Why It’s Important to Tell the Story

Borneo’s orangutans are among the beneficiaries of two corporate social responsibility programmes that were part of the recent ICCA Congress in Kuching, Sarawak. Now the wider outcomes the event delivered will be part of a new study measuring its impact. By Jane Vong Holmes, ICCA Asia Pacific Chapter Deputy Chair and Senior Manager Asia, GainingEdge.

In many parts of Asia, although the interest is strong, the meetings or business events industry is still being looked upon as part of tourism, a subset of the visitor economy that brings in foreign expenditure and keeps stakeholders happy. While this is positive, many governments and the stakeholders themselves do not view business events as a crucial transformative agent to their communities.

Therefore, it is uplifting to learn from ICCA Malaysia members that they have put their full support behind an initiative led by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) to measure and put a value to the recently-held International Congress and Convention Association – ICCA Congress in Kuching, Sarawak in November 2016. This value they seek will go beyond the traditional economic measurements, and show how hosting ICCA Congress Kuching has brought change.

Already, the two core CSR programmes of the Congress – one focusing on the endangered primate, Borneo’s Man of the Forest or the orangutan, and the other which encourages grass roots participation – has made a difference. The Borneo Orangutan Project not only attracted new international attention but also raised RM70,000 (approximately USD15,500) through corporate adoption programmes by ICCA, IMEX and the New Zealand International Convention Centre. Delegates to the Kuching congress brought with them 358 books and CDs which will be donated to five rural schools and two villages through the “BOOKShare” project coordinated by the Librarians Association of Malaysia (Sarawak Chapter) and Sarawak Convention Bureau.

Malaysia sent a huge delegation to the Congress, seizing on the opportunity for staff and team members of both ICCA members and non- members, to network and learn with the trade’s global practitioners and experts. An unprecedented number of Malaysians – 92 – had the privilege to listen to international speakers including Prof Jonathan Jansen from the South African Institute of Race Relations, learnt about the#LondonIsOpen award winning campaign, exchanged business leads with other global participants, participated in discussions, while meeting some 800+ like-minded colleagues. These ‘other benefits’ can already be ‘qualitatively measured’ through a self-assessment process by the individuals using ICCA’s Personal ROI Handbook and Workbook. These documents which can be downloaded were created and designed by ICCA to help delegates identify and maximise the benefits they gained from attending the Congress while creating a personal record of what they regard as the value they obtained from participation.

But what about the intangible ‘other benefits’ on the local host community?

Manisa Mohamed Nor, a staff member from MyCEB, who will spearhead this study, explained that telling the story about the legacy left behind by ICCA Congress Kuching after the event is over is important for Malaysia to gain a greater understanding of the benefits of being the host destination. Furthermore, the Kuching case study, will inspire other secondary cities in Malaysia, and those around the world, to ensure that they plan well and correctly leverage the international events they host. Manisa added that one key goal is to find out, and illustrate, how hosting ICCA Congress Kuching had created not only new business partnerships, but also created new levels of inter-organisational cooperation.

Malaysia has already put the inter-organisational cooperation wheels into motion, even prior to the Congress taking place. Leveraging on this opportunity and with the support from ICCA for the Kuching legacy story, a series of meetings between high-level government officials which includes Malaysia’s Tourism and Culture Minister YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, and ICCA President Nina Freysen- Pretorius and ICCA CEO Martin Sirk, as the independent, global voice of wisdom and experience, have already taken place.

Through thoughtful planning, Malaysia has taken its first baby steps to tell their story when they leveraged ICCA Congress Kuching to give them their government advocacy tool. One of MyCEB’s strategic goals is to deeply engage Malaysia’s ministries and agencies and communicate how business events will play a role in helping the government achieves the objectives of its Economic Transformation Programme.

The upcoming study should unveil the big picture and reveal more of the iceberg.


Jane Vong Holmes, ICCA Asia Pacific Chapter Deputy Chair and Senior Manager Asia, GainingEdge

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