The first edition of WTM Connect Asia opened today (Wednesday 18 May), taking place in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The area was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2008 and has proved to be a unique setting for Hosted Buyers and exhibitors to meet, enjoy the local culture and make new business connections.
Buyers and suppliers have been welcomed to Penang from more than 30 countries including China, Malaysia, Mexico, USA, UK, Philippines, Germany, Indonesia and Thailand.
The day began with Hosted Buyers and exhibitors attending FAM Trips organised by Penang Global Tourism. The trips included visiting Penang’s hills and temples, wondering through the beautiful gardens, discovering local gastronomy and walking through the narrow lanes of George Town in search of heritage gems.
After getting a taste of Penang the event was officiated at the Eastern&Oriental Hotel. Nick Pilbeam, Divisional Director for Reed Travel Exhibitions welcomed all Hosted Buyers, exhibitors, distinguished guests and media. Mr. Pilbeam talked about why Reed Travel Exhibitions launched WTM Connect Asia in the South East Asian market, the strength of the World Travel Market brand, innovation being important as event organisers and how the new pod format of WTM Connect Asia achieves just that.
Continuing with officially welcoming attendees, Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab also said a few words. He welcomed the Hosted Buyers and exhibitors to Malaysia, talked about how proud he is that Malaysia has been chosen to host the inaugural edition of WTM Connect Asia and is pleased to collaborate with Reed Travel Exhibitions, paving the way for the event to continue taking place in South East Asia.
In attendance were a number of high profile individuals from Malaysia Tourism, MyCEB and Penang Global Tourism firmly cementing their support for WTM Connect Asia 2016. They included Mr Tony Nagamaiah, GM of Malaysia Major Events from Malaysia Convention&Exhibition Bureau, Mr Chok Yan, CEO from Penang Global Tourism and Madam Chong Yoke Har, Deputy Director General Tourism Malaysia.
The welcome speeches were followed by two key note speakers – Fredrik Härén and Jamling Tenzing Norgay. Both speakers delivered strong messages and left the audience inspired and motivated. Fredrik Haren’s session covered business creativity and change focusing on South East Asia. Jamling Tenzing Norgay shared his journey to the top of the world, parallel to his father’s climb (Tenzing Norgay) with Edmund Hillary as the first people to reach the top of Mount Everest. Throughout the day buyers and suppliers were given the opportunity to network during coffee breaks.
In the evening all attendees were transported to the Welcome Gala Dinner at Khoo Kongsi. The venue is one of the grandest clan houses in Malaysia exploding with beauty and history. Guests were treated to the best of Malay entertainment, food and arts and crafts. The Gala Dinner was full of activity allowing Hosted Buyers and exhibitors the chance to start building relationships ready for day 2 and 3 of WTM Connect Asia when the pre-scheduled business meetings take place.
Craig Moyes, Portfolio Director, World Travel Market concludes the first day of WTM Connect Asia: “Today was a very exciting day for Reed Travel Exhibitions and the WTM Portfolio. We welcomed exhibitors and Hosted Buyers from China, South East Asia and the rest of the world for what proved to be a very successful first day of WTM Connect Asia. We had fantastic speakers who truly inspired our delegates, and we finished off with a great networking function in the evening. I’m looking forward to the remaining two days of WTM Connect Asia where the serious business conversations take place.”