Event organisers and suppliers feel the pain, but support ban on travel and mass gatherings.
In a drastic move to halt the spread of COVID-19 following a surge in case, the Malaysia government has declared a two-week nationwide restriction on public movement — including a ban on mass gatherings and travel — from 18 to 31 March.
Under the movement control order, Malaysians are essentially instructed to stay home. All mass assemblies of religious, sports, social and cultural nature are prohibited. Outbound travel by Malaysians and entry of international travellers into Malaysia is also banned.
Businesses have been asked to close with only essential service providers — including hotels, hospitals, food establishments (only for take-aways), transportation, banking and security — allowed to remain in operation.
While public transportation continues to operate as usual, Malaysian carrier, Malindo Air, has announced the temporary suspension of all of its international flights until 31 March.
Complying with the government’s orders, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre, are among the event venues in Malaysia that have announced temporary closure.
With Malaysia’s business events and tourism industry already suffering from the postponement and cancellation of events — and potential layoffs and business closures if things don’t improve — the two-week suspension will likely hit even harder.
Mint Leong, managing director at Sunflower Holidays DMC, supports the government’s decision. She says: “With tourism and business events suffering since January and the rapid spread of the virus recently, this restricted movement on the whole country is a painful but necessary decision.”
Overall, industry players are hoping for a quick recovery, with many taking the down-time to up-skill staff, identify new leads for future events and strengthen networks.
Companies like Informa Markets have already mobilised their teams to work from home to ensure business continuity. Gerard Leeuwenburgh, general manager for Malaysia at Informa Markets, says: “We are currently fully operational with all our staff working from home using the available technologies.”
Dato’ Vincent Lim, president of Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, believes in staying united throughout this challenging period. “Employers and employees need each other. We have to work hand-in-hand to sustain the business and to ride the wave,” he says.
Ashwin Gunasekeran, CEO of Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) adds: “PCEB is continuously working with organisers — be it of events postponed or cancelled — to ensure that when they are ready to host the event again, Penang is ready to welcome them.”
While the bureau is also actively working to prepare bid papers for future events in 2023 and beyond, for the time being, it has advised organisers to cancel or postpone all events until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.
The Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCeb), also released a notice of all the major events that have been cancelled or postponed.
“We at MyCEB hope that the COVID-19 situation will subside soon, and in the meantime, would like to urge all industry players to adhere to Ministry of Health Malaysia’s guidelines and procedures,” a spokesperson says.
Main image: Kuala Lumpur International Airport