. Singapore's MICE reopening remains a 'balancing act' | Meetings & Conventions Asia

Singapore's MICE reopening remains a 'balancing act'

Event planners can now apply to host a conference with up to 250 people, but industry leaders warn pilot testing is a chance to experiment — not a green light to restart events.

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, and Minister fo Manpower, Josephine Teo, joined industry leaders to pledge continued support for the meetings and tourism sector, and ongoing private-public partnerships to drive future recovery plans.
Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, and Minister fo Manpower, Josephine Teo, joined industry leaders to pledge continued support for the meetings and tourism sector, and ongoing private-public partnerships to drive future recovery plans.

Slow and steady wins the race — that’s the approach the Singapore Government is taking when it comes to reopening the Lion City’s meetings and events industry. Cautious steps, however, are being to gain momentum as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) this week announced that event organisers can now apply to host MICE events of up to 250 attendees from 1 October 2020.

The move, welcomed by industry stakeholders, follows STB’s Safe Business Events Framework for business events of up to 50 attendees, which was announced in July 2020 and tested with two pilot events — the IEEE International Conference on Computational Electromagnetics in August, and the upcoming Asia Pacific MedTech Virtual Forum 2020 on 24 September.

Where larger events are concerned, the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) Conference has already been approved and will take place in October, but questions remain as to the application and approval process.

So, what do event organisers need to know?

First and foremost, applications should be for exhibitions and conventions only. M&C Asia understands that corporate meetings intended for internal employees, such as conferences, seminars, corporate retreats, Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and Extraordinary General Meetings (EGMs), are not included in pilot testing. However, as discussions between industry and government are ongoing, guidelines for corporate events will likely be released at later date. 

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, and Minister fo Manpower, Josephine Teo, took part in a virtual press conference at Marina Bay Sands to announce new MICE measures this week.
Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, and Minister fo Manpower, Josephine Teo, took part in a virtual press conference at Marina Bay Sands to announce new MICE measures this week. Photo Credit: Facebook

Organisers who apply to pilot events with up to 250 attendees must also explicitly demonstrate their ability to implement these Safe Management Measures (SMMs) in order to meet a set of health and safety outcomes.

This will include the need to host a pre-event briefing with international delegates, monitoring all staff and attendees during the event, and submitting a post-event report to authorities if a case of Covid-19 is detected.

STB and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will review all proposals, and event organisers may proceed only upon obtaining MTI’s approval.

Another crucial point, according to SACEOS president Aloysius Arlando, is that pilot testing is not intended to signal a return to the ‘good old days’ of in-person events.

"This is not like flicking on a switch. We need to confront the real impact of this situation and reinvent a new way forward for the industry, that’s why pilot testing — and the manner in which it is conducted — is so crucial.

“The spirit of pilot testing is not a rush to implement. It is about the rigour of implementation,” he added. "This is an open invitation to event organisers to implement the SMMs in creative ways."

In the case of the IEEE conference, M&C Asia understands that safety measures included:

  • Safe distancing of one metre at all times
  • Staggered arrival and departure times for attendees
  • Designated networking spaces and individually-plated meals
  • A checkerboard seating format allowing better spacing between attendees
  • Colour-coded lanyards to clearly identify and segregate attendees into assigned cohorts. 

Stay focused on hybrid events

Arlando advised that applications to pilot events of 250 pax should also be based on hybrid models.

“This is not a shift back to physical events — it can never be — for the simple reason that travel restrictions remain. We need to restore confidence by keeping the international community engaged because a viable and successful business model needs both domestic and international participants. So, hybrid events need to be new cornerstone.”

A sharpened focus on hybrid events will, according to Arlando, provide the opportunity to integrate tech solutions, develop new digital capabilities and encourage the "smart deployment of people", which could protect the livelihoods of some industry professionals.  

An example could be in density management, where a traditional registration booth is replaced by contactless technology, and staff redeployed to manage the flow of people in and around the event venue.

Partnerships pave the way forward

For Arlando, the balancing act between lives and livelihoods will continue for some time yet, but partnerships between government and the private sector are paving the way forward.

To guide the MICE industry in developing its post-Covid agility, SACEOS is collaborating with STB and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to formulate an Event Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR), which will be launched later this month and will provide further guidance on safety measures and best practices.

Speaking to M&C Asia, STB’s executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel, Edward Koh, agreed that the safe resumption of events requires ongoing collaboration and is currently working with a number of industry stakeholders to reimagine the customer journey for international visitors and event attendees. 

“There is a need to act quickly and decisively in order for our economy to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis. STB has been working with the Alliance for Action on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences to develop a prototype for larger MICE events such as trade shows, in partnership with the private sector," he said.

This prototype is TravelRevive — scheduled for late November, the event will be an extension of ITB Asia and will pilot 'safe itineraries’ for international business event delegates visiting via green lane travel arrangements, as well as safe meeting solutions.

“This prototype will provide delegates with the degree of interaction they would be accustomed to in a regular trade show setting — but in a far safer way which minimises infection risks,” Koh said.

"Through our pilots, Singapore aims to lead the way as a trusted, safe, and innovative destination for MICE events. The road to recovery is a long and uncertain one, but we will remain vigilant and nimble."

'Safe itineraries' for international delegates

According to STB, safe itineraries will comprise a selection of leisure activities that comply with prevailing SMMs and provide bespoke experiences supported by ground handlers and tourist guides, who will assist with ‘movement management’. After being piloted with the MICE industry, itineraries will extended to leisure travellers.

“The Alliance is also working with STB and industry stakeholders to trial digital enablers to facilitate a seamless and safe visitor experience from arrival to departure,” Koh said. "To give inbound travellers further peace of mind, the industry is working with government agencies to develop a travel insurance product for inbound travellers by Q4 2020 to cover critical Covid-19-related expenses.”