Driving industry transformation and enhancing visitor experience through technology. These are some of the goals shared by Melissa Ow, deputy chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in a recent interview with Meetings & Conventions Asia.
STB calls on the industry to embark on initiatives and to work alongside the board in creating real change that will impact the marketplace. "More innovative use of data and technology is one of the goals that we would like to work on. We welcome all to test-bed and pilot new ideas that will contribute to enhancing the Singapore experience," says Ow.
With Singapore's current ranking at No. 1 on UIA's 2016 list of top international meeting cities, the city stands tall with 736 meetings held in 2015. However, staying on top requires a vigilant mindset focused on improvements.
Ow outlines three industry challenges that STB is actively managing:
1) Macroeconomic challenges
Collaboration with major media partners such as CNN, Quartz and Mashable to deliver quality content on Singapore as a premier MICE hub anchored on thought leadership and business opportunities. STB also has partnerships with travel trade and industry associations to share destination lifestyle content, alongside flight and hotel deals, to encourage business travellers to combine their business trips with leisure.
Supporting local MICE businesses in staying ahead of the competition through incentive schemes and initiatives such as:
- Business Events in Singapore (BEiS) scheme- Besides providing funds to help organisers defray a percentage of qualifying costs, STB also offers customised support in securing venues, linking up with leading government agencies, or marketing and publicity of events.It also recently increased its support for association members to attend global business events prior to a bid for an event.
- Singapore MICE Advantage Programme (SMAP)- Developed in partnership with Singapore Airlines and Changi Airport Group, SMAP provides event planners and MICE delegates with a host of benefits and convenient services such as financial support, airfare deals, excess baggage allowance, and marketing assistance amongst others.
2) Discerning delegates
Delegates are becoming more selective in the types of events they attend, and have higher expectations. Hence, STB aims to create events of consistently outstanding quality that offer interesting and original content, and to support that with enriching experiences.
To amplify the Singapore experience for business travellers from corporate meeting and incentive travel groups, Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau introduced the In Singapore Incentives and rewards (INSPIRE) programme with curated itineraries centred on the best of Singapore's dining, entertainment and attractions. The INSPIRE programme for Europe and North America was recently launched, which includes unique cocktail experiences at iconic venues and thematic business tours around Singapore.
3) Manpower constraints
The MICE industry also faces manpower issues such as succession planning and high turnover rate in the industry. To build a skilled workforce, STB is partnering universities and setting standards and benchmarks for learning. For example, the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) has launched a new MICE degree in "Hospitality Business". STB played an advisory role in the development of the curriculum of the programme.
"In addition to raising capabilities in the tourism workforce, more needs to be done to attract Singaporeans to join the tourism sector. STB is encouraging the industry to drive breakthroughs on both the employer and employee fronts: employers need to offer more meaningful careers and adopt progressive HR practices, and employees need to be made aware of the promising opportunities in tourism," says Ow.