THIS is a joint urgent appeal by the following associations:

1. Malaysian Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (MACEOS);

2. Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM). Business Events (BE) in Malaysia is a sizable economic contributor.

We provide RM3.9 billion direct expenditure and have an economic impact of RM9.2 billion (figures from 2019). It is also important to the nation’s growth and economic development as it brings in foreign investment into the country.

An example is the iconic Malaysian International Furniture Fair which contributed US$1.1 billion (RM4.62 billion) of orders for our furniture manufacturing sector when it was last held in 2019. Sadly, it has not been able to take place in 2020 and 2021. Today, the BE community learned that more social sectors including spa, wellness and foot reflexology operations are allowed to reopen.

Even restrictions on busking, lounge hotel performances, live performance activities such as musical theatre have been eased. Disappointingly, there is no news regarding BE from the corporate sector.

In the current National Security Council (NSC) framework, BE are categorised as social activities, and therefore, according to the current NSC standard operating procedures, it is only allowed to reopen in Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan.

On numerous occasions, we have tried to make the distinction that Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions are not social gatherings. BE such as trade exhibitions and conferences are highly controlled environments where each delegate can be accounted for.

Unlike mass gatherings, BE are organised within the purpose-built event space closely managed with entries and exits recorded. Using the latest technology, each delegate’s movement can even be traced at all times.

While these advances were originally introduced to track movements of delegates in order to provide a highly personalised experience to each person, the pandemic has given a new reason for such technology to be implemented. Mobile app technology has also been utilised to ensure that each delegate’s activity and on-site engagement is recorded.

When the government called upon our venue members to support the national vaccination drive, 20 of our venue members answered the call and converted their venues as vaccination centres. Our members had given their venue at break-even cost or totally rent-free to help drive the vaccination programme. At the peak of the vaccination rates, our venues contributed about 30% of the average daily vaccination rate.

If the vaccination programme was allowed to be held at these venues in a controlled and strict environment, why not allow business events to be held?

We recommend:

1. BE (formerly known as MICE) be categorised as an economic activity, one deemed to facilitate economic recovery, not only within the business events industry but across all economic sectors.

2. BE be allowed immediately for fully vaccinated individuals.

BE require a lengthy preparation of several months of forward planning. Our industry seeks immediate reopening as forward planning is crucial for scheduled BE, in the last quarter of 2021.

Any delay in reopening will seriously impact the recovery of this industry in 2022 and beyond. BE means business.