The pioneer convention centre in Kuala Lumpur renamed World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur to give it a more global appeal
By Rajendran Govindarajoo
The Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition (MICE) sector has seen rapid growth in the past eight years along with business travel in the country. It was reported that the International Congress and Convention Association has ranked Kuala Lumpur eighth in Asia Pacific and 28th globally as a convention centre city; while among countries, Malaysia was ranked seventh in the region and 30th in the world.
Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), the first convention centre in Kuala Lumpur, which opened its doors in 1986, is now feeling the heat with the emergence of new MICE venues with modern facilities in the Klang Valley. Under the leadership of PWTC’s new Chief Executive Officer Mohd Yusri Junos and his team, the 34-year-old convention centre is now undergoing a rebranding exercise in an effort to clinch its position as the top-notch MICE venue in Malaysia after Putrade Property Management Sdn Bhd recently signed a 60 years lease agreement from UMNO.
Business Today speaks to Yusri on the rebranding exercise, PWTC’s challenges amid a shrinking domestic market and its unique selling points. Yusri, who has vast experience in finance in the hospitality industry, began his career with PWTC in 2010 as a Financial Controller. He was later promoted to General manager of Finance and Admin, then to Chief Financial Officer before assuming the Chief Executive Officer position early September this year.
“With my 30 years of experience in the hotel industry, I am ready to take on the operational challenges facing PWTC. I don’t foresee any major problems in overcoming those challenges except for the gloomy economic condition. There is not much difference between hotels and PWTC as we are also in the hospitality industry. We offer similar services except for rooms. With strong team members, I am confident of bringing PWTC back to its glory days,” says an upbeat Yusri.
Sharing some of the challenges of PWTC Yusri says, “Previously, PWTC was the only convention centre in Kuala Lumpur, now we are facing stiffer competition from bigger and modern MICE venues. However, each of these centres has varied capabilities and target markets. It has been challenging for us especially in the current economic situation to vie for businesses. We are now going all out to promote PWTC.
“In the past when there was lesser competition, we were the order takers – we waited for clients to come to us, but now we are knocking on their doors instead. We have set up a more aggressive sales team who is tasked to bring in business and are also divided into different market segments. We have identified a few potential markets that we can tap into to diversify our revenue sources.
“The domestic market is shrinking; we can no longer depend on the Malaysian market only. There is a need to venture outside Malaysia to secure new businesses especially to weather the gloomy economic condition that is expected to last for the next two years. We are going all out to source for revenue outside Malaysia. While we may be facing an economic slowdown, it is not necessarily the same for overseas market. They, on the other hand, are growing, so we want to take the opportunity to share their growth.”
In the last four months PWTC team has been in China promoting PWTC.
“We can potentially gain about RM8 million to RM10 million from the MICE Market in China. The MICE market in China is huge, they are actively expanding outside China. Guangzhou alone has a budget of RM500 million for MICE events outside the country and we hope to tap at least 10 percent of this budget.”
Adding on, Yusri says PWTC has signed an MOU with Guangzhou Convention and Exhibition Service Centre in China earlier this year to strategically work together on promoting PWTC as a preferred MICE venue for China and also to promote Malaysia as an ASEAN exhibition hub. PWTC also will be participating in one more expo in China end of November and a trip to Beijing and Guangzhou, China is scheduled in December 2019.
Citing a success example as a result of their venture outside Malaysia, he said PWTC hosted a mobile gaming event (PUBG Mobile tournament) secured directly from China and will be heading to Guangzhou to receive the recognition of their partnership in December.
On markets other than China he says, “After the 9/11 and MH17 incident, the US and European countries have shunned Malaysia, we have been getting less businesses from there. Last month, two of our directors attended the ICCA Congress in Houston, US just to re-introduce PWTC to the market there and the response was overwhelming. We are now following up with them, hoping to bring their business back to this part of the continent.
TAPPING THE WEDDING MARKET
According to Yusri, ever since he took over the helm, he has skewed the business direction to other than MICE such as the wedding industry. The wedding industry is one of the most lucrative businesses in Malaysia, reportedly worth up to RM7 billion a year.
“We are now gearing towards promoting PWTC as a venue for social events. We are actively promoting our food and beverage (F&B) and have introduced daily buffet at our Riverside restaurant. We are also going aggressively on hosting weddings, targeting a revenue of RM3 million a year from wedding events alone.”
Yusri proudly claims although PWTC is commonly known for hosting corporate events, it is no stranger to social events. Going into details, he says PWTC has hosted international sporting events like boxing and concerts, with the latest being Altimet The Last Concert early last year which saw a turnout of 5,000 people. However, not much emphasis was given to it.
“The wedding industry holds huge potential.Previously people had the misconception that PWTC catered for extravaganza weddings only thus shied away from us. Now we want to create awareness among the public that PWTC also caters to medium-budget and intimate weddings. For this purpose, we have prepared a special room – ‘Mawar Wedding Hall’ – that can accommodate up to 700 people and are offering special packages for the low-to-middle income group starting from as low as RM40 per person inclusive of food and beverage, decoration and the bridal dais.”
Asked on PWTC’s efforts tapping into the wedding industry, Yusri says starting February 2020, it plans to actively participate in wedding expos both locally and globally. It has been collaborating with strategic partners overseas to promote its services and to woo potential customers to hold events here.
