Ready riders of the storm

Global economic woes have hit the Little Red Dot, bringing down BTMICE arrivals and meeting group sizes, but a hefty tourism promotion fund should help lift the mood. By Paige Lee Pei Qi

Singapore’s tourism earnings dipped 6.8 per cent year-on-year in 2015 to S$22 billion (US$15.7 billion), even as international visitor arrivals climbed 0.9 per cent to 15.2 million.

The poorer tourism receipts were largely due to a six per cent fall in BTMICE visitor arrivals, with a corresponding eight per cent drop in per capita expenditure, according to the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) chief executive Lionel Yeo.

While 25 per cent of the total visitor number belonged to the BTMICE pie, Yeo said: “As the average BTMICE visitor spends about twice more than the average leisure visitor, the fall in BTMICE visitor arrivals and spending due to companies cutting back on both travel and trip budgets has had a significant impact on our tourism receipts.”

STB deputy chief executive, Melissa Ow, added that China and India has taken a hit in terms of business travel traffic. However, she added that they are “encouraged by the performance of our business events in 2015 where attendance was very healthy”.


In 2015, STB supported more than 350 business events, a 27 per cent year-on-year increase from 2014. This resulted in 287,000 visitor arrivals, a year-on-year hike of 0.3 per cent.

“An example was Sibos 2015 in October, which saw an over 30 per cent increase in attendance to more than 7,000 visitors,” Ow said.

“We recognise business traffic will be subjected to some of the conditions that will impact overall economies. That means there are a lot of opportunities for us to think about how we might grow our business events,” she remarked.

For Arun Madhok, CEO of Suntec Singapore, he said that business events have performed well in 2015 and 1H2016. In particular, 2015 was an excellent year for the centre as Suntec Singapore saw its “best ever financial performance”.

Also feeling positive is Nichlas Maratos, vice president of sales strategy and operations, Asia Pacific, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, despite having seen a reduction in meeting group sizes and even shorter booking lead times.

Fuelling his optimism is the growing demand and numerous requests for proposals for meetings, as well as an increase in product launches and incentive groups being hosted at Starwood properties across the city state.

Maratos told TTGmice: “Singapore has always been seen as attractive location for meetings and events due to great geographical location, strong infrastructure and flight connectivity”.

However, Madhok has cautioned against expecting easy months ahead.

He said: “In the next six to 12 months, we anticipate a somewhat softer overall business events market, especially for smaller meetings of less than 500 pax due to a more uncertain economic outlook.

“(Hence), we will see an emphasis on quality and value, and greater demand for customisation.”

Whatever the global economic conditions may bring, STB is ready for it and destination promotion efforts will not falter.

The bureau had announced in April at the Singapore Tourism Industry Conference that it would be getting S$700 million (US$520 million) to support its destination promotions over the next five years. A part of it will be channelled to the Business Events in Singapore (BEiS) fund to provide organisers, corporations and associations greater support for their events.
At this point, the exact amount of funding for BEiS is yet to be determined, and STB assistant chief executive, Yap Chin Siang, said that “detailed perimeters are still being worked through”.

The enhanced funding will enable the bureau to support business development initiatives that are industry driven. For example, a MICE venue, a DMC and a cluster of hotels can now be supported in their joint effort to go after an incentive group or large-scale business event, said Yeo.

BEiS will also be used to support associations in their pre-bidding activities.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s MICE scene will continue to keep busy with several significant business events coming up. They include the International Council of Nurses World Congress 2019 which will see 3,000 visitors; the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress 2019 which is expecting 6,000 guests; as well as the Lions Clubs International Convention 2020 which is expected to host an impressive number of 20,000 delegates from around the world.

Clockwise from below: Bird’s-eye view of Gardens By the Bay; street
art along
Haji Lane; the spacious plazas of Resorts World Sentosa

{Taking Numbers}

The average hotel room rate in Singapore dollars – equivalent to US$180 – for the months of January to March 2016, compared to S$244.60 the same time last year

The number of hotel rooms Singapore is expected to have by the end of 2016, up from 61,947 last year

The number of engineers and developers from all over the world that will be descending on Singapore for two pinnacle IT events – the ISACA Cybersecurity Nexus Asia Pacific in November 2016 and the Internet Engineering Task Force 100 meeting in November 2017

{Developments to watch}

1SIA restarts non-stop flights between Singapore and US. Singapore Airlines (SIA) has announced its longest flights in its network, with the launch of non-stop services between Singapore and San Francisco, which started from October 23 this year. This come on the heels after United Airlines started the only non-stop flight between the two destinations this year. These new connections are expected to herald good business for inbound tourism and events from the US.

2Singapore Tourism Board is extending its In Singapore Incentives & Rewards (INSPIRE) rewards programme beyond China and India to target corporate meeting and incentive groups from Europe and North America. In partnership with Singapore Airlines and Changi Airport Group, the programme will feature discounted group airfares, a choice of six cocktail experiences hosted in historic venues or rooftop bars, and a choice of six themed business tours around the Lion City.


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