Singapore’s business events eco-system is predicated on innovation and this, together with its world-class infrastructure, offers organisers a strong platform for reinventing and recalibrating their business models during these challenging times. EW speaks with two locally based global MICE industry players to hear how they have been rebooting for business events.
The fundamentals that make Singapore such an attractive hub for international businesses have helped the city state stand strong against the effects of Covid-19. The vibrant business culture, dynamic workforce, excellent infrastructure and a proven track record in delivering high-quality events form a big part of that DNA that attracts and inspires international organisers looking for stalwart support and inspiration in these trying times.
That said, there is no resting on laurels and MICE businesses based in Singapore are adapting swiftly and adopting new practices and formats to ensure the continuity and development of their business events.
We asked two local industry players how they have been reimagining their businesses and to share some key insights in to unlocking future opportunity in this city of the future and resetting for the new normal.
Montgomery’s knowledge-based sharing
Exhibition organiser Montgomery Asia’s managing director Chris McCuin admits the past six months have been a challenge. “Has the exhibition industry been kicked squarely between the legs - 100%, but are we out for the count? Absolutely not!”. Clearly it is a company up for the challenge, as McCuin explains: “Montgomery Asia is a small innovative team based in Singapore and, since 2016, has been the regional office of the Montgomery Group.”
“Our launch and growth plan from start up to scale up was set to come to fruition in 2020, when this coronavirus raised its ugly head. Suddenly the exciting plans of expansion, increased profits, co-locates and new launches turned into split teams, working from home, face masks and a matter of becoming Zoom and Teams experts."
Support from the government
McCuin counts himself lucky to have been working alongside colleagues that have adapted and remained upbeat throughout the crisis. He notes that for Montgomery, as for any company choosing a location for their new base, the country options are huge, “but we feel very fortunate to have chosen Singapore. The support network here has been superb. The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore Tourist Board and the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) have all played their part to help our industry get through this incredibly challenging period.
“Unlike many other countries where the MICE industry seems to go sadly unrecognised, in Singapore they try to assist where they can. From the vital Job Support Scheme (subsidising part of local employees’ salaries), assistance with hybrid events (Marketing Partnership Program), to interaction with the Minister of Trade and Industry himself on a Zoom call, it really feels like MICE is recognised.”
And it is not just a matter of official support, McCuin notes. “Many of us in the industry here in Singapore have come together to help each other. I am thankful that the word ‘competition’ has become a truly grey line throughout this time. The help and support from other industry experts via Whatsapp messages, forwarding advice, updates on funding, through to Zoom calls, has been awe inspiring and so comforting.
“We have already embraced hybrid events on a select number of our shows across the group and I see that continuing where the brand and community requires and benefit from it.
“We aren’t currently considering full virtual exhibitions, but rather knowledge-based sharing sessions in a hybrid version. We are working closely with the Singapore Tourist Board on exactly that. Events are now restarting slowly but securely and safely in Singapore. From 1 October, the government is looking to pilot events with up to 250 people and as green lanes/travel bubbles continue to be announced, I believe things will only improve.
“At the beginning of this torrid time, a close industry friend reminded me of Winston Churchill’s saying ‘Never waste a good crisis’. We most certainly haven’t. It isn’t just data, personal well-being, reschedules and re-bookings the team have been working on but exciting launches, too. Watch this space!”
Fairmont's safety and hygiene measures
EW also spoke to Fairmont Singapore’s director of events and conference service, Ms Jessie Lim, on how the hotel had been coping with the new safety and hygiene regulations and more. She says the group’s hotels have operated completely in line with regulations from the Singapore government and observed all advisories from relevant authorities.
In July this year, Fairmont Singapore became the first Accor LUXE hotel in Asia Pacific to be recognised with the brand’s global cleanliness and hygiene ALLSAFE label. The Accor standards have been developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas and all the Group’s hotels are obliged to apply these standards and will be audited on them.
