Destination Review had the opportunity to meet Ms. Sherleen Seah, Area Director Vietnam at Singapore Tourism Board and listen to her sharing about Singapore MICE industry’s efforts in transforming to overcome challenges caused by Covid-19.
* MICE stands for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions
The MICE industry plays a key role in Singapore’s tourism industry, which in turn is a key pillar of the Singapore economy. Pre-COVID-19, the MICE sector supported more than 34,000 direct and indirect jobs with a value-add of 3.8 billion SGD, accounting for 0.8% of Singapore’s GDP, with significant spillover benefits to our lifestyle and hospitality sectors.
Beyond the tangible economic benefits, we see MICE as central to our position as a global business hub and key node within Asia. MICE facilitates the exchange of knowledge, ideas and capital, allows us to attract more investment opportunities, and builds leadership in Singapore’s key industry clusters.
According to a recent survey by one of our industry movements called #SaveEventsSG, Singapore’s business meetings and live events sectors have taken a significant hit from the pandemic, with companies experiencing debilitating financial losses. The survey of more than 170 event organizers and suppliers, conducted in May this year, revealed that 70 percent of event businesses in Singapore have experienced a 90 percent drop in revenue.
Singapore’s MICE industry caters to a decidedly international audience. Many events that take place in Singapore aim at bringing in an audience from top global markets. So, the pandemic has forced MICE event organizers to quickly adapt and even re-think their business model, from going 100% virtual to adopting the hybrid event format.
While COVID-19 has impacted Singapore’s MICE industry, it has also accelerated innovation and the use of technology. Singapore is reimagining the future of MICE, with rigorous protocols and innovative solutions for the end-to-end visitor journey.
A taskforce named Tourism Recovery Action Taskforce (TRAC) was formed, comprising industry leaders and representatives from various government agencies. The taskforce looks into a wide range of issues ranging from industry support, capability development to demand simulation and recovery measures.
We also have reimagined how tradeshows and exhibitions can take place in a COVID world. Singapore formed the Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences, an industry-led and government-supported coalition. The alliance aims at creating solutions for end-to-end visitor experiences. The alliance has developed a hybrid format prototype for safe tradeshows and exhibitions, providing delegates with the degree of interaction they would be accustomed to in a regular tradeshow setting, but in a far safer way which minimises infection risks.
We have also started to increase the adoption of more contactless technology such as check ins and check outs via mobile devices. For example, at Changi Airport, travelers will be met with a range of innovative measures designed to keep staff and visitors safe, such as biometric technology to facilitate contactless check-ins, proximity touch screens and infrared sensors.
Singapore’s approach has always been to find the right balance between managing risk and supporting our open economy. That is why we have resumed our MICE events gradually and cautiously, with strict measures in place that prioritize the safety of our community and all attendees.
In July, STB developed a risk management framework called Safe Business Events Framework to pilot-test B2B events of up to 50 attendees, based on strict safe management measures. Singapore was able to successfully trial this framework with two pilot events: 2020 IEEE International Conference on Computational Electromagnetics in August, and the Asia Pacific MedTech Virtual Forum 2020 in September.
By 1 October 2020, STB started to accept applications for event organizers and event venues to pilot MICE events of up to 5 zones of 50 attendees (250 pax) with attendees to be divided into different cohorts of 20. Then, at the end of October, Singapore has already successfully trialed Singapore International Energy Week 2020 event, with up to 250 attendees. During the event, participants were required to undergo swab tests for COVID-19 using antigen rapid tests (ART) 30 minutes before the event began. The tests were part of a pilot scheme to enable more activities, including large-scale events, to resume safely.
On 25 and 26 November 2020, STB and ITB Asia successfully held TravelRevive, a prototype for safe large-scale tradeshows and exhibitions developed by the Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences. TravelRevive brought international delegates and businesses together to exchange ideas, bridge knowledge gaps, and reimagine the future of travel. At this event, various health and safety measures were successfully piloted such as:
On 28 December 2020, moving to phase 3 of the re-opening process in Singapore, STB also began accepting applications from event organizers to pilot larger-scale MICE events of up to 8 zones with 50 attendees in each area.
STB has been rolling out a calibrated and progressive process to revive our MICE industry, and each milestone we reach is considered a measurement of the efficiency of our safety measures, as it enables us to advance to the next step of slowly but carefully reviving the industry. The recent pilots of large-scale events with effective safety measures such as TravelRevive will serve as the model for future events.
Singapore is well-positioned to emerge from this crisis. According to STB’s Brand Health Survey, overall sentiments remain positive towards Singapore. We are seen as one of the most favourable city destinations for leisure and business travel even at this time, compared to other major city destinations in the region. We remain confident in the long-term prospects of Singapore’s tourism sectors – both for leisure and MICE & business travel – as the fundamentals that make Singapore an attractive place for a unique, high quality travel and MICE experiences, and a key business hub remain unchanged.
In 2021, Singapore will be hosting the World Economic Forum’s Special Annual Meeting from 25 to 28 May. The WEF’s decision to hold the meeting in Singapore shows its confidence in Singapore’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong MICE infrastructure, high level of hospitality, sophisticated telecommunications networks, as well as flexibility and innovation.
Singapore has also secured the rights to host the Worldchefs Congress and Expo in 2024 and the 110th Lions Clubs International Convention in 2028, which is expected to attract around 20,000 foreign delegates. Being selected to host the meeting is proof that Singapore is ready to resume its position as a leader in the MICE industry as well as a global connectivity hub.
In my opinion, in the future, as COVID-19 has accelerated the use of technology and innovation, hybrid events are expected to be the norm, blending virtual and physical elements while retaining the ‘live’ aspect that fulfils the need to connect and network. The integration of technology into the visitor experience, such as digital guides and contactless registration, will also become mainstream. Singapore is breaking new ground in these areas.
Our stakeholders have also adapted and pivoted to new business models. The Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS), with the support of STB and Enterprise Singapore, has developed the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap, providing solutions for hybrid events and pathways for new capabilities. This is a public-private partnership focused on three strategic objectives: Establishing best-in-class standards for new event safety measures, creating agile business models with a focus on digital capabilities, and developing pathways for professional development in the post-COVID-19 world.
We have gradually reopened our borders to allow safe business travel for foreigners entering our country in limited numbers since June 2020. We will continue to review and update our border measures as the COVID-19 situation evolves globally, while putting in place suitable measures to ensure that the progressive resumption of events takes place without compromising public health. STB will work closely with our industry partners to rebuild and recover together.