Singapore’s MICE recovery: PCMA Convening Leaders forges ahead

Following a comprehensive pilot programme, Singapore has carefully rebooted its business events industry — with innovative event formats that prove it’s possible to safely host large-scale meetings in the current COVID-19 environment.

Singapore engaged audiences in new ways at PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, where PCMA President and CEO, Sherrif Karamat, appeared as a live hologram.
Singapore engaged audiences in new ways at PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, where PCMA President and CEO, Sherrif Karamat, appeared as a live hologram. Photo Credit: PCMA/GPJ

Blazing a trail for post-COVID meetings, Singapore recently hosted the Global Broadcast Centre for the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Convening Leaders 2021 conference. Highly revered as “the event for event professionals”, this year marked the first time the event was held out of North America in 64 years. Close to 300 people met at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, while also connecting with PCMA’s global community online.

The two-day conference is the latest in a series of ‘pilot events’ in Singapore, where safety measures for hygiene, contact tracing, crowd control and logistics management have been implemented and fine-tuned.

Tried and tested

While some destinations battle with start-stop recovery measures, Singapore’s cautious steps towards a ‘new norm’ continue to gain momentum.

“We started at ground zero, but when it was announced that MICE pilots would begin in October 2020, the industry really cheered us along, even though it was a baby step,” said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Executive Director — Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel, Dr Edward Koh.

“Today, we have event capacity limits with safe management measures in place — like testing, tracing, and grouping delegates into smaller cohorts — that make it possible to meet safely.”

Together with local operators, venues and industry professionals, STB is paving a roadmap to recovery, where, according to Koh, a “test and learn” approach is the cornerstone.

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Photo Credit: PCMA/GPJ

Flexibility and innovation

Despite uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, PCMA President and CEO, Sherrif Karamat, said that he found “a solid partner” in Singapore.

“Singapore has really upped its game in terms of safety, so we knew that bringing people together [physically] would be safe,” he said. “All of our partners in Singapore — from STB to Marina Bay Sands and [on-site event organiser] George P. Johnson — maintained flexibility as we looked at different ways to engage our audiences... the sheer nerve of flexibility impressed me.”

Engaging audiences in new ways is what Singapore does best. Based in Toronto, Karamat was beamed into the event as a ‘live’ hologram, engaging with panellists and contributing to discussions in real-time. Conference sessions were also broadcast online to create a truly hybrid experience for all attendees — which, according to Karamat, provided a “teaching moment” for the audience as they begin planning their own events in 2021 and beyond.

“Singapore is not afraid to embrace technology… they have the ability, but they also have the expertise to work with new technologies,” Karamat added.

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Photo Credit: PCMA/GPJ

Rebuilding confidence

Stephane Leleu, Head of Events at the International Fertilizer Association, travelled from Paris to experience Singapore’s event safety measures first-hand at PCMA Convening Leaders.

Reflecting on his journey, he said the overall delegate and traveller experience was “state-of-the-art”.

“When you see all the sanitary measures in place, and the way an event is organised — from the testing zones to the coffee breaks — it’s really nice. Even in a socially-distanced environment, we can still interact,” he said.

Leleu is planning an international meeting in Singapore later this year and said he already has “so many amazing takeaways” from his recent visit.

“My colleagues can’t wait to learn about Singapore’s event procedures and safety measures… the basis is trust and confidence, and our delegates are really keen to understand more about the overall event experience. They are eager to come to Singapore.”

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Photo Credit: PCMA/GPJ

Reimagined event experience  

Like Leleu, Northstar Meetings Group’s Executive Vice President and Group Publisher, David Blansfield, travelled to Singapore in January for the Convening Leaders conference as well.

Based in New York, this was Blansfield’s first international business trip since Covid-19, and he was “very impressed” by the technology and safety protocols in place.

“My experience here has been really educational and very helpful. The technology that has been displayed during PCMA Convening Leaders is unlike any technology that I’ve witnessed,” he said.

With regular temperature checks and a wearable contact-tracing device, Blansfield was able to explore the destination while attending the conference — this included pre-arranged dining experiences at famed restaurants and a vespa sidecar tour through Singapore’s colourful neighbourhoods.

“As a foreign visitor, it seems to me as if it’s business as usual,” he said. “The hustle and bustle of an exciting urban environment is completely omnipresent in Singapore, and its ability to implement (and adhere to) protocols so successfully is a case study for the rest of the world.”

Singapore’s forward thinking about what a post-pandemic environment will look like — and its ongoing investment in technology to connect to the world — makes it a Covid-19 exemplar.

Looking ahead, STB’s Koh said: “Now that we have all the safety measures in place, the next thing we need to do is see how we can make hybrid meetings even more commercially viable.”



This article is brought to you by Singapore Tourism Board

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