If Kuala Lumpur heaves with skyscrapers, Penang is its northern cousin with a nostalgic heritage feel and bonus coastal setting. As leisure and medical tourism pick up, the state is also working hard to have its business event industry follow suit.
“The collaborative spirit of Team Penang, made up of the different business events industry players, is definitely something that we take pride in,” says Ashwin Gunasekeran, CEO for Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB).
“PCEB has over 100 industry partners, who are all well-versed in the needs and trends of business events. This makes customising and organising events Penang a seamless experience.”
Most large conferences land at the Setia SPICE Convention Centre, the first and only hybrid-solar powered convention centre in the world.
Aesthetically, what sets Penang apart is its quaint shophouses, intricate Buddhist temples, and colonial-era boutique hotels that have contributed to the state capital George Town’s status as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
To complement that, it’s also rich with old trades, art, and culture, with many programs and festivals supported by the state government.
Perhaps the most prominent regional event is the annual George Town Festival, a month-long celebration held each August, which brings together musicians, dancers, filmmakers, artists, and poets against a backdrop of culture and community.
The George Town Literary Festival too is slowly upping the ranks as a must-visit event among those in the literary world.
“[Delegates] will also be exposed to the conservation works that have been carried out in the heritage and colonial buildings and sites, as well as the communities,” adds Gunasekeran.
Street food haven
Penang is popularly known as the culinary capital of Malaysia and is the birthplace of some of the country’s most recognisable street food dishes including nasi kandar (a mélange of rice, heady curries, and side dishes), char kuay teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles with a distinct smokiness), and prawn mee (noodles submerged in a rich prawn broth).