Penang revises SOP to revive meetings and convention industry

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has revised its standards operating procedures (SOPs) to lure back business events travellers and revive the Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibition (MICE) industry.

The Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) has taken the initiative to collaborate with MICE service providers, healthcare professionals and the state, in coming up with the next normal guidelines, applicable to all event organisers and hosts.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said that some percentage of MICE-goers can participate via video conferencing while a bigger number will be allowed to attend conferences in person in the new norm.

After launching the guidelines, he said that the state wants to strike a balance between technology and a need for business events travellers to converge in locations.

He added that Penang will also support initiatives to develop a comprehensive travel bubble for tourism to flourish but within a certain region.

The SPICE management showcased the new standards for MICE participants, who would have to undergo three layers of screening before they will be allowed into meeting, seminar or conference locations.

Participants will also be ferried to different event locations, while observing social distancing. Food will be served in packed, recyclable containers.

Besides temperature checks and hand sanitisation, participants will also be seated several metres apart with regular sanitisation intervals in place. Hall and events workers will also be required to wear protective gear.

In doing so, the state has become the first in Malaysia to re-tap the huge potential of the MICE sub-sector of tourism, which achieved an estimated RM1.3 billion in 2018 for the state (a 31% increase from 2017), and has been adversely affected by Covid-19.

“People still need to go out. They cannot be sitting at home all day. We can provide the safety to safeguard them to do so,” said Chow when asked about the rise of the Zoom web conferencing application which is now trending significantly within families, friends and business events travellers.

PCEB chief executive officer Ashwin Gunasekeran said that Penang is gearing up for the reopening of the MICE national market in September.

The next normal guidelines must be strictly adhered to by anyone in the hospitality industry who is hosting events where crowds gather.

Ashwin hopes that with the new normal, business travellers will return and the MICE market will be revived.

Later in the day, Chow also launched the set-up of a virtual recording and broadcasting studio at the digital library in Jalan Masjid Negri, a collaboration with Intel Microelectronic Sdn Bhd, aimed to drive the e-learning concept which emerged due to the Covid-19 pandemic.