Singapore thinking ahead of the game

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Singapore thinking ahead of the game

Singapore is leveraging the fundamentals that have long established it as a world-leader for MICE business, and overlaying them with new innovative solutions as it moves at pace towards the new normal.

Global accolades for a destination that doesn’t stand still

In the recently published (2019) rankings from global meetings industry association ICCA Singapore has again topped the lists in Asia for meetings, while it is the top country in the Union of International Associations latest rankings.

It is no fluke that Singapore is the perennial leader in these rankings, the island state possesses world-class MICE infrastructure, with its leading venues including Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre and Singapore Expo, as well as its integrated resorts and large selection of convention hotels.

The island state’s highly developed infrastructure is complemented by the country’s large pool of highly trained event professionals who epitomise the destination’s reputation for innovation and inspiration.

Gathering momentum to go again…

While Singapore has been hailed for its swift response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with its track and trace and rigorous testing systems being a model that has achieved success, its MICE industry champions are now looking beyond the crisis and are busy reinventing and transforming themselves to adapt to a post-Covid-19 world.

The fundamentals of course include stable government, a vibrant business culture, an open trading environment and strong connections throughout the region and beyond.

Singapore has placed safety above short-term economic gain and is reopening in a phased and gradual manner to minimise the rise of a resurgence of community transmission. It is worth remembering that Singapore has dealt with the challenge of SARS and the Asian Financial crisis, events which galvanised and united its MICE industry.

From 2 June 2020, Singapore embarked on a three-phased approach to resume activities safely. This included adopting enhanced safe management measures (SMM) at workplaces (More information at https://ww.mom.gov.sg) and new policies to facilitate international business travel. This was in addition to the successful SG Clean quality mark (a national mark of excellence for cleanliness and hygiene) introduced and widely adopted by venues and business premises since being launched in February by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), together with other government agencies.

As of 1 June 2020, 13,000 SG Clean quality mark certificates had been issued, of which more than 800 were to tourism-related establishments.

Andrew Phua, Singapore Tourism Board’s executive director of exhibitions and conferences, says: “We recognise this is an immensely challenging period and that the pace and scale of these changes can be daunting. That is why over S$90bn has been announced by the government to support Singaporeans and businesses, in addition to the current assistance schemes that MICE industry players may tap on to upgrade their capabilities, as well as to redesign and innovate their current business models and event formats.

“STB is also working with industry stakeholders and the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) to develop a set of best practices in areas such as Safe Management Measures (SMM), which event and venue owners must adhere to in order to continue operations during this period, as well as organising hybrid events. We want to work closely with event owners to pilot new models of events, to adapt, shape, and transform in the new normal.”

There is clearly faith in Singapore to deliver: international organisers Deutsche Messe and Messe Munich have plans to expand in Singapore looking beyond Covid-19.

One organiser in the cybersecurity space, which held an event at Marina Bay Sands last July, has already transformed its conference to digital this year – the RSA Conference Asia Pacific and Japan, 15-17 July. The conference pivoted to a free, virtual learning experience. Linda Gray Martin, senior director and GM of the RSA Conference says the RSA’s role in the cybersecurity eco-system is to provide the community with a platform for continual learning and exchanging of best practices. “The decision to pivot to a virtual event was made to ensure that the community stays connected and focused on securing our digital environment during this time of social distancing. It’s critical to continue this important dialogue, no matter the format,” she says.

Future event guide

As Singapore industry leaders work together to ensure the country’s MICE ecosystem can emerge stronger from Covid-19, more help for organisers and other event professionals is expected in the shape of an operational guide book – ‘Industry resilience roadmap event guide’ covering the highest standards of safe management. Version 1.0 of the guide covers Safe Management Measures (SMM), Hybrid Events and Listing of Tech Solutions & Grants. An updated version is scheduled for publication in October 2020.

And, with STB rolling out programmes to support its partners’ international marketing efforts via the Marketing Partnership Programme, as well as the creation of content assets through the SG Stories Content Fund, all these efforts will no doubt help Singapore to maintain crucial mindshare in key markets.

Singapore is a society built on constant flexibility and change and is better placed than most to pivot to new solutions for the new normal.

For enhanced meetings with purpose across a range of topics, this destination looks set to stretch its legs in the vanguard of innovation as our societies gradually open up again.

How are venues adapting?

Singapore EXPO, which was one of the first recipients of the SG Clean quality mark, has shown its flexibility, having been repurposed into a temporary community care facility in the initial stages of the pandemic. Now the venue is leading the campaign to rebuild customer confidence with health and safety top of the agenda.

CEO of SingEx Holdings and president of both the international association of congress centres (AIPC) and SACEOS, Aloysius Arlando tells CMW: “Our industry players have used the opportunity of the crisis to re-train and upskill their workforce, forge new partnerships and find innovative ways for their business.”

SingEx had, even before the coronavirus crisis, been rolling out some ground-breaking innovative projects around events spaces of the future and showcased them at a gala SACEOS 40th anniversary event at the venue back in February 2020.

Singapore is not short of icons like Sentosa, and Marina Bay Sands, which dominates the skyline along its waterfront location. It is an integrated complex, with huge convention centre and exhibition halls, and its vice-president of sales, Mike Lee, says that “while event organisers are working to adapt to the ‘new normal’, industry players need to get creative, explore new initiatives and build new partnerships”.

Lee agrees Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in the industry and predicts technology will be more widely utilised, “to create a contactless customer experience and to deliver an elevated safe meeting environment for the attendees”.

He says the key to ensuring a successful event, “is not to overwhelm event organisers with the complex technology available in the market but instead offer simple customised solutions to help them achieve their business objectives”.

Having an operationally safe venue and sanitised operations will be the new baseline, Lee believes, and stresses that having a skilled workforce is also critical in ensuring competitiveness.

Successful digital events

Singapore is using its core digital capabilities to engage global communities as travel restrictions remain.

The approach is illustrated by an event that has pivoted to digital, while remaining on Singapore time: CAREhab and the 6th Singapore Rehabilitation Conference 2020, which has been running 17-18 July 2020.

The annual event was previously scheduled to take place in-person at MAX Atria, Singapore EXPO, on the same dates. The decision to go online was taken by SingEx in collaboration with the Society of Rehabilitation Medicine (Singapore), co-organisers of CAREhab.

James Boey, executive director of SingEx Exhibitions, says: “Our commitment to the community is providing them a safe and seamless experience, where they can continue making meaningful connections equally, if not more, in the new virtual edition.”

As with the physical event, doctors and nurses in Singapore remained eligible to earn CME (continuing medical education) and CPE (continuing professional education) points.

The Singapore DNA has reinvention at its core and brand event owners can be confident in the local industry’s ability to deliver to new standards during the recovery; standards that are calibrated in a sustainable manner.

More information from STB MICE here

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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