In addition, Fairmont Singapore was also certified as a SG Clean establishment - the Singapore national standard proving a venue or hotel has undertaken a strict list of precautionary measures.
The Fairmont has also been proactive in staff training since the beginning of March, and has been making use of the government’s enhanced training support, mapping out a comprehensive platform so that eligible staff members can take the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge, and build up on core capabilities and resilience. “We will have a team that is prepared and better equipped when the challenging times are behind us and business swings back into operational mode,” noted Lim, who explained the team had been working hard to alleviate any client anxieties by staying in close contact and offering reassurance and explaining the strategies for moving ahead.
“Understandably, there is a lot of uncertainty when their events can resume; when borders will reopen to allow international MICE events,” said Lim. “To help allay these concerns, we have been proactively sharing information on the measures that the hotels and convention centre have put in place and have kept our clients updated on news from the government concerning applications for running business events of up to 250 persons,” she added.
Fairmont has introduced a suite of contactless innovations for pre-arrival guest registration, in-room guest services, digital ordering and payment in its restaurants, as well as a Contactless Event Butler platform and menus via QR code - all part of the group’s steps forward to bring confidence back to travel, hospitality and events.
“Moreover, Singapore has always been at the forefront of technology implementation and Singaporeans are in general comparatively more well–trained and adaptive to new technology than their counterparts,” said Lim.
Innovating for the future
In conjunction with the hotelwide ALLSAFE label, Fairmont Singapore and Raffles City Convention Centre, together with audiovisual partner, Encore, led the way in safe meeting practices by introducing a set of ALLMeetSafe guidelines. These were implemented during the early phases of recovery to meetings and events and encompass a series of meeting formats, equipment packages, and recommendations that address how to reduce risk and safeguard delegate well-being.
Encore has introduced some new tools, including web-based video streaming platformChime Live, Webcasting for larger audiences and a managed webinar product for seminars and board meetings.
Fairmont's experienced team of meetings professionals count for a lot in these uncertain times and Lim said the oft-repeated phrase, 'We'll pull through this together' rings true not just for Fairmont and its MICE stakeholders, but for Singaporeans at large.
The crisis has taught us much, Lim concluded, with the pandemic bringing to the fore more digital solutions that are also kinder to the environment.
- The world’s easiest place to do business
- It hosts over 150 international organisations and 700 MNCs
- More than 1,700 world-class venues
- An eco-system with experienced and professional industry players well versed in events
- Connectivity: 100 airlines service Singapore, connecting to 300 cities and the city state is within 7-hour flight radius of 4 billion people.
- A safe environment with a low crime rate, political stability and a geography sheltered from natural disasters.
Asia's thought leader
As the established regional destination for business events with proven strengths in various industries, Singapore is Asia’s thought leader on future solutions, and an exchange capital for international buyers and sellers. It is also a place where great minds converge, connect and collaborate.
By hosting and taking part in major events in Singapore, you can tap into the strength of its developed key sectors and build partnerships and take advantage of all the insights and knowledge.
Typical strongsuit sectors include Aerospace and Logistics (backed by Singapore’s world-class seaports and air freight facilities and global connectivity); Advanced Manufacturing; Applied Health Sciences (Singapore boasts Asia’s fastest growing bio-cluster and is home to regional HQs of many leading companies) and Design, for which it is a major hub. Financial Services is another big sector in the regional economy and the island state is home to a $2bn digital media industry.
While we still await the full return of live events, some big energy and high-tech events have been coordinated in Singapore in recent weeks, including:
International Built Environment Week; Event & Tech Show 2020; People Matters TechHR Singapore; Gastech Virtual Summit; Move Asia; HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 and APM – Asia Pacific Maritime.
Organisers clearly feel at home in this environment and Deutsche Messe AG earlier this year signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore Tourism Board to establish its first Southeast Asian headquarters – Hannover Fairs Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd - in Singapore.