STB continues to progressively resume larger scale events with rigorous protocols and innovative solutions in place for the end-to-end visitor journey, depending on the current evolving situation. GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board talks about how STB has have seized the ‘fertile period’ by piloting and scaling many new solutions for the MICE industry.
- What makes Singapore attractive for international conferences and exhibitions?
MICE and business travel is a strategic industry for Singapore and brings about significant benefits to our overall economy. We are confident in the long-term prospects of MICE, because the fundamentals that make Singapore a key MICE hub and an attractive location for leisure and MICE experiences remain unchanged. These include our air connectivity, highly skilled workforce, and the fact that many global MNCs are headquartered here. Our partners are also confident that Singapore can sustainably host safe, trusted and innovative MICE events on a larger scale.
Singapore is recognized widely as a melting pot of quality attractions, a plethora of F&B offerings and corporate experiences that make it an ideal choice for business travel and events.
Covid-19 has certainly pushed the fast-forward button and accelerated digital transformation and adoption across the world. The resumption of MICE events in Singapore has been done in a careful and calibrated manner, with limits on the size and capacity of events to ensure safety of on-site participants and allow for wider interactions through virtual platforms. To do so, STB has established the Safe Business Events framework and several other initiatives to guide the industry on how to implement Safe Management Measures to meet a set of health and safety outcomes.
Public spaces are being re-designed to provide safe distancing, contact-less solutions and hygiene practices for delegates and employees safety assurance. Virtual spaces are being transformed to replace physical meetings. Digitisation, the flexibility of venue spaces as well as health and safety protocols have been event planners’ key priorities following the resumption of the industry.
- Please throw some light on the Safe Business Events framework which STB developed in July 2020?
In July 2020, STB developed the Safe Business Events (SBE) framework, taking into consideration the event risk profile and the readiness of Event Organisers and Event Venues in mitigating these risks. Under STB’s SBE framework, EOs must achieve five key outcomes:
- Infection control measures for every stage of an event attendee’s journey (pre- to post-event)
- Limits on crowd density
- Limits on close contacts between individuals
- Ensuring a safe and clean environment
- Preparing for emergencies relating to COVID-19
The framework was created in consultation with the industry and is aligned with international best practices. It arises from reflections and lessons learned during the pandemic when businesses in Singapore’s MICE sector conceptualised and reimagined what a safe event could look like.
Under the SBE framework, Singapore has piloted over 140 MICE events, hosting more than 15,000 participant attendees. Riding on the successful pilots of large-scale events such as TravelRevive (November 2020) and Geo Connect Asia (March 2021), STB continues to progressively resume larger scale events with rigorous protocols and innovative solutions in place for the end-to-end visitor journey. In November 2021, we will host two major MICE events – the Bloomberg New Economy Forum and Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific.
- Singapore is taking a Trace, Test and Vaccinate national strategy to live with Covid-19, what other initiatives are taken by STB to ensure the safe resumption of MICE in Singapore?
STB is committed to support the industry through this challenging journey. Several initiatives have been undertaken such as partnering with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to conduct simulation studies by measuring airflow, fomite, and air transmission. This ensured our approach to running safe business events is academically sound and scientifically proven, and to give delegates with peace of mind. This enabled us to custom-design Safe Meeting Pods and exhibition booths to enable delegates to interact for a prolonged period.
The pandemic has catalysed technological innovations and concepts in our events industry. Experimentation with event formats is an up-and-coming trend, with organisers trailing events in virtual or hybrid models.
The integration of technology into the visitor experience, such as digital guides and contactless registration, will also become mainstream. In terms of innovation, this is the most fertile period in our industry’s history, and we have seized this by piloting and scaling many new solutions.
Recognising that digitalisation is key, STB has launched TCube (Tourism Technology Transformation Cube), which provides a holistic suite of tools to guide tourism businesses in Singapore to build capabilities to succeed in the digital age. These tools help tourism businesses learn more about themselves, test their concepts or ideas, and build solutions that last and meet customers’ needs.
The Singapore Association for Conventions & Exhibitions Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) became the first MICE industry association worldwide to launch a set of technical references for the exhibition industry and partnered with local institutions to develop formal avenues to training and upskilling.
To provide further guidance for MICE businesses, STB and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) have collaborated with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) to formulate an Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR) – 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. The IRR will serve as the ‘roadmap’ to guide Singapore’s Event Organisers as they plan for the safe resumption of other b2b events in Singapore and sustainable recovery.
- Which MICE activities are more likely to be held in Singapore?
Singapore’s high population vaccination rate has laid a strong foundation for us to resume large-scale MICE activities with international participants in a risk-calibrated and phased manner. We are therefore taking the opportunity to further fine-tune our safety measures and protocols, as well as testbed new innovations, with the events in our pipeline. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and STB will continue to work with event organisers on their event proposals and review the requirements for MICE events, as Singapore transitions towards a COVID-resilient state.
To pave the way for the safe and calibrated resumption of larger MICE events in 2022, four pilot events (Joint Leadership Summit of AEO, SACEOS, SISO, UFI Singapore, 5-7 October 2021; Gamescom Asia, 14-17 October 2021; Bloomberg New Economy Forum, 16-19 November 2021 and Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP), 22-24 November 2021) had been identified to trial new protocols and innovations to put us on a strong footing for recovery.
These tradeshows are crucial trials to pave the way for the safe and progressive re-opening of Singapore’s wider economic activities, and for Singapore to continue delivering on its promise to deliver safe, trusted and innovative business events.
At the Joint Leadership Summit, ASEAN leaders and Global Exhibitions Leaders met face-to-face to affirm and chart a reopening roadmap for the region’s business event industry. The Summit also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by AEO, SACEOS, SISO, UFI and Singapore Tourism Board. The MOU showcases the commitment to revitalise the regional exhibitions industry and strengthens Singapore’s long-standing position as a safe and trusted Global Asia hub for business events.
- What’s your take on the development and promotional strategy of the Singapore MICE industry?
The reopening of the MICE industry will proceed in a phased manner, with the evolving COVID-19 situation taken into account. STB’s key priority is to ensure that business events can provide a safe and fruitful experience for event organisers and delegates while minimising the risks of transmission. STB will continue to support event organisers as they decide on their next steps and ensure that the necessary Safe Management Measures (SMMs) are implemented.
We will continue to further refine the framework with industry feedback and learnings from the pilot events, as well as strengthen our protocols and testbed new ideas towards reimagining the future of MICE.
In India, we continue engaging with corporate, MICE intermediaries and the travel fraternity to sustain awareness of Singapore as a MICE destination. Based on feedback and interactions with the various MICE players, we are heartened and confident that when borders between Singapore and India re-open, Indian BTMICE travellers will be keen to visit the city. The fundamentals that make Singapore a key MICE hub and attractive location for business and leisure events remain unchanged, and our industry is resilient. This puts us in a good position to emerge stronger from COVID-19. STB will work closely with our industry partners in India to rebuild and recover together.