Borneo sells

Recharge Yourself In A New World: The award winning promotion video for the Borneo Convention Centre. Funny!

Excerpts from an article in The Star about The Sarawak Convention Bureau chief, Jill Henry, whose tenure ends this December.

 Q: How well does Sarawak sell?

A: The further away you go, the easier it is to sell… Our toughest people to convince are those in Kuala Lumpur… Is Sarawak easy to sell? Absolutely, just not to the people in the peninsula. (Laughs) That’s why we had to set up a branch office in KL earlier this year. We need to brainwash the people in the peninsula.

Q: But KL has better facilities. Why should Tourism Malaysia, or the other authorities, help out Sarawak if we don’t have the capacity?

A: You’re wrong in that. When they sell Malaysia to decision makers who are Europeans, Americans or Australians, any western influenced people in fact, there’s always a better chance of success for a Malaysian bid when they highlight the exotic island of Borneo. Figures don’t lie. Borneo sells. Borneo is an international brand… Last year we won 80% of our bids (for conventions). That is unheard of in the industry around the world.80% success is so good it’s unsustainable. (Laughs)

Q: How about at state level, what is our weakness?

A: … Protocol. When you have conventions with international participants, you don’t put your guests through endless protocol. The names of dignitaries they have to read out in their speeches or things like separate arrival times for participants and local VIPs. People don’t seem to get it that, when you have an international convention, the ministers, chief minister, or prime minister are the hosts, not the guests. The VIPs are the guests, not the local officials. The mindset needs changing.

Q: Parting thoughts?

A: … The Federal Government plans to invest some RM800 million in this industry and there’s the formation of the national convention bureau. They have 5 times Sarawak’s staff and 5 times Sarawak’s budget. Their job is to win business for Malaysia. Sounds wonderful right? But that’s the biggest competition for Sarawak.


It’s always interesting to read the minds of expats working in Borneo. The Westerners tend to be more honest, unafraid of local authorities.  Her successor would most probably be a local, who will be tied down by obligations and loyalty to whichever government agency.

I like the part where we should do away with so much protocol. Why should we hear a drawn out, uninspiring speech (political laced lecture more like it), peppered with YB this and Tuan Sri that from A-Z whenever a VIP steps up to talk? Dinners are great examples of how YBs who seem to run on a different time zone enjoy dragging their tongues (and feet, it’s always another function or traffic jam) while we wait with our stomachs grumbling.

What I like best? She’s even more protective of Sarawak than some of us, and she’s English!


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