Singapore’s continued success conceals gaps in the local business events landscape, at a time where regional service providers are making huge efforts to attract Singapore-based buyers.

by KRISTIE THONG 

Earlier this May, the Global Rankings by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) named Singapore as the only Asian city listed amongst the top 10 convention cities in the world. This precedential recognition was made based on the destination’s record hosting of 150 ICCA events in 2012, a 5.6 per cent increase from 2011. Also ranked Asia’s top convention city for 11 consecutive years with 18 world congresses hosted and 2.5 million MICE visitors recorded between January to September 2012, it speaks of Singapore’s ability to remain competitive and her constant push to ensure its position is secured.

Infrastructure and facilities in Singapore have proven the government’s commitment to MICE, with many locally-based hotels and venues keen and ready to host large-scale events and incentives. Despite its comparatively small size, Singapore offers buyers a diverse product offering that can only be found in the garden city.
Marina Bay Sands has become the first events venue outside the US to be certified under a new international sustainability standard within the MICE industry, achieving Level One Certification to the ASTM Standard pertaining to one of the performance standards for sustainability introduced by the global MICE industry last year.

Suntec Singapore has re-opened after a major overhaul to immediately welcome 96 events in three months, while Resorts World Sentosa has established a spectacular

The newest stand-alone meetings and events facility in Singapore has also been introduced. Coined The Ballrooms at PARKROYAL on Beach Road, it spans over 576 square metres (sqm) for events of up to 860 guests, comprising a spacious reception area, private boardroom and two pillar-less ballrooms which can be divided into six smaller rooms. Accessible with direct street access and also to the hotel via a skywalk, the facility comes with seven-metre-high ceilings and double-height floor-to-ceiling windows with a nature-inspired design.platform of MICE offerings, including Universal Studios Singapore and Marine Life Park, to attract special events and incentive travel groups.

Singapore’s portfolio of more than 150 hotels and over 50,000 rooms is also getting larger: the garden city is expected to see the return of Westin Singapore in the Marina Bay Precinct, as well as the launch of Accor’s Sofitel So Singapore in the central business district by 2014.

The road to sustenance

While Singapore has proven its capabilities on the world stage, talent shortage problems and a lack of innovation are some challenges local players believe are keeping the destination from climbing a notch higher. But if the resilience of local players were any indication, a move this year with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibitors Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) proved its readiness to address the issues.

The association saw a freshly-appointed president from a non-exhibitions background, and for the first time, two full-time positions at SACEOS.The new SACEOS team behind the Singapore MICE Forum showed its conviction that issues needed to be addressed, most significantly through an inaugural MICE Open House which saw more than 500 tertiary students interact with MICE companies and professionals.

It gave SACEOS a platform to “raise awareness for the industry’s prospects and career development opportunities”, as president Janet Tan-Collis put it, adding that it is a much-needed step to relieve the talent shortage the industry is facing.
Apart from reaching out to the young via career roadshows, experiential workshops and more, new and relevant professional courses are in the pipeline to help retain and provide training for current MICE professionals.

Laws of attraction

Industry leaders are working tirelessly to ensure business continues to grow. Expectations of corporates, now heightened with regional and global experience brought about by increased travel and globalisation, is also driving venues and service providers to continually engage Singapore-based buyers.
Most international hotel chains would hold showcase events and road shows between April and August, in a bid to strengthen relationships with Singapore-based buyers.
Sydney-based The Star held an exclusive event at Fullerton Bay’s Lantern Bar for 60-odd local buyers. In an attempt to introduce its multi-faceted offerings to the Singaporean crowd, everyone in attendance took home a two-night complimentary stay at The Star.

Swiss-Garden International organises annual client appreciation events in Singapore as a way to emphasise its dedication to the market, with one recently held in Clarke Quay’s ChinaOne bar.

Citing Singapore as a key source market, corporate marketing communications manager Linda Evelyn Wong says these events are a great way to build rapport and provide updates on property developments, new hotels, and product offerings.
“There are new changes every year, and this is a perfect avenue to gather new

Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a travel and event management company, ensures the client events they organise are reflective of their capabilities. business partners. It is also a good way to get a clear understanding of what [Singapore customers] are looking for, and spot new trends in hospitality,” she says.
Ms Wong adds that whilst Singapore-based buyers continue to look for special touches such as themed parties and dinners and new product offerings, the demand for excellent service standards and competitive prices correlating with offerings are just as important.
“Through such events, we try to change our strategies in reaching out to the Singapore market.”

“While there are many global and local tradeshows and forums where clients can meet with suppliers and talk about what services they provide, clients rarely get the opportunity to experience first-hand the capabilities and expertise of an event management company,” says CWT regional business development director, meetings and events Asia Pacific, Neera Gupta.
“Through staging an event, we are able to showcase our event management capabilities as well as our supplier relationships to deliver events that go beyond the ordinary, not the budget.

“It also provides a great platform for buyers to network and exchange ideas/challenges with peers from across industries and build stronger relationships with their partners and suppliers,” she says.

Contrary to innovation issues highlighted across the country, Ms Gupta believes that there is a greater emphasis on creative ideas and exclusivity in Singapore.
“[We are] still experiencing growth in the meetings and events space, and companies understand the benefits these activities have on brand awareness and loyalty.”

Check out our Singapore meetings and incentive travel supplement on the micenet iPad app for activity ideas.

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