Sarawak: The Business of Culture

Sarawak welcomes the business world

Sarawak. A state nicknamed Bumi Kenyalang, means “Land of the Hornbills”. An important cultural symbol for the Dayak people, the birds represent the spirit of God.

Known for its strong heritage in culture and traditions, Sarawak has long been the poster location for showcasing the rich tribal culture of East Malaysia. Home to indigenous tribes including Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau and Orang Ulu, the state remains unique in keeping a strong tribal culture presence, while embracing modern development.

Beyond it tribal heritage, Sarawak is a prominent destination for both business visitors and leisure tourists alike. Playing host to renowned events including the annual Rainforest World Music Festival, Sarawak draws in more than 4 million visitors every year, with the music festival alone drawing a crowd of over 20,000 people.


For businesses especially, Sarawak is an attractive location for hosting business conventions. One of the main convention centres in Sarawak is the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK). Under the relentless efforts by the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), the convention centre welcomed many distinguished events, including the ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA), as well as the ‘Olympics’ of the Business Events sector – the 55th International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Congress in 2016.

The ICCA Congress was a highlight for Kuching, as it m arks the first Malaysian city to host such a prominent event; Kuching remains one of the very few Asian second-tier hosts to have held this event.

The Business Events sector, more commonly known as MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), generates more revenue for Sarawak compared to other aspects of tourism. In fact, total expenditure of business visitors is said to be 5.5 times more than leisure tourists. To further strengthen the industry, SCB continues leveraging Sarawak’s unique assets, to solidify their position as a sought-after destination for business conferences.


“As a fluid sector, Business Events attracts trade, talent and foreign investment. It has the natural affinity to assemble the world into one powerful Global Tribe, unrestricted by boundaries but bound by great passion,” explains Amelia Roziman, Chief Operating Officer of Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB).


Inspired from last year’s success, SCB pushed forward with the ‘Redefining Global Tribes’ (RGT) campaign this year; aiming to carry on the state’s legacy, cultivating a more impactful scope for the Business Events sector. The RGT campaign aims to construct a stronger and globally diverse economy by attracting more trade, talent and foreign investments. Promisingly, more and more government agencies are taking part in the initiative, giving their support to bring the local tribe aspect into the business scene.

Eric van Piggelen, CEO of the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) explains, “Personally, I don’t want them to come here just to attend a conference, but would like them to extend their stay and discover the opportunities within Sarawak since there is so much more than meets the eye.”

Winning businesses with their colourful culture, Sarawak holds the potential to be the new central gateway to the booming Asia Pacific region. Unlike its counterpart in the peninsula, Sarawak presents itself as highly vibrant, while providing its visitors with an experience that goes beyond the conference room.

For many hotels and convention facilities in Sarawak, especially in the capital city of Kuching, focuses its products and services around the unique local cultures. From the decorations, down to the culinary options, the Sarawak pride is reflected even in international hotel brands such as Pullman Kuching, Hilton Kuching and UCSI Kuching; incorporating the best of Sarawak into their hospitality.

Beyond just business convention and accommodation, Sarawak brings to the table a wealth of experiences for all visitors. Being the largest state in Malaysia, it is notable for its luscious rainforests, with flourishing flora and fauna. With great respect for nature, visitors can explore the hidden treasures that Sarawak offers.

As with the core of every popular tourist destination, Sarawak is well known for providing visitors a unique gastronomical experience with its wide variety of local dishes and snacks. Amongst local favourites include Sarawak Laksa, Kolo Mee, local alcohol Tuak, as well as its layer cakes.

Unlike its peninsular variants, Sarawakian layer cakes are not only bright in colours, but also carries a vast array of flavours such as Oreo, Red Velvet, Chocolate Strawberry and more. There are also some rather peculiar named creations like Belacan (fermented shrimp paste), Lumut (moss), Sisik Ikan (fish scales) and Rempah (spices). While it is up to the imagination of visitors, rest assured, these cakes are only named based on its appearance, not its taste.

While mostly popular peninsula states like Penang and Selangor often getting featured as leading business and convention destinations, Sarawak offers more than just locations for conducting business. From the development of modern infrastructure and investments from global brands, to preserving the best of its nature, traditions and culture, Sarawak offers a dynamic experience that can be enjoyed by tourists as well as benefit businesses and trade.

Byline: By Tara Yean and Satoko Omata

Photos by Satoko Omata



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