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STB, MICE players chart course for the sector
AS competition hots up across the region, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) industry are launching the MICE2020 roadmap to maintain Singapore's edge as a top venue in Asia.
This comes as rivals - ranging from China to South Korea to Malaysia and Australia - are investing in new infrastructure and bidding aggressively to snare a bigger piece of the MICE pie. "Development is happening very fast across the region. Everyone wants to go after the MICE business," said Neeta Lachmandas, STB assistant chief executive.
Of the 15.6 million visitor arrivals last year, 3.5 million involved business and MICE visitors. And in a year where corporate budgets came under pressure, these travellers still contributed S$5.5 billion of the S$23.5 billion in total tourism receipts. According to the STB, a typical MICE traveller would spend 1.7-1.9 times that of a leisure visitor, which makes the segment a critical one for the broader tourism industry.
But waging a price war isn't feasible for Singapore, which is not as cost competitive as some regional counterparts, while land scarcity also places limitations on infrastructure.
"I think for us," said Ms Lachmandas, "it's about showing value. Where we must add more value is . . . work(ing) with the industry to create better, more memorable events."
Other challenges raised by the industry include the manpower crunch, infrastructure constraints during peak season, the increasing difficulty faced in attracting buyers and sellers to Singapore as well as the lack of accreditation standards to professionalise the industry. With this in mind, the STB has been working with 25-30 MICE industry leaders for over a year to identify gaps which need to be plugged, and to ensure that Singapore - which was awarded Top International Meeting Country for the third consecutive year in the 2013 Union of International Associations (UIA) Global Rankings - maintains its sweet spot.
One thrust of the three-pronged MICE2020 plan is to work towards a "smart" MICE city, with seamless Wi-Fi connectivity in major MICE venues and eventually across MICE precincts such as the Marina Bay area and Sentosa. Also, data analytics must be applied to understand MICE visitors spending patterns. In this respect, a mobile application called Goru is being testbedded at the travel and tourism event TravelRave this week in conjunction with StarHub. Travel app Goru pulls together localised booking engines, travel guides and other relevant services to cater to the needs of business and leisure travellers.
The second thrust is to raise the bar by leveraging technology and incorporating local culture to give visitors a real taste of Singapore, say, via tours of cultural enclaves. The industry will also look at ways to make lifestyle-oriented events more accessible. Meanwhile, STB will be launching the Experience Development Series dialogue early next year to encourage the adoption of new technologies.
"Innovation will bring new strategies, tactical plans, products and services to the market," said Oscar Cerezales, chief operating officer of MCI Singapore, "and Singapore will be able to present a unique offer, a business solution, and not just a destination."
The final thrust focuses on strengthening the overall industry - from talent attraction to enhancing professional standards to facilitating relevant, Asian-centric research.
"As Singapore develops its MICE industry, talent development is crucial in ensuring that the city continues to maintain its competitive edge," said Mike Lee, vice-president (sales) at Marina Bay Sands. "Professionalising the workforce is key to improving service and productivity levels as well as optimising operational efficiency."