AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH DATUK ROSMAWATI LASUKI, JUSTICE OF PEACE
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC)
From junior secretary in 1984 with the Yayasan Sabah (YS) Group, Datuk Rosmawati Lasuki rose from the rank and file to reach her current CEO position with D’Heritage Sdn Bhd (DHSB), which was set up to manage East Malaysia’s largest convention centre, SICC. She obtained a Master of Business Administration from Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia in 2000 to further equip herself. Turning 60 years old soon in early August, this iron lady who hails from Tawau simply enjoys reading and travelling. She was recognised by Sabah Creative Economy and Innovation Centre at this year’s International Women’s Day as one of the two women for the significant impact and contribution she has made for Sabah and SICC.
Tell us about your background with the YS Group.
Prior to my appointment as DHSB CEO, I was deputy director of YS and deputy CEO of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB). YS is a statutory body established by the Sabah State Legislative Assembly in 1966 to promote educational and economic opportunities for Sabahans and I was responsible for managing over 40 companies under their umbrella.
Incorporated in 1988, ICSB is an investment vehicle-cum-management and holding company of YS Group of companies, which include
DHSB. As ICSB deputy CEO, my responsibilities cover formulation, implementation, evaluation and re-formulation of strategies to achieve the targeted goals that will facilitate the management of SICC’s operations.
How have these two previous portfolios in particular prepared you for your current position?
Both roles have been very helpful for me in setting up strategic plans and quality assurance system for the YS Group that are relevant to the state government and the people of Sabah. In my role as deputy director of YS, I had to engage with YS’s stakeholders, especially in running the people’s programmes in the districts in Sabah. The success of these programmes built up the stakeholders’ trust and confidence in me.
During my early days as deputy CEO of ICSB, I realised my strength lies in strategic management, innovating companies by expanding their plans and realigning their initiatives to achieve YS’s mission and vision in both its social and commercial roles. I was leading and chairing official trips, events or functions. This helped me to build up my social network, which is important in order to stay relevant and succeed in this industry.
How did you first get into the business events (BE) industry?
I proposed to YS Group to organise an international event to attract investors into the state in 2004. The following year, the International CEOs Conference was held, which saw my involvement from its planning right up to its execution. The event was a great success, drawing 650 participants internationally and locally. The event elevated Sabah on the world map, opened doors to investors and established the state as a BE venue, attracting high-end tourists who provided incremental tourism revenue. Later, we had a series of international and local events, including the International Women Congress.
How do you view your recent trip to IMEX in Frankfurt?
I foresee lots of opportunities for Borneo, in which Sabah is part of, to progress as a popular BE destination.
With the recent opening of the international markets, what efforts have been made to woo more business visitors through business events (BE) held in Malaysia?
SICC was appointed as one of the strategic partners of the 3R initiatives (Reset, Restart and Responsible) when the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau announced this on 23 March at Malaysian International Trade & Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur as a recovery programme for the industry.
At the same time, we have been engaging with local event organisers to establish a BE community through either strategic or delivery partnership by organising events or creating new ones. We also work hand-in-hand with Sabah Tourism Board to woo more BE to Sabah.
Tell us about SICC’s unique selling points (USPs), its versatile meeting spaces and how they have been used to maximum advantage in the light of some recent events such as the second Asia Parks Congress (APC) 2022.
Our USPs include SICC’s walkable distance from the city centre and easy connectivity with Asian countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines. We also provide free WiFi throughout the convention centre and easy access for those who are wheelchair-bound. My experienced team is committed to ensure that the guests and events are handled professionally.
Most of our venue was occupied during the second APC. They include our convention and exhibition halls as well as the sundown lounge. A dedicated safety and security section, secretariat, breakout rooms for concurrent sessions, speakers’ room and a volunteer room were set up to cater to this regional event, which attracted some 1,200 participants from over 40 countries.
What are some of the milestones achieved by SICC since its opening?
Upon SICC’s completion in January 2020, the first event held here was a majlis tilawah or recitation ceremony and Al Quran memory competition at national level from 16 to 21 February 2020. It was a real test of SICC’s efficiency and the building’s functionality as we had up to 10,000 attendees from all over Malaysia and all our meeting rooms were fully utilised.
It also showed the convention centre’s ability to host big events while maintaining the safety and security of the participants. SICC went on to host many other big-scale events.
During the Covid-19 pandemic when events were postponed or cancelled, SICC was used as one of the mega vaccination centres. We accommodated 36,412 vaccine recipients and managed to operate without any cases of cluster during that period.
How many events have been signed up at SICC so far and until what year?
We have a few events signed up for next year and are working on some more for 2024 and 2025.
Tell us about some of your new facilities and recent upgrading exercises at SICC.
We introduced the SICC Café in 2021 to offer a temporary casual and delightful dining experience to our guests and had received good feedback. We are now building up our pool of regular customers as this is a good opportunity for us to extend our portfolio into the food and beverage industry besides being a convention centre.
After upgrading our kitchen and dining area in April, we introduced Meranti Café in June. It is inspired by the 100.8 metre high endangered yellow Meranti tree which is the world’s tallest living tropical tree found in Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah. The café’s name is fitting tribute as it is located at SICC’s Rainforest Wing, which represents a perfect homage to commemorate our conservation efforts.
Can we expect more refurbishments at SICC?
There will be none at the moment because we only started full operations in 2021.
Does SICC face labour shortage such as from the hospitality side and how does it hope to address it?
Hospitality overall is facing manpower shortage. We work with a few tertiary education providers such as Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Cosmopoint, Politeknik Sabah, ATI College and Almacrest International College to provide on the job training for their students either as frontliners or in the back office. SICC’s vision is to provide skills for the next generation.
Under the new norm of doing business following the Covid-19 pandemic, what are some of the green and sustainable measures introduced by SICC besides the absence of plastic mineral water bottles?
We have implemented a few initiatives such as the used oil recycling programme, food wastage control and having a smoke-free area.
As one of SICC’s iron ladies, what is your philosophy in life and what is your advice to help other women compete in a male-dominated world?
One of the lessons I learnt when I was growing up was to always stay true to myself and never let others distract you from your goals. However, you must do the right things and rightfully in the eyes of Allah.