Singapore has long been a favourite destination for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) in Asia, thanks to its strategic hub location, vibrant business ecosystem and robust knowledge networks. As borders reopen across the world, Singapore is now kicking into higher gear to resume business.
Most recently, Singapore’s MICE industry took off to a flying start with the 2022 Singapore Airshow, the largest in-person international event held in the country since the start of the pandemic. The biennial aerospace and defence exhibition welcomed close to 13,000 trade attendees and some 600 companies from over 39 countries or regions, including major aviation players such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Embraer.
“The staging of the Airshow serves to signal the recovery of the industry and puts us on a strong footing for the progressive restart of our MICE sector,” said Poh Chi Chuan, Executive Director of Exhibitions & Conferences at Singapore Tourism Board.
Besides being a pilot event to trial new Covid-19 protocols, including a higher event capacity, the four-day expo served as an important platform in bringing aviation’s top industry players and decision-makers together for discussion and networking, business deal-making and sustainability collaboration plans for the aviation sector.
“Despite the prevailing pandemic, we are thrilled with the presence of major exhibitors, partners and trade attendees who came together for conversations and collaboration. Their participation is evidence of the collective optimism for recovery,” stated Leck Chet Lam, Managing Director of Experia Events, the organiser of Singapore Airshow.
Major bookings firmed up at the show included Singapore Airlines’ order for 31 Boeing 777-9 jets, Etihad’s seven Airbus A350F freighters, and JetBlue’s 30 Airbus A220-300 aircraft. The nascent electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector also saw plenty of buzz and action, with AirAsia and Australian operators Microflite, Aviair and HeliSpirit entering deals with urban air mobility companies in preparation for emissions-free air travel operations in the future.
Strategic partnerships inked included the Memorandum of Understanding between Airbus and Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education to develop future aerospace talent, while Singapore’s Economic Development Board, JTC Corporation, Volocopter and Skyports will join forces to transform the local Seletar Aerospace Park into an Advanced Air Mobility hub.
The power of bringing people together
Through the two years of pandemic, Singapore has adopted strong protocols, embraced new innovations and fostered creative partnerships as part of its ongoing efforts to reinvent the MICE industry. Successful event pilots in 2021 — such as The Joint Leadership Summit of AEO / SACEOS / SISO / UFI, Milken Institute Asia Summit and Bloomberg New Economy Forum — have helped to pave the way for the safe and calibrated resumption of larger MICE events such as the 2022 Singapore Airshow.
International delegates attending the Airshow could enter Singapore via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which allows fully-vaccinated travellers a quarantine-free stay in the city. With Singapore’s safe management measures and open approach to international visitors, Thomas Imke, Regional Sales Director at Ruag Aviation, ranked Singapore as among the region’s most attractive MICE destinations.
Although Imke missed the previous edition of the Airshow due to the uncertainties at the onset of the pandemic, the 2022 Singapore Airshow left a great impression on the German exhibitor. “It’s great to see that Singapore has developed a viable concept to carry out exhibitions safely. Attending the Airshow was well worth our team’s efforts for the good meetings we had.”
For many attendees, the ability to resume in-person meetings and conduct meaningful conversations was a key highlight at the Airshow. Chris Schaefer, Director of International Support and Services at Bell noted, “ We were really happy to be able to meet many of our customers face-to-face; we had an intimate experience at the show.”
For Collins Aerospace, which signed a deal on maintenance, repair and overhaul services for SIA’s fleet of 55 Boeing 787 aircraft, the in-person element of the show was key to building quality engagement with customers.
“A key takeaway was to be able to have direct conversations on customers’ needs and requirements, and to bring that feedback back to the corporation,” said Richard Jerome, Senior Director of International Business Development, Mission Systems, Collins Aerospace.
Pratt & Whitney’s Vice President, Aftermarket Operations – Asia Pacific Tim Cormier shared, “When you look around the exhibition hall, you could feel the energy of being at an airshow — where customers partners, OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) and MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) suppliers all come together in person again. It was a really great time.”
Sustainability in action
The Airshow was a showcase of sustainability in action, from dedicated forums and partnerships, to eco-friendly event elements such as the use of solar panels.
The Airshow also offered plenty of opportunities for aviation’s leading minds to chart a path towards a sustainable future through conversations and collaborative agreements.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Changi Airport Group, Airbus and Linde signed an agreement to study the development of hydrogen supply as an alternative for aviation, while Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Singapore Airlines and Safran committed to a global sustainable aviation fuel declaration to encourage the consumption of the green fuel.
Some 140 delegates also attended two dedicated Sustainable Aviation Forums which saw representatives from Boeing, ST Engineering, Pratt & Whitney and Shell, among others, discuss the future of technology in air mobility and sustainable solutions in aviation operations.
“We are especially encouraged by the strong interest in sustainability. From well-subscribed Sustainability Aviation Forums, to a robust volume of sustainability-related deals and partnerships that were struck, all these are strong indicators of the aviation industry’s commitment towards net-zero emissions,” said Experia’s Leck.
Sustainability elements were adopted across the show floor, with eco-friendly exhibitor booths — think LED lights and reused furniture — a show directory offered in an electronic format, plus 15,000 panels installed on the roof of the Changi Exhibition Centre to power the event by solar energy.
“It is clear that our industry, from airlines to manufacturers, are stepping up to the challenge and are determined to make sustainable aviation a reality,” noted Pratt & Whitney’s Cormier.
Singapore charting the way forward
Singapore’s readiness to bring back large-scale MICE events is keenly watched by industry players, many of whom are keen to adopt positive learnings from their attendance at the Airshow into their business.
Nguyen Viet Trung, Vice Director of Vietnam Aviation Exhibition, had flown out on his first pandemic trip to observe and learn how Singapore carries out a Covid-safe event. “This trip was a very good experience to learn how Singapore organises the Airshow,” said Trung, citing the event’s protocols for safe distancing and quality networking opportunities as his key takeaways for an upcoming aviation expo he is organising.
Major exhibitor Boeing also applauded Singapore for a well-run show. “We salute Singapore and the Singapore Airshow organisers for their significant efforts to welcome the industry safely back to Asia for the first time in two years despite the challenges of Covid-19,” said Alex Feldman, President, Boeing Southeast Asia.
“Thanks to these efforts, we were able to have meaningful conversations with our customers, partners and stakeholders from across the region and were able to highlight our commitment to safe and sustainable aerospace,” he added.
Over a longer term outlook, Singapore will be developing a blueprint to continue guiding national efforts towards developing a sustainable air hub, set to be unveiled in 2023.
Clearly, a new era for Singapore as a sustainable MICE and aviation hub is now taking off.
This article is brought to you by Singapore Tourism Board