Singapore, more than meets the eye

Asia's MICE industry veteran, Janet Tan-Collis, sees Singapore's track record in hosting major think-tank events and unique leisure experiences as a potent combination in making the city-state perfect for MICE

2018 has been a truly eventful year for the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector in Singapore. During the course of this year, we have played host to events that have changed the way the world views us.

In the eyes of the international business community, Singapore is evolving from a modern, safe and well-connected business city, into a go-to MICE destination that inspires imagination – connecting the world to possibilities while serving distinctive experiences.

There are many reasons why Singapore is perfect for MICE

Making history
Singapore is no stranger to high-profile global meetings. A few years back in 2015, the Lion City hosted the meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and then-Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou – the first time the leaders of China and Taiwan have met in 70 years.

More recently, history was made when Singapore was chosen to host the DPRK-USA Singapore Summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un – the first time that sitting leaders of the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would meet in person. More than just a meeting, the historic event thrust our city-state into the global spotlight.

The Summit was an event that was unprecedented in so many ways. In a mere 11 days, Singapore’s MICE industry rose to the challenge, working with multiple government agencies and food caterer SATS to successfully deliver the meeting to exacting standards. Beyond hosting the two leaders and their sizeable delegations, over 2,500 journalists from global news outlets arrived to cover the meeting – the largest-ever media contingent to be hosted in Singapore.

As a result, several venues were activated. Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore hosted the US delegation; The St. Regis Singapore housed the North Korean delegation; while Capella Singapore served as the venue for the meeting. Most international media were based at the Formula 1 Pit Building, repurposed for the occasion, while the White House Press Corps camped out at JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach.

Meeting of the minds
This November, Singapore rose to yet another challenge, hosting the inaugural Bloomberg New Economy Forum – which was moved to Singapore with 10 weeks’ notice. Singapore was chosen because of our position as one of the world’s leading international commercial hubs.

Four hundred esteemed global leaders – such as Wang Qishan, China’s vice-president; Hank Paulson, former US Treasury Secretary and chairman of the Paulson Institute; as well as Christine Lagarde, managing director for the International Monetary Fund — joined Michael Bloomberg to discuss important trends shaping tomorrow’s world.

These included innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, the implications of urbanisation on global communities, and ongoing energy transition and geopolitical challenges. Together, the delegates explored and committed to solutions for the new global economy – resulting in the formation of a “SolutionsLab” for leaders and experts to act on key solutions over the next year.

The Singapore experience was being translated both inside the event and outside of it, at the destination level. A full MICE experience had also been planned, enabling delegates to mix both business and leisure, making their visit to Singapore inspiring, fun and highly personalised.

This endeavour was brought to life through the hard work and tireless passion of numerous individuals keen to make the Bloomberg New Economy Forum a success.

At the forum venue, Capella Singapore, about 250 personnel were mobilised across the hotel’s meeting spaces and close to 200 guestrooms were booked. Capella staff oversaw a spectrum of tasks ranging from security and logistics, to guest services and technical support – bringing together the holistic Bloomberg New Economy Forum experience.

Over at Clifford Pier at Fullerton Bay Hotel, almost 200 hotel staff were focused on preparation for the dinner dialogue. The evening’s menu featured gourmet inventions from two prominent local chefs, whose distinctly Singapore dishes clearly displayed their passion for food – chef Malcolm Lee, who helms Candlenut, the world’s only Michelin-star Peranakan restaurant; and chefs Pang Seng Meng and Alexander Pang from New Ubin Seafood, a Michelin Bib Gourmand listed restaurant.

Crazy rich experiences
Having been a part of the MICE industry since 1982, I have always championed the Singapore experience. As a country with access to a plethora of resources, quality meeting and event experiences are only limited by our imagination. This was well underlined by this summer’s Hollywood blockbuster movie Crazy Rich Asians, which showed a side of Singapore that surprised and wowed global audiences.

From the iconic Marina Bay Sands and the awe-inspiring Gardens by the Bay, to the dining options at venues like CHIJMES and Bukit Pasoh in Chinatown, accompanied by our local bars that consistently appear on the World’s 50 Best Bars list – the movie teased with the array of venues and offerings that make the Singapore experience a stand-out – one that is also fun and even sexy!

Indeed, Singapore’s wide range of leisure experiences is a key pillar of our MICE appeal — proving we are not just all business. Our distinctive cultural precincts, fine dining experiences, vibrant arts scene and world-class shopping venues promise something for every meeting attendee and his family. Coupled with our compact size, Singapore easily satisfies the most discerning business traveller’s desire for convenience and leisure.

It is heartening to see how this year has been pivotal in entrenching the fact that Singapore is truly Passion Made Possible: a modern, safe and well-connected business and leisure destination that captivates even the most discerning visitor.

While we have been consistently celebrated for our efficiency, safety and convenience, the recognition of Singapore as the “living lab” for new possibilities is long overdue. There is more to Singapore than meets the eye.

With our hardware, software and “heartware”, we are truly a global playground of future realities – a place where business travellers meet and connect to realise growth, success, passion and possibilities.

Janet Tan-Collis is both president of Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS), and CEO of East West Planners.

She has been actively involved in the MICE industry in Asia since 1982, expanding East West Planners with offices in China and Malaysia and growing it from a destination management company to a full-service experiential solutions provider with specialisation in meetings, incentives, conferences and events. Other areas of her work encompasses business tourism development and consultation, working closely with major industry players as well as the Singapore Tourism Board.

She has also been involved in numerous training and speaking engagements locally, regionally and internationally.

She became president of SACEOS in 2013.

Throughout her career, she has won several accolades for the company as well as for herself. She was bestowed the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) 2016 Global Meetings Executive of the Year Recipient, and in 2017, was awarded a lifetime achievement accolade at the Singapore Tourism Awards, organised by the Singapore Tourism Board.

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