Business Times Hotels & Convention Facilities Friday June 30, 1989

Need for a harder push overseas

There is no lack of expertise in the sector, the facilities are great and off-meeting attractions are plentiful.  Yet neighbouring countries are so much more successful in tapping the multi-million ringgit global market than Malaysia.

Convention and exhibition facilities in the country can do with a little more aggressive and systematic promotion overseas, according to a leading local conference organizer.

Take a look at the tight programme that the Singapore World Trade Centre is enjoying and consider also the headway made by Thailand in promoting Phuket Island as resort and convention centre.

This need not be so, says Rayma Management Consultants’ Miss Pat Lu Pitt-Chin in an interview.

To begin with, a little more forethought can perhaps be put into the production of promotional materials which are circulated abroad.

It is fine, for example, for the Malaysian Tourist Development Corporation’s international relations and convention division to publish an annual convention and exhibition calendar which is made available through TDC offices to prospective clients all over the world.

Facilities and services offered by the Putra World Trade Centre are also adequately publicized while the TDC catalogues on country's “sun, sea and sand” attractions are appropriately splashy.

“But the prospective clients also need information on the convention organizers - who they are and what they can do.  This they are not getting,” Miss Lu said.

“It may seem a small thing but if I were a foreigner thinking of holding a convention or exhibition in the region and if I have with me catalogues from both Malaysia and Singapore, right now Singapore would have the edge,” she said.


The reason, according to Miss Lu, is that the Singapore TDC has included in a convenient folder not only brochures on the hotel and convention facilities but also individual fact sheets on all the organizers in the market.

The fact sheets - complete with phone, telex and fax numbers - contain information like areas of expertise, past events and who to contact should more details be needed.

Freight forwarders, stand designers and printers and other support service companies are also listed.  In short, all the relevant information at the fingertips, saving the prospective client a lot of bother, time and effort.

Barely two years old, Rayma is already looking abroad for new challenges, having just formed a joint venture company, Rayma-Emmy Garon, in the Philippines “to do pretty much the same things as the local company.”

Rayma, with up to four seminars a month, must rank as the nosiest and most aggressive conference organizer in the country.  In its first full year of operation in 1988, it grossed $500,000.

The company is 99 per cent owned and 100 per cent run by Miss Lu.  “My mother owns the remaining 1 per cent,” she said.

Miss Lu learnt the tricks of the trade from another conference organising company whom she joined “out of desperation” in 1983.

“I formed the company with an initial capital of $200 in the 1987 and for some months we were operating out of the back room of my mother’s house,” she said.

“After leaving school, I was bumming around and sort of drifted into the stock market.”

“For a while I was doing really quite well trading for myself and acting as a ‘fund manager’ - on a profit-sharing basis - for some friends and relatives.”

“Made a fortune, in fact,” Miss Lu said, “but lost it all in the 1983 crash.’

“I had earlier been offered a job by this management training company but my reaction then was ‘no way’

“I was making a lot of money hanging around a local brokerage's trading room for a few hours in the morning and the rest of the day I was free to do anything I wanted.  There was no way I was going to give that up for a nine-to-five job.”

After the stock market crash, with her bank accounts down to zero, and no income for three moths, she accepted the job and stayed for four years.

Ironically, for someone who had refused to work more than two to three hours a day, Miss Lu today thinks nothing of putting in 17-18 hours a day at the office.

“For two weeks a month, I come to office at 9 am and don't leave the office until two or three in the morning.  Other days, it's nine-to-nine,” she said.

Even with these hours, she has found time to write a book called Rayma Conference System, a sort of a manual on everything you would need to know about organizing a conference.

“It, however, won't be published until I'm 40 or when I quit the trade,” said Miss Lu who turns 28 today.  It contains too many trade secrets.”

In the meantime, Miss Lu is keeping busy organizing seminars with topics ranging from “the making of a polished top executive” and “the innovative woman entrepreneur” to “finance for non-finance executives” and export and investment opportunities in US.”

Guest speakers, mostly from US and Britain, can cost up to US$10,000 a day.

Rayma also undertakes contracts to organize conferences for other people.

“Our first big job of this nature was the Harvard Alumni Conference last year,” Miss Lu said.

Rayma hopes to develop this side of the business further this year by wooing more foreign organizations to hold their conventions locally. -- PCT

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