AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH ALAN PRYOR
General Manager of KL Convention Centre
A man of firm authority and strategic thinking, Alan Pryor is just the right guy to steer KL Convention Centre out of the pandemic. By adapting and leveraging to the acceleration of digitalisation, the MICE industry has plenty for the public to look forward to. A man who stumbled onto the MICE industry and never looked back, Mr. Pryor has full confidence in the resilience of the industry and looks forward to it bouncing back in full force post-pandemic.
How has KL Convention Centre demonstrated itself as an important infrastructure asset during the pandemic?
The Centre is a purpose-built venue that is specifically designed to effectively accommodate the congregation of a large crowd, structurally and logistically optimising accessibility, safety and security to facilitate a smooth flow of movement in a highly regulated and controlled manner with stringent compliance and adherence to the new norm Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Answering the call of duty as a mega Vaccination Centre has allowed the Centre to leverage these strengths, which usually catered to business events and corporate functions, towards a noble cause in service of the nation, city and its people, in aid of their immunisation journey, demonstrating the real value and benefit purpose-built venues complemented by a team of experienced and knowledgeable team, can contribute to achieving national objectives.
The pandemic has made a permanent change to all industries. How has KL Convention Centre been transforming the way it conducts its business?
‘We can’t go to war alone.’ We started by establishing partnerships and collaborations on risk and profit-sharing basis with industry bodies, key players of the supply chain, and long-time clients for the collective success of the industry which expedited the resumption of business events, kick-started the first live entertainment events, and brought in some of the first consumer exhibitions to the Centre since the pandemic began as well as pave a smooth visitor journey while attending events through comprehensive step-by-step guidance.
We transformed our brick and mortar halls and meeting rooms into hybrid and virtual studios, and dedicated a qualified team of technical experts to advice and deliver to any virtual and hybrid event needs, ranging from set or event production and technical design to live broadcast and streams, making the Centre a One-Stop Virtual Solutions Hub for clients’ and organisers’ digital event pivot.
We have further leveraged virtual technologies to make the venue remotely available and accessible for site-visits where clients and organisers have the options of pre-arranging a live guided tour of the Centre or embark on self-exploration. The Centre is also the first venue in Malaysia with a Digital Concierge, powered by Artificial Intelligence and synced with our website content, tasked to welcome and help visitors navigate within the site and respond to queries.
One of our core product offerings is food and beverage and when we could no longer serve event participants due to event restrictions and postponements, we opened up new food outlets and crafted festive special promotional spreads for safe home celebration, reaching new customer base via online food ordering and delivery platforms. When events were allowed to resume in small scales, we went on to kick-start offsite caterings, at Sepang F1 Circuit and Glenmarie Business Park, as part of revenue diversification and product expansion.
In ensuring these transitions were taking place in a smooth and effective manner, we sustained a training and development programme throughout the working from home phase with structured up-skilling and re-skilling modules to help our team meet the evolving demands of the industry and adapt to present challenges, changes and conditions. Our entire workforce is now trained to provide both back-end and front- end operational assistance.
Impact on the MICE industry during the pandemic has been significant. What are your plans for KL Convention Centre post-Covid?
First and foremost, all our focus and efforts will be poured into successfully delivering all confirmed events which kept being postponed since the beginning of the pandemic.
We will be working very closely with all clients and organisers to help them achieve their event objectives, continue to strengthen our digital product and solutions offerings and invest in developing a strong in-house team to cater to clients’ hybrid and virtual needs from pre-production to production and post-production stages.
Furthermore, we will also work towards solidifying the expansion of our F&B business, revamping its product and service offerings based on customer behaviour and buying pattern analysis, and tailoring dining experiences to suit the event and audience profile.
Plans have been made to resume our building and infrastructure maintenance, refurbishment and upgrade to continue to provide a pristine event environment with enhanced and refreshed interior look and feel.
What is your outlook for the MICE industry and what are things that the public can look forward to in the future?
For the industry, the pandemic is bringing forward or expanding the work industry organisations are doing around personalisation and big data. With the growing mix of remote attendees, it is going to become even more important to understand who our audiences are, what their needs are, what their persona and sentiment is. It is no longer about just getting the right speakers and the right food for coffee and lunch breaks. There needs to be a whole new level of engagement and to do that we need to understand more about who we are talking to, or who we want to find to talk to.
We believe that working from home and a level of reluctance to return to face-to-face meetings is going to stay with us for some time. We see the further enhancement and adoption of virtual or hybrid solutions as we continue to understand more about how to engage the two separate audiences, those at the venue, and those participating remotely, with the events running simultaneously or more likely separately to allow focus on each audience with tailored content for both. An extension of this is the production value, how good is the technical production of the virtual/hybrid components? There will be a shift to TV/Movie quality production to retain engagement online and for that there will be a shift of some AV companies and venues into this space.
For the public, the future event attendee and visitor will have more autonomy and deciding power in how they choose to attend an event and in curating their own event content where each participant will form his/her own unique experience tied to the event.
Do you hold any other roles in Malaysia’s MICE industry and how do you plan to make a difference in them?
I am the Chairman of the Business Events Council Malaysia and as the collective voice of the business events supply chain, leading the industry’s government advocacy and lobbying efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic which are focused on the safe re-opening of our sector.
We are working to drive safe certification adoption by the supply chain, providing shared information on best practice and placing a great focus on the development of dedicated communication to engage our target audiences and to maintain market presence so we are fully prepared with a safe and accessible business events proposition for Malaysia. This will ensure we are well prepared once domestic, regional and global travel commences.
Our strategy is aligned to the National Recovery Plan set out by the Government and we are working with Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau to promote Malaysia’s market presence and to continually uphold our stringent SOPs, consistently demonstrating the industry’s capabilities to deliver safe, professional, regulated and successful meetings and events. We are also up-keeping our engagement with strategic partners’ industry associations through collaboration and partnerships in advocating and implementing stringent compliance to deliver a “Safe Malaysia” business events destination proposition.
What is your professional background and how did you come to be in the MICE industry?
My professional path had begun in the hospitality industry, getting exposed to various aspects of hotel operations and management. Along the way, I attended an interview at the Ladbrokes Hilton for a Food & Beverage Manager position, instead was offered an operations position in a conference and exhibition centre and I have not looked back since.