Singapore: Tried, tested, trusted

The Lion City has become a living lab to experiment with new event formats.

Photo Credit: NeoPhoto/getty images

“The largest event in Singapore since the pandemic is a MICE event — that’s cause for us to be optimistic.”
“The largest event in Singapore since the pandemic is a MICE event — that’s cause for us to be optimistic.”
Edward Koh
Executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel, STB

Singapore is at the forefront of the global business events recovery effort thanks to a ‘test and learn’ approach to reopening its economy. While some markets battle with start-stop recovery measures, unclear government policies and ongoing lockdowns, Singapore’s cautious steps towards the ‘new norm’ continue to gain momentum.

Collaborative efforts between government and industry — a Tourism Recovery Action Task Force was formed back in February as an immediate response to Covid-19 — and a series of controlled experiments to test new safety measures and hybrid event formats continue to build confidence among local event professionals and venues.

This also contributed to the Lion City being named ‘Best MICE Destination’ in the 2020 M&C Asia Stella Awards.

During Singapore’s two-month-long ‘Circuit Breaker’ lockdown, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) worked with industry to formulate Safe Management Measures for MICE events, introducing new hygiene and one-metre distancing standards, and tested these during two hybrid events (with a maximum of 50 delegates) in August and September.

In October, STB began accepting applications for MICE events of up to 250 people, while pre-event antigen rapid testing (ART) was trialled during Singapore International Energy Week.

STB executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel, Edward Koh, hopes the ART pilot programme will identify a model that can be widely implemented to support the safe return of large-scale meetings and events — and so far, so good.

“The move to test over quarantine is a huge experiment — and it went well. This is positive news for the industry and we’d like to expand this further,” he said.

Taking an even bigger step forward, a ‘Covid-safe’ trade show prototype was carried out on 25-26 November. As well as on-site ART, the hybrid TravelRevive show trialled green lane entry protocols for international visitors, safey itineraries for foreign delegates, and new digital technologies for crowd control and contact tracing.

To facilitate safe meetings between exhibitors and buyers, 18sqm booths were paired with 9sqm meeting pods fitted with plexiglass dividers, and the 1,000 on-site attendees were separated into cohorts of 50 people.

“The largest event in Singapore since the pandemic is a MICE event — that’s cause for us to be optimistic,” Koh said.

As STB continues to receive event applications, the bureau is providing critical jobs support and training for local players while also keeping the destination top of mind in the international arena.

“We are constantly in touch with international clients and in January 2021 we are organising a virtual MICE trade show to bring buyers and sellers together. As the role of convention bureaus evolves, we are working with event planners to facilitate safe site inspections and offer financial support.”

Looking ahead, Koh said work to reopen borders and encourage regional and international collaboration is ongoing. “It’s a brave new world,” he said.