Suntec Singapore re-enters the MICE industry equipped with up-to-date facilities and know-how required in a modern and digital era.
by KRISTIE THONG
After a S$184 million (US$147 million) modernisation programme, the much-anticipated re-opening of Suntec Singapore came to fruition this June.
Hosting 96 new and returning events and welcoming a total of 650,000 visitors since, the numbers are proof that the months of closure did nothing to shake the confidence event organisers have in the centre.
A launch event held on September 12 marked the successful milestone reached in the completion of Suntec City Phase 1 which, along with new retail and F&B outlets, boasted newly-designed and flexible MICE spaces and a three-storey interactive digital wall.
According to CEO Arun Madhok, the modernisation programme was more than a simple upgrade of Suntec’s facilities; it entailed a transition to a new business model, and an entirely new way of operations.
“The recent modernisation programme was all about bringing our venue up-to-date while incorporating a high degree of technology into the offerings that we can bring forward to the clients,” he says.
Additionally, the centre aimed to “provide more control to clients to manage their events and budget in the way that they want it to be”.
Tech in the house
Mr Madhok believes that an internationally-recognised MICE venue like Suntec Singapore needs to keep abreast of trends and client expectations in the industry. One of the key changes included in the modernisation programme was technology.
“Technology has always played a vital role in the MICE business, not as a replacement to the face-to-face experience of meetings as some predicted in the past but rather as a means of facilitating the meetings for event organisers, exhibitors and planners,” he says.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is now available throughout Suntec, which despite the rapid uptake across the industry, has remained sluggish amongst venues and hotels in Asia.
“Clients are able to reduce the cost burden on their mobile data plans as well as on their overall event budget. Event planners can use this free service to incorporate more connected services and interactive capabilities into their events. Moreover, by offering free high-speed wireless LAN connectivity to all delegates, clients and delegates will be more connected and empowered.”
New technological tools include an online customer portal, which has been designed to cater to the busy schedules of event organisers constantly on the move.
Citing instances where miscommunication can happen when clients based overseas communicate via phone or email, Mr Madhok believes the online customer portal eliminates that problem and also “gives clients and their dedicated Suntec Experience Manager total freedom and mobility, while still accessing the same set-up plans and documents to work from”.
These changes made directly in the system are confirmed and updated in real-time, he adds.
Working with spaces
Changes are also seen in the flexibility of the events space, with one of the core stems of the modernisation programme involves allowing space to grow with the required needs of clients.
“For example, say a client takes up a 4000-square-metre (sqm) exhibition hall and their event grows and they require an additional 1500 sqm: Traditionally conventions could only ask the client to take up another hall (i.e. another 4000 sqm), leaving the client with unnecessary space, now the client takes only the space they need.”
The re-design of the facility hence allows clients to extend halls without the need to allocate a second hall, or take up a second hall, extend the exhibition space and convert the remaining space into a fully functional classroom-styled seminar room, or a ballroom for a dinner.
“The floor plan has been designed to allow for a mini-conference to be held simultaneously with an exhibition running at full capacity, without one area disturbing the other, whether through excessive noise or frequent foot traffic.”
Event planners are now able to manage the spaces booked and design the floors to match their requirements, giving them greater flexibility and control over the space.
Mr Madhok adds that “Clients can now create a virtual layout of the floor, re-arrange booths and add or remove other set-ups” where necessary, through the use of Suntec’s new interactive online portal.
Edging out the competition
Suntec Singapore’s re-invention comes at a time where the Asian MICE marketplace is operating within a competitive business climate. With a steady stream of new venues entering the industry over the years, Suntec competes with venues in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia which are equipped with larger space, designed themes and functionalities to meet the ever-growing expectations of clients.
The modernisation programme places Suntec in an enviable position. With a total MICE space of 42,000 sqm which comprises 36 meeting rooms, eight exhibition halls, and a 6000-seat concert hall, the facility is able to host intimate meetings for five to a plenary session for 5000 with more flexibility than before. Offering direct access to 5200 hotel rooms, 1000 retail outlets, 300 restaurants, six museums and a theatre, it sits in the heart of Singapore’s central business district while located only 20 minutes from Changi International Airport.
The immediate challenge for Suntec, since re-opening three months ago, was to take the venue through its most dramatic transition in the Suntec history.
“In the medium term, our challenge
is to create a sustainable business that will take Suntec Singapore to new heights, solidify our position as the preferred place to meet in Singapore and Asia and continue to lead and shape the MICE industry in Singapore well beyond the next decade,” Mr Madhok says.
Light it up
A new feature from Suntec Singapore’s modernisation programme is the computer-controlled LED lighting on the fourth level. Coined Crystals on 4, the LED lights are designed to change colours and ceiling displays to suit any mood or event.
“Clients are now able to enhance the ambience of their events without any additional costs,” Mr Madhok says.