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Goodbye Switzerland, hello Singapore: World Economic Forum comes to the Lion City in 2021

The Special Annual Meeting will be the first global leadership event to address worldwide pandemic recovery — and a mega boon for the local MICE industry.

Safety first... Finance leaders discuss global economic outlook at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos 2020. Next year's event will take place in Singapore in May, marking the first time the event will be held in Asia.
Safety first... Finance leaders discuss global economic outlook at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos 2020. Next year's event will take place in Singapore in May, marking the first time the event will be held in Asia. Photo Credit:World Economic Forum/ Greg Beadle

The World Economic Forum (WEF) will convene its Annual Meeting in Singapore next year, from 13 to 16 May, marking the first time the global leadership summit will be held in Asia — and only the second time that it will take place outside of Switzerland since its establishment in 1971.

Considered among the most important meetings in the world, WEF's Special Annual Meeting in Singapore will be the first global leadership event to address worldwide recovery from the pandemic. The in-person meeting is set to bring together heads of state, global business leaders and community activists to solve the world's biggest challenges, and while the 2021 agenda is yet to be announced, its safe to assume that Covid-19 will feature prominently.  

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, said WEF's decision to host its annual event in Singapore reflects its confidence in the country's management of Covid-19 and will also boost the country's meetings and conference sector.

“[This] is an affirmation of Singapore’s ability to provide a safe, neutral and conducive venue for global leaders to meet," he said. "Despite the ongoing pandemic, we are confident that Singapore will be able to continue maintaining public health and safety while supporting the WEF’s mission to effect positive change through collaboration and engagement.”

Singapore's Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) also welcomed the news. Speaking to M&C Asia, president Aloysius Arlando, said WEF 2021 is "an endorsement of Singapore and our MICE industry’s capabilities".

He added: "Beyond the tangible economic benefits, Singapore sees MICE as central to our position as a global business hub and key node within Asia. Meetings and events facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ideas and capital, allow us to attract more investment opportunities, and build leadership in Singapore’s key industry clusters."

While Arlando believes it's too early to predict what Singapore's MICE industry recovery will look like, he said the country's 'test and learn' approach has "put us in good stead" to stage such a high-profile, international event.

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, and Global Shapers at WEF 2020.
United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, and Global Shapers at WEF 2020. Photo Credit: World Economic Forum

Singapore recently trialled new event safety protocols at large-scale conferences such as the Singapore International Energy Week 2020 and TravelRevive 2020. These include safe management measures such as on-arrival Covid tests, pre-event and periodic antigen testing, as well as contact tracing of attendees.

WEF 2021 will adhere to similar protocols, in line with the city-state's strict public health and safety measures. In a statement, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said health and safety of the local community and WEF 2021 attendees will be "our foremost priority".

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said: "The Special Annual Meeting 2021 will be a place for leaders from business, government and civil society to meet in person for the first time since the start of the global pandemic. Public-private cooperation is needed more than ever to rebuild trust and address the fault lines that emerged in 2020.”

During the usual “Davos week”, which in 2021 runs from 25 to 29 January, the forum will host a virtual event in an effort to rebuild trust and shape the principles, policies and partnerships needed for 2021. The Davos Agenda will feature participation from government heads, CEOs and civil society leaders with a focus on the future of work, accelerating stakeholder capitalism, and harnessing technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Ahead of the meeting in Singapore, WEF will host the Global Technology Governance Summit in Tokyo from 6 to 7 April 2021.

The Annual Meeting will return to its conventional home in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in 2022..