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MICE industry will continue to be key for Singapore

Despite slow economic progress and external pressure, Singapore can remain positive about its attractiveness to MICE tourism and events. The nation's resilience and proven ability to handle challenges will put it in good stead.

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''MICE industry is a fairly resilient one, in good or in bad times . . . it's not a case where everything stops, I think that would be really foolish. I think what's important to think about (is) where to be, where economic collaboration is and what new markets to venture into.'' - Aloysius Arlando, president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS).

MICE tourism is a key sector for Singapore's growth over the last 40 years, and it will continue to be a key contributor for Singapore moving forward, says the president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS), Aloysius Arlando.

The uniqueness of this sector makes Singapore retain its position as a business hub in the region while also creating job opportunities within the domestic market, explained Mr Arlando.

What sets the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) tourism industry apart from other forms of tourism is the distinctive purpose of participating in MICE events. The fundamental driving force behind such events is to allow people from the industry to fuel knowledge exchange and sharing to analyse the industry and even look at new markets to penetrate into.

In enabling this goal to be achieved, there needs to be strong support from other actors, such as leisure avenue providers. This will ensure that a wholesome experience is achieved by participants.

"So, if the world cardiology congress comes together, naturally they need to meet and they need to party hard. So that's where the tourism element comes in . . . It's the purpose of visit that's key in this regard, and the rest will become adjacencies," Mr Arlando adds.

This brings benefits for Singapore as a whole, with opportunities created both in the MICE sector and accompanying spillover effects on other supporting industries as well.

Singapore has been the regional centrepoint for business exchanges and development, and should continue to do so, says Mr Arlando. It is also crucial to note that Singapore is an increasingly critical hub for the MICE industry, owing to its highly skilled workforce, strong rule of law, and it is already hosting many Asia-Pacific (APAC) headquarters of companies.

The WeChat Mini Program targeting Chinese MICE travellers that was jointly launched by SACEOS, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and WeChat in November 2019 exemplifies Singapore's efforts to continue to entrench its position as a key destination for MICE events.

Dr Edward Koh, executive director for conventions, meetings and incentive travel at the Singapore Tourism Board, told The Business Times that the contributions of the MICE industry move beyond just economics.

By way of attracting MICE events, it enables Singapore to display and develop its key industries such as urban solutions, applied health sciences, advanced manufacturing, financial services, media and digital content and travel.

PASSION, WARMTH AND HOSPITALITY

"This in turn helps to establish Singapore as a centre for knowledge and economic exchange in the Asia-Pacific. With a track record of hosting Asia's most prominent events, Singapore continues to deliver innovative solutions for the transfer of knowledge, ideas and connections to drive new possibilities for the MICE sector," Dr Koh added.

Singapore's small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) also benefit from the scale of MICE events, which call for the pooling of resources from businesses across various industries.

Such events are also talent hunting sites, says Mr Arlando.

"What's important is to have the passion, and you need to have the warmth and the hospitality . . . I think that's where we create workforce opportunities for both permanent and transient workforce," said Mr Arlando.

GlobalSign.in, an SME based in Singapore that specialises in providing technology exclusively for the MICE industry, has directly benefited from the business events industry, said Veemal Gungadin, founder and chief executive.

Singapore's strong global and regional presence has attracted GlobalSign.in to work in the MICE industry here, says Mr Gungadin.

"Singapore is a great idea lab. Small as a country, but one of the boldest. Singapore is the node for overseas countries wanting to come to Asia, and also the node for Asian countries wanting to expand overseas . . . Having the opportunity to work on such large scale events is what really attracts us in the Singapore MICE industry," he further explained.

Singapore is constantly revamping itself to fit the business events industry and also retain its position as an attractive MICE destination, said Dr Koh.

Recently announced expansion plans for Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa to build more MICE facilities are testament to Singapore's continued initiatives to stay relevant.

Dr Koh said: "Other leisure developments in the pipeline will also strengthen our leisure offerings for MICE visitors. These include recent announcements to transform Orchard Road into a lifestyle destination.

"In addition, there are plans to develop new leisure and lifestyle attractions along Pulau Brani, Sentosa and the waterfront along Tanjong Pagar," he further explained.

Even with slow economic progress, Singapore can remain positive about its attractiveness to MICE events. Despite past challenges, the MICE industry has demonstrated resilience and swift adaptation towards these challenges. Changing environments will require Singapore to evolve together with it. In the MICE industry, being forward-looking is a key characteristic and it is unwise to crack under the pressure from external environments.

Mr Arlando says: "MICE industry is a fairly resilient one, in good or in bad times . . . it's not a case where everything stops, I think that would be really foolish."

"I think what's important to think about (is) where to be, where economic collaboration is and what new markets to venture into," he adds.

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