Over coffee with… Peggy Chong

The deputy CEO of Singapore’s iconic Gardens by the Bay tells Karen Yue that her garden is always kept fresh and beautiful to entice event planners who are yearning for unconventional venues

PeggyChongIt has been four years since Gardens by the Bay opened with Bay South Garden in June 2012. I remember reporting on the strong MICE interest in your venues ahead of opening. How has demand been since?

More than 800 events have been held here since opening. What makes the Gardens a venue of choice for many is perhaps its unique setting of outdoor and indoor gardens, juxtaposed with the striking architecture of the Supertrees and the cooled conservatories.

We have seen a steady growth in the number of events held here, with the highest number recorded last year during Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.

Event planners are constantly on the lookout for unconventional venues and unique experiences. The Gardens takes an event beyond the confines of a conventional ballroom or function hall, making it an ideal off-site venue.

What are some of your most memorable corporate and public events throughout these four years?

The SG50 Appreciation Dinner (March 2016), which marked the finale of Singapore’s 50th birthday celebrations, is one. Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong placed the final item into the SG50 Time Capsule, which was then housed in the Gardens and will be opened in 2065.

Another memorable event is the Tourism 50 Gala Night and Singapore Experience Awards (November 2014), organised by Singapore Tourism Board and graced by the Prime Minister. That event was held in celebration of 50 years of the transformation of Singapore’s tourism landscape.

We’ve also had plenty of fun public events and festivals such as Christmas Wonderland, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Singapore Garden Festival, as well as concerts by international artistes such as Jennifer Lopez, Jason Mraz, Aerosmith, Psy, AR Rahman, DJ Hardwell and Corrine May.

The St Jerome’s Laneway Festival has also been held at the Gardens for four years in a row.

What is your most popular venue, and how far in advanced does it get booked?

Well, we‚Äôve got two hot ones actually ‚Äď the Flower Field Hall which is indoors and The Meadow which is outdoors. Advanced booking for them can range from nine to 18 months.

The Flower Field Hall is housed within the Flower Dome ‚Äď the ‚ÄúLargest Glass Greenhouse‚ÄĚ in the Guinness World Records 2015 ‚Äď and its signature feature is the LED lighting with 100 colour options and can be customised to suit a specific theme or to evoke a certain ambiance. As you can imagine, Flower Field Hall is a popular venue for weddings, gala dinners, networking events and product launches.

The Meadow is the largest outdoor garden events space in Singapore. Spread across 22,000m2 with a panoramic view of the Supertrees, cooled conservatories and the Marina Bay skyline, it provides a stunning backdrop for mega events like concerts, festivals and carnivals.

Surely you must have had some challenging event requests over the past four years.

We do our best to cater to the varied nature of each event. We have had a number of automotive events held at the Gardens before, where we made special arrangements for the vehicles to be brought directly into the Flower Field Hall, and even converted The Meadow into a test drive circuit.

Has the Gardens evolved its products for planners over time? What has changed?

Well, we introduced two new incentive experiences in July 2016.

One is the Secret Life of Trees. This newly refurbished outdoor venue is nestled amid lush greenery in our World of Plants outdoor themed gardens, and makes an intimate venue for an evening cocktail party. It boasts an unparalleled view of the Supertree Grove and provides an optimal vantage point for guests to enjoy the nightly Garden Rhapsody light and sound show.

The other is Champagne @ OCBC Skyway. For the first time, the suspended walkway between two Supertrees in the heart of the Gardens, will be available for private hire. It provides an unusual setting for an unforgettable experience. Plus, guests can enjoy an exclusive Garden Rhapsody show as they sip champagne and take in the panoramic view of Marina Bay.

The Gardens has an interesting collection of education programme for the young. Are these programmes available to corporate groups too? 

At the moment, the educational programmes in the Gardens cater to the general public. However, we do provide private guided tours which can be customised to suit the needs and interests of the group.

The current year has been said by many MICE players to be a particularly challenging one. Often when this happens, corporates tighten their belts and event expenditures are among the first to be affected. What are you doing to ensure corporate event bookings remain strong going forward?  

It is not uncommon for some months to be quieter than others. On the whole, the Gardens remains popular with events and we continue to see a steady stream of enquiries on our venues.

Having said this, we continue to innovate by refreshing our offerings and introducing new incentive experiences such as the ones mentioned earlier.

As an added incentive to encourage event planners to host their events with us, we have also created a package where local event planners can enjoy a 20 per cent rebate for each event they bring into the Gardens.

This is valid until December 2016, and our Event Venues team will be happy to tell your readers more about this promotion.

I like how the Gardens holds several thematic exhibitions every year to keep the attraction fresh for local and foreign visitors. Have these thematic exhibitions helped to reel in corporate planners too?

Why, yes! The changing floral displays are a perennial favourite with visitors and they do add to the unique selling point of the two event venues within the Flower Dome ‚Äď the Flower Field Hall and the Waterview Room.

As a horticulture themed attraction, we constantly inject fresh ideas into our floral displays by incorporating new themes and introducing plants not commonly seen in Singapore, such as tulips, dahlias and cherry blossoms.

Event-Planner

Earlier this year in March, we surprised visitors with the opportunity of experiencing sakura (cherry blossoms) in Singapore. Response was extremely heartening, and we have even received enquiries from companies wanting to coincide their events with next year’s display. Some of our floral displays coincide with festive seasons like Lunar New Year and Christmas, making them a popular choice too among event planners who are organising corporate events during these periods.

At the beginning, the Gardens opened first with Bay South Garden, while Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden were supposed to be ready at a later stage. How are Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden coming along?

Bay East Garden, when completed, will be a place with a serene ambience, where visitors can take in the beautiful vista and skyline of Singapore.

Full development of Bay East Garden will only be carried out at a later stage, taking into consideration the infrastructural works of other projects in the surrounding area.

However, we have opened Bay East Garden as an interim garden with basic infrastructure such as parking lots and restrooms.

As for Bay Central Garden, we are currently in the master-planning stage. The experience gleaned from designing Bay South Garden and Bay East Garden will prove useful when we design Bay Central Garden at a later stage.

For now, our focus is on Bay South Garden, including the event venues that we have in place, as well as the two new incentive experiences that we have rolled out in July.

Peggy

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