Penang was chosen to host the inaugural WTM Connect Asia due to the island’s distinctiveness, strong heritage and interesting cultural diversity, all of which make it an interesting destination for global travel industry players. Its vibrant tourism economy and growth also place it as one of the leadering tourism destinations in South East Asia, having recorded 27.4 million international tourist arrivals in 2014.
The very mention of Penang will surely spark a never-ending conversation between world travellers on the many sights, sounds, traditions and food that the state has to offer. As a fusion of east and west influences, the Pearl of the Orient, as it is popularly known, is one of Malaysia's most tourist-visited destinations, and has embraced modernity while retaining its heritage.
All these factors combined make Penang not only a tourist destination, but the perfect venue for business events as it offers modern facilities and infrastructure as well as special experiences for business events delegates.
Penang, in particular, has a lot to offer as a business and leisure tourism destination. Since the late 18th century, the island has served as a business destination from its inception as a shipping and trading port, attracting people from all over the world.
George Town was the hive of banking activities, port-related trade, and high street shopping with European stores and emporiums during that time. This historic part of Penang remains the charm of the island, and has manifested in a melting pot of cultures, architecture, food, and more. It was for this reason, among many others, that George Town was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Penang showcases the Malaysia Truly Asia brand perfectly and certainly was an ideal introduction to the rest of Malaysia for the delegates of WTM Connect Asia.
WTM Connect Asia took place from 18 – 20 May 2016. Buyers and suppliers from more than 30 countries including China, Malaysia, Mexico, USA, UK, Philippines, Germany, Indonesia and Thailand were welcomed to the island with fun-filled activities.
The day began with hosted buyers and exhibitors attending famils organised by Penang Global Tourism. The trips included visiting Penang’s hills and temples, wandering through the beautiful gardens, discovering local gastronomy and walking through the narrow lanes of George Town in search of heritage gems.
WTM Connect Asia was held at the Straits Quay Convention Centre, which offers a refreshing choice as a business events venue, being the first waterfront convention centre that spans 25,300 square feet. Over the course of the event, more than 1,800 meetings took place where hosted buyers and suppliers met for 20 minute meetings and had further opportunities to network during breaks and evening functions. Attendees were impressed by the variety of cultural experiences, hotels, delicacies and scenery.
Attendees were offered a diverse programme full of pre-scheduled appointments, one-to-one meetings on-site, networking events, key note conferences, and cultural evening functions all providing plenty of new business opportunities and forging lasting business relationships. Alongside the already packed business schedule, a programme of events was also offered: panel debates, discussions and educational content, to ensure that delegates maximised their attendance at the event.
One of the exhibition’s main highlights was its ‘pod’ format, a new concept within the Asian market. The 1-2-1 ratio pod format steps away from the traditional exhibition format, and proved to be successful amongst all attendees. The pods provided the platform for what the exhibition set out to do: establish a platform for Asia’s travel community to meet, network, promote and conduct business amongst travel trade professionals.
WTM Connect Asia 2016 received strong support from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Tourism Malaysia and Penang State Tourism. The event generated an estimated economic impact of USD3.6 million with 65 exhibitors and 80 buyers.