help small- and mid-sized event companies to avoid them going belly up

Currently, Malaysia’s business events industry is reporting RM1.5 billion in losses due to event cancellations and postponements due to Covid-19, Lim shared.

And based on a recent survey by MACEOS, at least 32 per cent of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the business events sector will be forced to wind up if the pandemic stretches beyond June.

“This will have a multiplier effect on the country’s economy if intervention is still not forthcoming despite two stimulus packages. By May or June, another 21 per cent of the business event organisers and related companies will wind up,” stressed Lim in a press statement.

In the worst-case scenario, the survey also showed that only 12 per cent of the companies in the sector will be able to survive beyond six months.

In addition, MACEOS recently submitted its proposal to the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), outlining a number of areas that the government could do to assist the industry to recover.

It proposed that the government cover 75 per cent of workforce salaries and waive an employer’s contribution to the Employees Provident Fund for six months – effective April 1 – and to subsidise exhibition venues in the wake of 2020’s postponement or cancellations.

MACEOS has also requested for a special grant through MyCEB to support local SMEs to bid for more international events to be hosted in Malaysia, and to provide an incentive of RM6,000 per DMC to stimulate more corporate events and encourage incentive group travel to second-tier cities after the dust has settled. The association also called for the establishment of an incubation programme to assist homegrown trade exhibitions, conferences and lifestyle events.

If Covid-19 cannot be contained by April 14, the supposed end-date for Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO), industry stakeholders fear the impact will be even more pronounced.

For example, Jay Ishak, event specialist, trainer and consultant at 6E-Events, shared that a number of teambuilding events and corporate annual dinners have had to be postponed indefinitely which resulted in a delay in payments.

She lamented: “My main worry now is cash flow. We are not generating any income during the MCO, yet there are staff salaries and fixed monthly expenses to pay.”

Eric van Piggelen, CEO, Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, shared that the compulsory closing of the centre due to the MCO resulted in 15 events being either cancelled or postponed. He suggested the government should also consider introducing a job retention scheme and an increase in domestic spending to assist recovery.

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