MALAYSIAN fans of the biggest band in the world have been scrambling to get tickets for U2’s South-East Asian debut on Nov 30 and Dec 1.

The mammoth Joshua Tree Asia Pacific Tour (taking in dates in Australian cities, Tokyo and Seoul too) swings by Singapore but tickets for the Nov 30 show were sold out in a matter of hours when sales were opened recently.

Many ticket-less fans were given a second chance when the concert organiser decided to stage a second show on Dec 1. Tickets have also been sold out.

Singapore will once again reap the benefits of a large-scale concert. Hotels will see a spike in bookings, and tourist dollars will be spent in F&B and retail outlets. The economic benefits of hosting such events are immense and yet again Malaysia will be at the losing end.

A study by Pricewaterhouse­Coopers (PwC) is instructive. A band as popular as U2 would have attracted a minimum of 50,000 fans at the Bukit Jalil stadium.

Of this number, 30% would have been foreigners. Data shows that each foreign fan stays three days, two nights on average and spends RM3,500.

This brings us to about RM50mil in tourist receipts. Multiply that by two (concerts over two days) and this means RM100mil in lost revenue.

The sad thing is, U2 could have performed in Malaysia instead of our neighbouring country.

Malaysia Major Events (MME), a division under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry was already in discussions with foreign and local promoters to bring in the Irish band to our shores, but the contract of some 20 staff was terminated in August last year.

The axing of MME didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense now.

According to the Arts Live Festivals and Events Association (Alife), at least 200 major events were held in Malaysia between 2012 and 2017 with the support of MME and these events created a revenue of RM3.13bil for the local economy via tourist expenditure.

Of the RM3.13 billion, 30% came from the hotel industry, 30% from the retail industry, 25% from the entertainment industry (leisure activities, food and beverages) and 15% was contributed from revenues created in other industries such as transportation and tour operators.

Around the time the MME division was shut down, Thailand was setting up its own version under the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau.

Hanoi is also in the midst of setting up it’s MME under the Vietnam Tourism Ministry. They have already secured the Formula One race for next year and will soon be a contender for the big concerts in the region.

In Kuala Lumpur there seems to have been a policy shift. While the Tourism Ministry has closed its MME division, the Youth and Sports Ministry appears to have taken up the slack.

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes was roped in to turn around the flailing fortunes of the Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) as their new chairman.

The ministry’s hope is that Fernandes will bring improvements to the MSC, which acts as the custodian for Malaysia’s major sporting venues including the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. His brief includes bringing in world class concerts and sporting events to Kuala Lumpur.

In this respect, the AirAsia boss has a big challenge ahead. His first major gig was the Ed Sheeran concert in April but international concert promoters are already bypassing Malaysia in favour of Thailand and Singapore.

As for sporting events, we have already given up the Petronas F1 in Sepang (and the concerts that come with the race) as well as two world-class golf events, the CIMB Classic and the Sime Darby LPGA. For years, all three events helped put Malaysia on the sporting map.

Come July 20, Singapore will host the International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament that will see football fans from the region flocking to the National Stadium to catch Manchester United, Inter Milan, Juventus and Tottenham Hotspurs play each other. When was the last time we saw these famous teams playing here?

The state of the pitch at Malaysia’s number one stadium, Bukit Jalil, is one of the reasons this tournament is going to our neighbour. Another of Fernandes’ tasks, turning Bukit Jalil into a world class venue is going to take some doing.

At least Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is not taking Singapore’s ascendency lying down.

“I do not want to be left behind Singapore anymore.

“We’ve seen fans fly from all over to Singapore (for events) because we’re not competitive and we’re losing out on this revenue,” he was reported to have said.

He has promised to bring one of the biggest boy bands in the world, K-pop supergroup BTS to Malaysia sometime next year.

The Prime Minister is due to launch Visit Malaysia Year 2020 in a few weeks.

Kuala Lumpur needs more than just BTS to help boost its tourism and the economy.

As our neighbouring countries fight for the lucrative international concerts and sports events industry, we do not want to be left picking up the crumbs.