“We are currently tying up with a local airline to help us promote PWTC. Apart from the Malay weddings, we are tapping into Indian weddings as well. Other than participating in international wedding expos and local Malay wedding expos, we are now taking part in Indian wedding expos and the response is overwhelming. The last Indian wedding in PWTC was held ten years ago, as the Indian community has a notion that PWTC caters only for the Malay crowd. We want to change that perception!” exclaims Yusri.
It is reported that Tourism Board of Malaysia is also promoting Malaysia as the top-of-mind wedding destination to the Indian market. In 2018, Malaysia welcomed 600,311 tourists from India and as of June 2019, tourist arrivals from India registered a total of 354,486.
Although PWTC has been participating in many local wedding expos, it only participates in selective ones to protect its prestige. “For now, our target is to reposition PWTC as a choice wedding venue in the minds of Malaysians, so we will try to participate in as many expos as possible.” On other target markets, Yusri says since the beginning of the year, PWTC has been getting a lot of enquiries from the Middle East on its services.
“We have been working closely with our partners – two companies – that would strategically open the market for us in the Middle East. Through the collaboration, they will not only hold their events here but also promote us in their countries when they go back and join forces in expos and exhibitions back in their country.”
In effort to re-establish PWTC’s image as world-class MICE venue, PWTC is undertaking a rebranding exercise. Yusri says the rebranding exercises are to conform to World Trade Centre Association Standard Brand Guidelines.
“PWTC is the only convention centre in Malaysia licensed as World Trade Centre under the World Trade Centre Association (WTCA). We used to be known as Putra World Trade Centre, now have rebranded ourself as the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTCKL) and changed the logo to align with WTCA brand guidelines and the rest of the world trade centres (WTC) across the globe.
“Due to internationalisation, the renaming of Putra World Trade Centre to World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur could potentially lead to international growth. Thus, it’s incredibly important to choose a brand name that’s adaptable and appealing to cultures worldwide. We are leveraging on WTCA to help us promote WTCKL as an internationally
recognised MICE venue to other parts of the world through its members.”
Citing example of how it can leverage on WTCA, Yusri said WTCA members are free to use facilities provided by World Trade Centres (WTC) in member countries to conduct business meetings and events. The WTCs also act as a key to tap into potential markets in the respective member countries.
“They know the market in their respective countries better. As such they will able to guide and introduce us to organisations or businesses who can be our potential customers,” states Yusri.
Aside from the name change, PWTC is also focusing on giving the Kuala Lumpur’s pioneer MICE venue a fresh new look. It is refurbishing its interiors from the dull wooden environment to a more vibrant one and equipping its event halls with state-of-art conference facilities. Thus far, two of its flagship ballrooms – Dewan Tun Hussein Onn and Dewan Tun Dr Ismail and ten of its small meeting rooms have already been upgraded.
“We want our facility to be at par with international MICE venues. One of the steps taken toward this direction is, digitising our facilities. We will soon be equipping digital boards all around our property to replace the existing ‘traditional signages’.” With the rebranding and transition from Putra World Trade Centre to World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur now fully implemented as from May 2019, the company has introduced its new corporate identity – new logo and website www.worldtradecentrekl.com. The new site prominently features an online booking system and also a 360-degree video of all convention and exhibition halls of World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur.
UNIQUE SELLING POINT
Being the pioneer convention centre in Kuala Lumpur, PWTC boasts more than three decades of experience in hosting events of various nature, from sports to concerts to international events.
“This is our bread and butter for the past 30 years. Nobody can do it better than us. We basically ‘breathe’ events. I can boldly say that we are the only one that can cater to any kind of events and any number of crowds at any given time.
“Our strength lies in the variety and the capacity of the halls. If you are looking at holding an event for 50 pax, we have our small meeting rooms and if you are looking at having a dinner for 15,000 people, we have our banquet halls or if you would like to hold a convention for 50,000 people, it can be arranged. Everything can be accommodated even at the very last-minute request as we have the expertise. Unlike our rivals, PWTC halls are also flexible and multifunctional and can be transformed into various arrangements,” says Yusri proudly.
Other than its halls, PWTC also enjoys the benefit of good logistics as it is accessible by various mode of public transport such as LRT, KTM Komuter and are working closely with various e-hailing service providers. The location is also close to amenities such as shopping malls and two 5-star hotels.
“We have been enjoying steady business from some clients since more than ten years ago. Despite having more modern venues, these clients have stayed on with us as they know we are the only venue that can cater to large crowd and can fulfill all their needs. Some of our client who decide to hold their events elsewhere, have later returned to us due to the investment value, connectivity and capacity factors among others. This is a testament to our advantages,” Yusri emphasises.
In the past, major international events such as the PATA General Conference (1986), CHOGM Head of State Meeting (1989) and NAM General Conference (2003) had been held at Putra World Trade Centre. While other major events such as MATTA Fair, Pesta Buku Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur and also Malaysian Technology Expo have been loyal and treasured clients as PWTC has been their venue of choice for the last three decades.
Summing up, Yusri says despite being a WTC licence holder, PWTC has never leveraged on the name but with the rebranding as WTCKL, he is confident that this brand can really pull the crowd in. “Leveraging on the WTCKL name, it will ease our effort to bring in International clients and enable us to liaise directly with them. With that I am very confident that we can once again become the preferred venue for allevents in Malaysia.”