The pandemic may have delivered a significant hit, but Singapore’s business events industry is going all out to ensure they come out stronger and more resilient.
Following the announcement of Safe Management Measures for events of up to 50 pax, the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) is working with Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board to formulate an Industry Resilience Roadmap that will offer recommendations to navigate MICE enterprises in the new normal.
Individual industry players from venue operators and event professionals, to hotels and suppliers are also making use of the downtime to upskill and innovate in order to realign their businesses with the changed landscape.
TAB may be an online booking platform that caters to smaller group event experiences (from two to 30), and therefore considerably less hard hit than other segments of the industry, but its CEO, Greg Yap, is making sure his business meets the demand of an evolving incentives environment, which he believes will take the form of downsized travel programmes, a preference for regional destinations closer to home and niche experiences.
“The days of mega-incentives will be forgone for a focus on the few. Such higher-tier reward incentives create opportunities to design more personalised and customised experiences and itineraries... Beyond gifting ideas, companies may choose to revisit creating and gifting unique dining, cocktail and special experiences that can be enjoyed locally (once thought of as less aspirational),” he expressed.
Sensing an opportunity to provide virtual event experiences with an added dimension of engagement, Yap recently worked with platform partners to host a series of cocktail, wine, sake and other unique virtual experiences and workshops.
When corporates feedback that it was a hassle to send meals to teams and clients at multiple locations for virtual events, they rolled out “At-Home” experiences – think special set meals and drinks – that make it easy for organisers to book and coordinate deliveries.
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more and more workplaces are allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely. Virtual events will remain the key channel of engagement for time to come. We plan to continue to expand our collection of unique virtual experiences and onboard new partners and listings on the platform so that our customers can continue to engage and celebrate with teams, clients and friends remotely,” said Yap.
Exhibitions still relevant
Even though business was forced to grind to a halt as its convention facilities were converted into care facilities for recovering Covid-19 patients, SingEx kept busy during the pause to prepare for a new world of events driven by digital.
“Where digital elements were once seen as augmenting the engagement and overall event experience, the balance was tipped during COVID-19 when virtual events became the norm. Today, having a strong digital core is no longer an option but a necessity. At SingEx we will take a digital-first approach to uncover known, unknown and newly-surfaced customer needs,” said James Boey, executive director of SingEx Exhibitions.
To keep up with the new operating environment, SingEx held its first fully virtual event, CAREhab, which is dedicated to Asia Pacific’s healthcare community, on 17-18 July. The event featured an integrated digital platform that gave participants access to customised learning with its AI-powered interface; a video-on-demand feature; a community hub portal to facilitate collaboration and cross-sharing; as well as a digital exhibitor showcase to bring exhibitors and suppliers together.
To prepare for the new normal, SingEx is also working with partners to co-create cohesive event experiences and develop in-house content so as to curate a greater content mix for participants, according to Boey. The teams have also been experimenting with sprint (a method where teams develop features for a product in a defined time period) to build agility in dealing with evolving challenges.
Hotels flex creativity
Ahead of its opening in October, Dusit Thani Laguna found itself having to re-evaluate its offerings. With safety and hygiene now top priority, the property pumped S$1.5 million in order to increase digitalisation and hygiene measures and set up a task force to ensure protocols are implemented digitally. Among the implementations: Virtual check-ins and check-outs via an app, virtual key cards, robotic butlers, digital in-room menus and automated floor scrubbers.
Extensive thought also went into the design of its MICE offerings. In addition to outdoor event lawns that allow for flexible distancing requirements, Dusit Thani Laguna also offers state-of-the-art meeting facilities, including optional live-streaming services, and an e-network platform, where guests can register to engage and interact with each other, while event organisers can conduct real-time polling.
On the leisure front, the hotel, which is co-located with Laguna National Golf & Country Club, offers a first-in-Asia Moonlight Golf programme powered by Swiss-engineered LED technology. There is also an “Eat Well, Sleep Well” wellness programme featuring plant-based foods from the hotel’s organic farm.
Said general manager Eric Piatti: “The industry will see the adoption of smaller meeting configurations and formats; sizeable venues will be used to host smaller meetings and events with a reduced number of attendees to allow for safe distancing. Additionally, as the demand for wellness travel increases, MICE organisers will begin to consider more wellness-centered locations.”
Already a popular venue for business events, Fairmont Singapore is stepping up its game. The SG Clean-certified hotel is also the first Accor LUXE property in Asia Pacific to be accredited with the brand’s global “Allsafe” label, which prioritises cleaning standards.
“We are working on a touchless and contactless experience at each possible guest touch point to provide the much- needed confidence and peace-of-mind,” said Marcus Hanna, general manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, which operates Raffles City Convention Centre.
Hanna shared that they have an app where guests can access convenient event assistance without interrupting the session as well as technology to support virtual conferencing. They are also working on new meeting formats, equipment packages and recommendations that incorporate physical distancing measures.