December 7, 2021 | By Gerardine Donough-Tan | The opening ceremony for Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific at Singapore EXPO in November

November saw the strongest performance of in-person attendance at business events in Singapore since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Ranging from a few hundred to 3,600 people per event, they spanned industries ranging from advanced manufacturing to banking, food and media.

All of the 10 conferences and trade shows were hybrid events, making the most of the expanded opportunities these bring. Australia and New Zealand were represented again after over a year’s absence from the Asian scene.

The Singapore government gave full backing to the 300-pax Bloomberg New Economy Forum at Capella Singapore from November 16 to 19, attended by world leaders in politics and business. All participants had to be fully vaccinated and take daily rapid antigen tests. Also that same week, Milken Institute Asia Summit at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) drew some 350 guests, including 80 from overseas.

A week earlier, Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) live streamed to more than 60,000 attendees, drawing over two million views, with physical conference sessions being held in Singapore EXPO. In addition, five out of 22 innovation labs hosted face-to-face sessions at their premises, with 300 people attending physically and 3,500 virtually.

Australia and New Zealand were among 14 international pavilions in the virtual exhibition. Sydney was one of 11 locations in the World FinTech Festival that held events in their respective locations.

“Hosted by Investment NSW in collaboration with Stone & Chalk, paid digital passes gave access to the event platform for the Sydney event, as well as many of the other activities during SFF. Some complimentary passes were also made available to invited guests,” said David Rhoades, Global Head of Marketing, Elevandi, which was a co-organiser of SFF.

Physical exhibitions in Singapore are looking like they used to: well-stocked product displays and salespeople engaging with buyers and visitors. Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP), held at Singapore EXPO from November 22 to 24, was the largest in-person exhibition since the pandemic began, attracting an estimated 3,600 visitors.

“ITAP 2021 was a pilot event of the vaccinated-differentiated safe management measures + test protocol, whereby fully vaccinated participants underwent daily pre-event testing,” said James Boey, Executive Director of Events Business at Constellar.

“This allowed us to implement less restrictive safe management measures at the event, such as enhanced capacity limits and no zoning requirements. We worked collectively with the health authority, our partners and customers to stage this important pilot event for the industry.”

While Architecture and Building Services 2021 comprised seven co-located shows and two conferences at MBS, the inaugural Singapore International Agri-Food Week had a modest start with 900 international delegates online and at Grand Hyatt Singapore for Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit.

More potential lies in Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia starting in 2022, especially as both Australia and New Zealand are major players in this sector and can make up for lost time in the growing exhibition arena in Asia.

However, the picture isn’t as rosy for incentive travel to Australia and New Zealand. Travel agents said interest is still there but business won’t pick up until later in 2022, instead of the first quarter as hoped. Client hesitation is due to sudden policy changes, not only health concerns.

“Insurance policies don’t always cover this and premium cost is high for all possibilities,” said a market leader.

Meanwhile, the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit in Sydney on December 7 and 8 will welcome delegates and speakers from overseas but anxiety over the new Omicron variant and possible reimposition of border restrictions may nip the nascent recovery.