SINGAPORE – Marina Bay Sands is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to ready itself for its re-opening. Flexibility, continuous and open engagement with planners on how precautionary measures are being implemented, and innovation are vital criteria to securing deals in the days ahead. Mr Ong Wee Min, VP of Conventions & Exhibitions, MICE, Marina Bay Sands, shared his thoughts on the road ahead.
He said: “Venue operators will need to work with clients to re-look the entire event design, from onsite registration process, crowd management, to having meeting rooms fully equipped with video conferencing facilities.
Connectivity is key
“COVID-19 will quicken the pace of digital transformation in the industry. Technology will be utilised for pre-event registration to create a contactless customer experience and for contact tracing purposes.
“There will also be a re-emergence of hybrid meetings – a combination of physical and virtual components, as event planners leverage on the almost limitless reach that virtual streaming offers to engage their wider community and gain a bigger audience than they otherwise would have.
“Connectivity is the new baseline. If it had not been a pre-requisite for site selection in the pre-COVID-19 world, it will certainly be top-of-mind now and for the future. Marina Bay Sands’ upgraded Wi-Fi infrastructure and bandwidth is not only vast, secure and high speed – it can also be fractionalised and customised to suit individual event needs.”
“As the single largest owner of first-to-market equipment in lighting, video, sound and logistics equipment within Asia, MBS is making investments to ensure that we are well-equipped to meet the varying technical demands from event organisers with their new event set-up.”
Health and safety precautions
The venue has been certified SG Clean by the Singapore Government, and it is building on new layers of initiatives for an even higher level of sanitisation. These include the following:
• Automated self-cleaning handrail machines at all escalators in Sands Expo and Convention Centre so that high touch points are constantly cleaned and sanitised
• All AV equipment will be cleaned and sanitised after each use
• Electrostatic sprayers will be used to disinfect meeting services spaces including the business centre, podiums, waiting areas, exhibit halls and lobbies
• The frequency of air filter replacement and Air Handling Unit (AHU) cleaning at exhibition halls and ballrooms will be increased. There will be increased external air flow into the building to maximise fresh-air intake.
• Primary elevator lobbies will be staffed during peak hours to provide assistance and additional sanitisation, such as wiping of buttons.
• All key cards will be sanitised before they are re-used, and hospital-grade disinfectants will be used to clean guest rooms especially high-touch items such as TV remote controls and light switches.
• Wellness amenity kits containing hand sanitisers, disinfecting wipes, gloves and a surgical mask will be given to guests
• After guest check-out, rooms will remain unoccupied for one day to thoroughly disinfect the room for the next guest
• Linens will also be washed at a high temperature of 70 degrees Celsius to eliminate viral and bacterial pathogens and prevent cross-contamination
• Staggered check-in and check-out timings will be implemented to prevent overcrowding at the hotel lobby
• The latest electrostatic spray technology (Lufter EA-X3 misting machine) will be used to disinfect contact surfaces and hard-to-reach places after every check-out. Being electrically charged, each spray allows the hospital-grade sanitisers and disinfectants to evenly coat surfaces for a more complete clean
• Luggage trolleys and storage rooms will be sanitised three times per shift.
• Limos, linen delivery trucks, trolleys, linen chute rooms and drop chutes will be sanitised after each use.
Safe distancing measures
• All room capacities including in the business centre will be reduced to prevent overcrowding.
• All onsite registration processes will be re-designed with safe distancing measures; queue management systems will be introduced
• Theatre-style set-ups will have chairs spaced one metre apart and maintain a 1.5 metre distance from one row to the next. Banquet table capacity will be reduced, with the distance between tables doubled
• Meeting rooms will also observe social distancing and be equipped with teleconferencing capabilities.
• Digital signage across our MICE venue will display safe distancing reminders and information on venue cleanliness.
Since the IR’s opening in 2010, sustainability has underpinned its operations. These include responsible sourcing of materials ranging from seafood to paper products and being rewarded in 2019 with a re-certification for the ISO 20121 Sustainable Events Management System. Sands Expo and Convention Centre was the first in the Asia Pacific to attain the LEED-Platinum certification last year.
Mr Ong said: “We do not believe in offering cookie-cutter solutions to our clients. Having a good understanding of the client’s meeting objectives from the onset is important as it enables the team to propose unique and interesting concepts that incorporate Corporate Social Responsibility – sustainable - or wellness-related elements into the event programmes.
“This is even more critical in a post-COVID-19 era, as we need to ensure that the right community experiences as well as green and wellness initiatives are curated into the new meeting designs that satisfy the required safe distancing and hygiene guidelines.”
Mr Ong added that food has always been a great conversation starter and forms an essential part of the visitor experience and it serves as a medium for event organisers to tell stories that align with their corporate values, especially in the area of sustainability.
Banquet menus are endorsed by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and clients can customise healthier menus that are aligned with their dietary requirements and nutrition guidelines set out in HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. Healthier menus include the use of healthier cooking oil, limited number of deep-fried items served; the use of wholegrain staples and those with a low glycemic index (GI), and lower-calorie meals paired with healthier beverages.
Along with healthier F&B options, the IR will help clients reduce their event’s food miles through responsible procurement practices. It is working with WWF Singapore to completely remove red-listed seafood from WWF’s Seafood Guide such as the popular red garoupa (coral trout) and bluefin tuna from all menus. It is working towards the goal of responsibly sourcing 50% of its seafood by 2020.
Besides selecting reputable suppliers in the region, in 2019, it procured 18,000 kg of locally farmed barramundi. Its outdoor Herb Garden supplies MBS restaurants with over 100 types of fresh home-grown, edible herbs. Up to 1.2 kg of these herbs are harvested daily for use across the integrated resort’s restaurants.
All unserved meals and bread are donated to community partners, Food from the Heart and The Food Bank Singapore. All other food waste is processed and converted into non-potable water using five anaerobic digesters located across the property.
Before its temporary suspension of operations, it donated nearly 15,000 kg of perishables and 3,600 eggs to The Food Bank Singapore.
Waste has even been converted for use in events. Said Mr Ong: “Our current inventory includes a circularity lectern made from upcycled PET bottles, and banquet table number stands created using wine corks from our restaurants.”