Singapore: Asia’s Global Hub

17th January 2024

A strategic gateway in Asia, Singapore is rising as a global association hub thanks to its connectivity, cultural diversity, and access to an extensive network of experts, venues, and organizations.

Words Lane Nieset

Located within a four-hour flight radius of 625 million people, Singapore is at the forefront of significant global growth and serves as an ideal destination for associations looking to engage with the fast-growing Southeast Asia region. But it’s more than the geography, explains Laura Deal Lacey, Executive Director, Global Markets of the Milken Institute“We have the challenge of a global participant base. Singapore is a cosmopolitan destination, with influences from so many different cultures that it’s both familiar and unique at the same time,” she says. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are also driving a broader consideration of how to incorporate audiences with differing needs so that their access is equitable with others. Our core values of Leadership, Integrity, Diversity, Fellowship and Service resonate with our members — and with other participants.”

More than a hundred airlines also serve Singapore’s ultra-modern Changi Airport — which won the award for World’s Best Airport at Skytrax’s 2023 World Airport Awards — and connects to 400 cities worldwide. As Lacy explains: “The Little Red Dot is safe and easy to navigate for experienced and inexperienced travellers alike. Global business leaders can meet in a central place and take added-on trips to other global financial hubs like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Seoul with ease.”

Singapore as a global association base

Developing and fostering a strong association ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight — it requires multiple factors for a destination like Singapore to build a global presence and be seen as a natural base in Asia for international association activities.

International associations looking to establish a regional presence to address pressing needs arising across Asia — valued at 40% of global consumption — will find that Singapore is an ideal base. With Singapore acting as a gateway to new horizons in Asia, associations anchoring regional bases here will be able to work alongside the island nation in shaping industries and driving positive change globally. 

The city is emerging as an innovation hub to address the region’s developmental needs sustainably, boasting a strong and rich knowledge and talent ecosystem that associations can tap into to build geography-specific knowledge, expertise, and solutions for growing global issues like the energy crisis, food security, and climate change. 

When choosing Singapore as the destination for the Rotary International Convention 2024 — the second time the “Garden City” will play host — these innovation capabilities are key deciding factors. As Watson explains: “Rotary is a membership organization that brings together people of action from all continents and cultures who deliver real, long-term solutions to the world’s most persistent issues. The heart of Rotary is our 46,000 clubs located in communities across the globe, where our 1.4 million members carry out impactful projects that promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water and sanitation, grow local economies, support education, protect the environment, care for mothers and children, and end polio.”

Singapore as a partner

Singapore strategically collaborates with partners aligning with its key priorities and growing industries, which include sustainability, urban solutions, and advanced manufacturing. In addition, the concentration of global businesses and thriving non-profit ecosystem has developed a strong and encouraging environment for cross-sector partnerships. 

As part of the Global Association Hubs, a collaborative initiative uniting the top international association destinations including Brussels, Dubai, Washington, D.C., Singapore contributes toward advancing the advocacy objectives of the global association community.

Singapore is a leading knowledge and business hub, where associations can find local members and communities of support, which augments its appeal as a destination for associations,” says Watson. “The Singapore Tourism Board is a sophisticated partner that understands the needs of the business event organizers and how to support large-scale events. The opportunities for experiences outside the convention are broad and varied.”

Singapore as an ideal business hub 

Singapore’s pro-business landscape, spearheaded by strong infrastructure and workforce capabilities, has led to its role as a global business and MICE hub (it’s received multiple awards, including “Best MICE Destination Worldwide” by Business Traveller). The city-state is also one of the world’s most open economies, and together with its stable environment and strong governance, Singapore offers neutral ground for key events including the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a major defence and security summit in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Singapore stands out as a business events destination for a variety of reasons,” explains Shannon Watson, Director, Meetings & Events, Rotary International“It’s a modern, cosmopolitan city with outstanding facilities. Singapore’s emphasis on environmental sustainability and holistic wellness supports event designs that, in turn, support the whole participant.”

It’s viewed as a valuable location for association headquarters and regional offices, with the highest number of regional headquarters in the past 10 years in Asia Pacific.Singapore provides cutting-edge infrastructure and a vibrant ecosystem for conference organizers,” adds Lacey. “It is an inclusive and diverse country with a welcoming environment for tourists from different parts of the world, and Singapore has many top-tier, quality hotels and conference centres that can be used to organize small to large-scale events. It has also one of the best restaurant scenes in the world — the food quality is outstanding, from hawker halls to the fancy, highly rated restaurants.”

The island country boasts globally leading service providers that can serve diverse needs, such as the world’s largest consulting firms — which has led to PwC choosing Singapore as its regional headquarters for Southeast Asia — the fifth-most competitive financial centre in the world, and law firms that are among the largest in the region. 

New horizons

International organizations have long looked to the Americas and Europe for headquarters and operations, but Singapore can help open doors to new opportunities in Asia and serve as a strategic base to take part in exciting international initiatives. One example is the Alliance To End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a global, CEO-led non-profit driving collective action to end waste, with more than 35 projects in 80 cities globally. Singapore’s government has worked with the organization in multiple capacities, and the island nation now serves as AEPW global headquarters. Singapore is also home to the Milken Institute Asia Center and has hosted its Asia Summit for the last 10 years, a global summit involving industry leaders, policymakers and experts coming together and solving key challenges. 

For associations who are looking for a larger international influence— particularly in Asia — Singapore can play an integral role in aligning efforts across government agencies, industries, and other organizations to create positive, impactful change globally.

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