My six-month stint as editor for micenet ASIA may have been miniscule compared to the industry journalists who have reported on the Asia Pacific region for years, but these doors have opened me to a much broader and deeper perspective of the industry.
Speaking recently to a number of MICE professionals who have been working in Singapore for a long time, I asked about the changes they have seen over the past few years that have led to the recognition of a small country as the top conventions city in Asia. The honest response garnered was more than a little shocking. Industry folks who have been running events in this mature, modern and top-notch MICE destination say the industry has hardly matured or developed over the years, and that has led to silent frustration and cynicism.
The comment that hit me the hardest came from SACEOS marketing communications director, Yeow Mei Sin, who said: “For a very long time, I thought that it was very paradoxical that Singapore should have all these six-star facilities and then endeavour to compete on the world stage, but does not invest enough in the software.”
Painfully blunt? Perhaps not, when the lack of innovation as well as a ballooning talent shortage are sending ripples of concern across the industry.
The Singapore MICE Forum hosted by SACEOS this year hit all the right notes. The two-day event featured presentations and panel discussions on topics such as innovation, customer excellence and new landscapes for specific segments of the MICE market. A well-rounded panel presented a comprehensive action plan for crisis management in events.
Understanding talent shortage is directly linked to education and Gen Y, SACEOS organised its first MICE Open House for 550 tertiary students, allowing them a chance to mingle with leading MICE players in Singapore.
As a mature Asian MICE market that’s starting to feel the heat from its regional counterparts, change is needed. And that does not only apply to Singapore, but to the other markets in Asia that are already established or on their way.
A MICE veteran once told me about the need for “drivers” in the industry. These drivers are leaders with a foresight for success and the tenacity to drive change. They are opinionated, at times brazen, and confident; traits needed to push a stagnant market beyond its potential.
Mature markets that have seen success, unfortunately, are often unwilling or unable to climb over bureaucratic boundaries long established, and for good reason. It will take a small but aspirational group of drivers with a plan, with radical initiatives that may eventually shake the industry out of its comfort zone.
As cliché as it sounds, change has been and will continue to be the only constant.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
• Andrew Chan, ACI HR Solutions • Damion Breust, Barclays • Daniel Chua, AONIA • Danielle Puceta, American Express Business Travel • David Lim, Everest Motivation • Maureen O’Crowley, Seoul Tourism Organization • Nino Grüttke, Messe Berlin • Janet Tan-Collis, SACEOS • Selina Chavry, Pacific World