Keith Tan has been Singapore Tourism Board (STB)’s Chief Executive for about half a year now. Boardroom met him at IMEX last week to find out Singapore‘s plan to continue to attract international association and make the city-state a conference hub.
Tell us in what ways do you think Singapore is a leader when it comes to hosting association conferences?
Singapore is a “Global-Asia” hub that offers international businesses with easy access to fast- growing Asian markets. It has a stable and conducive business environment and a highly skilled multi-cultural workforce. Today, Singapore hosts about 37,000 international companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Procter & Gamble and Apple. In recent years, leading Asian companies such as Rakuten, Sony Corporation and Grab have or will also set up regional HQs or research centres here. These companies complement Singapore’s own stable of homegrown globally-competitive companies, and collectively support a diverse range of economic and business activities.
With such a vibrant and innovative business environment, it is not surprising that Singapore stands out as a premier business events destination with a strong track record of delivering high-quality events. Other favourable factors include a pro-business environment, financial and legal predictability, excellent air and sea connectivity, and economic and political stability.
To further capitalise our strengths as a business events hub, the STB and relevant government agencies also work very closely to programme a strong suite of business events that amplify Singapore’s economic strengths, such as in Urban Solutions, Medical, FinTech, Advanced Manufacturing, Media & Digital services, Design, and Hospitality. Events in these fields ride on industry capabilities and expertise that the Singapore government and Singapore companies have built up over the years. These events also seek to attract international experts, as well as a mix of clients, buyers and ideas to Singapore, which may in turn catalyse further developments in these industries. Executives attending these events are also able to link up with businesses, experts and R&D institutes (where applicable) in Singapore. This whole-of- nation approach in planning and curating such events gives Singapore an added edge in attracting the right partners and players for greater impact.
Singapore is a hub of international and regional associations – how does Singapore cater to them? How do you meet their needs and challenges?
Collaboration with international industry partners builds upon our strong foundation to deliver fresh and forward-thinking association events. This includes successful partnerships between Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB), a group within STB that champions the business events industry in Singapore, and global alliances such as BestCities Global Alliance and Global Association Hubs, which create new possibilities for international meeting planners and raise awareness of Singapore as an attractive destination for meetings and conventions. The partnerships also strengthen our position as a regional node of the international associations industry and further catalyse the exchange of knowledge, ideas and insights. As a member of the alliances, Singapore is able to tap into a continuing conversation about global best practices, emerging trends and evolving needs of international meeting planners.
To remain attractive to event organisers and business travellers, we offer the Singapore MICE Advantage Programme (SMAP). SMAP, a partnership between the SECB, Changi Airport Group, Singapore Airlines Group, JetQuay and Grab, provides savings on air tickets, enhanced event planning and delegate experience, financial grants and discounts on advertising spaces in Changi Airport, among other benefits.
Developing capabilities across the industry is another key priority for us. One way STB does this is by partnering industry associations to use Singapore as a hub for their flagshipindustry events. Most recently, such events include 2018’s ACTE Global Summit and the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers’ (SACEOS) SMF2018 (Singapore MICE Forum), which drew record attendance numbers. We also work with SACEOS to roll out educational training and accreditation programmes, such as the Asia Pacific Executive Development Programme, as part of educating the next generation of business events professionals.
Any interesting infrastructure developments in the pipeline you’d like to share with our readers?
To ensure that Singapore maintains its competitive edge as a business events hub, we plan ahead to meet several challenges such as space limitations, evolving ways of organising events and intensifying regional competition. For example, we have recently announced expansion plans for Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, both of which will build more facilities. Changi Airport recently opened Jewel, a world-class lifestyle destination with retail, dining, accommodation and aviation facilities. SingEx Holdings, the operator of the Singapore Expo, has also committed to refreshing their venue offerings and strengthening their programming.
Other leisure developments in the pipeline include recently announced plans to transform Orchard Road into a lifestyle destination and to develop new leisure and lifestyle attractions along Pulau Brani, Sentosa and the waterfront along Tanjong Pagar, as well as a new integrated tourism development with attractions, hotel and complementary lifestyle offerings at Jurong Lake District and an upcoming integrated nature and wildlife destination in Mandai.