To The Conference I Go .....

I spent the whole day attending a Haemostasis Conference at the Mutiara Crowne Plaza. Haemostasis is essentially the study of how blood clots, or why it doesn't. It was followed right after with the Annual General Meeting of my society, Malaysian Society of Haematology. It was almost 6 when everything finished, and I have some more sessions to attend tomorrow.

I went to a similar meeting last year, by the same organiser and recognise a number of the speakers. The difference was, that was held in Bangkok. The meeting today was sleekly organise. I am sure that the sponsor put attention to details to who they pay to run the event. During one of the breaks, I managed to have a chat with one of the organiser.

For the last couple of years, Bangkok has been the preferred venue for ASEAN regional meetings, be it medical conferences or others. The reasons; venue, cost and facilities.

Let's start with venue. I know that I should be proud with our KLIA, but in terms of carriers landing at the airport, we are well behind Suvarnabhumi, at least before the latest unrest in Thailand. One can get a direct flight into Bangkok from all over the world. Compared to KLIA, usually we need a transit either in Bangkok or SIngapore. Hence the obvious preference if there are parties traveling from outside the region.

Cost, yes, even though organising meetings in KL is cheaper than in Singapore, we can't compete with the going rate in Bangkok. The unofficial line is, for a single patron attending a meet in Singapore, the same cost can cover for three. Malaysia is somewhere in between.

Let's talk about facilities. When we talk about facilities, we are not just talking about place to stay and the PA system. Most of the big events actually fly in a dedicated event management team from abroad anyway to run the show for them. The visitors apart from staying in good hotel with fantastic facilities, needs to be wined and dined, taken to memorable places to visit. It is all about the whole experience. They don't often remember what they heard in the conference hall - at least that applies to me. They are more likely to tell their colleagues about what they saw, what they experienced. For this meeting for instance, the dinner tonight will be held on top of KL Tower. For me, I have other engagement and can't attend, but that's beside the point. I am sure trips will be organised to visit KLCC and other local landmarks.

As it stands at the moment, we should be bigging it up! We got the venues. We got the facilities. And we got the security, and security is priceless. So we shouldn't be to worried about cost issues, unless Singapore do a big discount that is! However the lack of direct flights do post problems to some organisers, especially coming from Europe and America. The way I see it, one of the ways the Tourism Ministry can promote tourist is by making Malaysia an attractive destination for conferences. Not just for KL, but Langkawi, Penang and other similar locale.