Tiny Singapore may be running out of space for expanding, massive tradeshows, but industry experts believe that the city-state can benefit from its position as a hub for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
At least one tradeshow organiser in land-scarce Singapore is at the crossroads. With space requirements breaching the capacity of the existing venue, at around 100,000m2, its 2018 event will be taking up everything it can get at two different locations.
Billed as two venues, one mega show, the biennial 2018 Food & Hotel Asia (FHA), organised by UBM SES, will occupy the 100,000m2 SingEx, the 12,000m2 MAX Atria @ Singapore EXPO, and 37,000m2 at Suntec Singapore’s level three, four and six.
For Paul Wan, managing director, UBM SES and UBM Singapore, top of his wish list is for Singapore to have one single purpose-built exhibition venue with gross capacity of between 150,000m2 and 200,000m2.
The Sands Expo and Convention Centre, which hosts an average of 70 tradeshows and more than 3,000 events annually, is also wanting an expansion so that it can facilitate and accommodate the growth of its existing tradeshows and the needs of new-to-Singapore tradeshows, said Ong Wee Min, executive director of sales, Marina Bay Sands (MBS).
When asked what Singapore should do, an industry consultant opined: “It is a fair moment to start looking at infrastructure expansion if there is 70 per cent utilisation.”
In its reply, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said Singapore is not “just targeting large-scale events”.
Andrew Phua, director, exhibitions and conferences, STB, pointed out the aim is “to attract quality business events that deliver innovative and rich content, draw a diverse and growing stream of visitors” from sectors such as biomedical sciences and healthcare, environment and energy, infocomm technology and media, and to establish the city as a premier MICE hub anchored on thought leadership and business opportunities”.
Mark Cochrane, regional manager, UFI The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, said Singapore may not need a mega facility and can continue to grow by aiming for niche B2B tradeshows combined with high-end conferences.
Singapore is able to provide creative solutions for event owners looking for flexible venues and unconventional meeting spaces, Phua added. “We will also continue to work with our MICE stakeholders to identify opportunities to create, grow, and anchor more quality events, and to improve industry networks globally.”
Singapore, with its well established infrastructure, ecosystem for the business events industry and a good reputation for hosting professionally organised events has many strengths as a business events hub, according to Edward Liu, group managing director, Conference and Exhibition Management Services Singapore.
“However, our major weakness is our relatively small market size. Quite frankly, this (tradeshows) is very much a numbers game. China and India have the population and huge markets for most products and services. Most European organisers have been replicating their more established events in these two countries and have been giving Singapore the miss,” Liu pointed out.
Aloysius Arlando, CEO, SingEx, added: “Our relatively small market size means we are heavily dependent on international trade conditions to thrive, although this provides us with the perfect blend of openness and agility to play an incubator role in the development of new technology and ideas through trade events.
“Our survival instincts brought on from our nation-building experience, coupled with nimbleness and farsightedness, give us an advantage in the MICE space through strong adaptability, speed to market and therefore a firm international footing in today’s changing market conditions.”
So if it is not about size, what are the opportunities for Singapore?
Arlando opined: “At SingEx, it is critical for us to understand what the key and likely drivers are for the future economy and the marketplace they serve. Our knowledge of key industries driving the region’s economies and close networks forged over the years enable us to understand market needs and changing demand intimately.
“High growth industries like technology – IoT (Internet of Things), fintech, and environment and sustainability are fast emerging but there are also other verticals that we have been active in for some time in which new or converging industries present fresh opportunities to develop market-relevant event platforms.
“Last Mile Fulfilment Asia is a perfect example of a trade event borne out of new market needs due to converging industries. Another prime example is healthcare.”
Similarly, MBS’s Ong observed growth in cyber security tradeshows, driven by the demand for more sophisticated cyber security considerations as more businesses seek to protect their data, online engagement activities and financial transactions for their communities.
Ong said: “Fintech is a new hot growth sector. As a regional financial hub, Singapore continues to attract and host major global finance events – such as the new-to-Singapore Money20/20 tradeshow, which will make its Asian debut at Sands Expo and Convention Centre next year.
“Singapore’s biggest strength is its focus on new technologies, research and development (R&D) and innovation – all of which will gear us up for growth and drive the possible creation of new tradeshows in these new sectors.
“The modern tradeshow of today is already taking an upstream approach, with content designed to address the innovation and R&D efforts in transforming traditional sectors like F&B, medical, maritime and finance.
“Looking ahead, we are likely to see the tradeshows of tomorrow integrating the innovation elements of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and predictive analytics and examining how these new technologies will transform the different industries.”
UBM’s Wan opined: “Emerging technologies such as AI, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), robotics, etc, will be the key components to many companies’ growth strategy. As such, NXTAsia, the new event within ConnecTechAsia to showcase emerging technologies and enterprise solutions will be a hot bed for many digital innovations.
“Cyber security is also crucial during digital transformation, it is even a key component of national defence.”