From Singapore Sling to garden swing

BTMICE rose in tandem with Singapore's tourism sector performance in 2016, according to preliminary estimates. 

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) supported 410 business events, a year-on-year growth of 15 per cent, which brought 343,000 visitors who spent about S$611 million. 

On the incentive front, STB deputy chief executive Melissa Ow, who oversees the BTMICE sector, says it has been "making positive growth", thanks to large incentive programmes like Unicity Global Convention and USANA, which brought more than 10,000 and 6,000 delegates to Singapore in 2016 respectively. Closer to Asia, there was a Flight Centre group from Australia, which brought close to 3,000 people.

Melissa Ow
Melissa Ow

"Overall incentive segment is one where we continue to be very competitive," she remarked. 

When asked about products that have proven popular with delegates, she highlighted 'behind-the-scenes tours', which offer a different perspective and experience than what one would get as a typical consumer. 

STB is currently working with gardens and parks and Sentosa to develop more of such unique group offerings. 

In terms of the 'In Singapore Incentives & Rewards' (INSPIRE) programme, which was expanded last year to include planners and groups from Europe and North America, Ow commented that it is "still early", but that there has been "good interest from corporate and incentive planners from both markets", with cocktail experiences being particularly popular.

She said, "[Delegates] appreciate not just the fact that Singapore is a great F&B destination, but also the story behind signature experiences offered, for instance, at Long Bar, which goes beyond offering a good physical experience." 

Moving forward, STB will once again focus on India and China - the first two markets covered under INSPIRE. For India, in particular, the NTO has brought onboard new partners, Sentosa, and FOCUS Adventure, of which the latter runs innovative teambuilding itineraries that directly address the needs of these clients.

Sustainability will also be a key area for the NTO in the year ahead, with plans to firm guidelines and eventually roll it out various industry stakeholders.

A sustainability focus group - organised jointly by STB, UFI and SACEOS - held February 21-22 will gather travel trade professionals to discuss opportunities.

"Hopefully, we can soon start a meaningful dialogue with venues, meeting planners and hotels for planners' consideration. It's important to recognise that this is still an area that is very fragmented. While there are many benchmarks out there on what is the 'gold standard', we need to find one that's right for Singapore. We have to address many different facets," Ow remarked.

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