Over coffee with Aloysius Arlando

SingEx Holdings CEO and SACEOS president-elect shares future plans for both his company and the association

Aloysius Arlando

SingEx Venues issued a S$50 million (US$36.9 million) tender proposal to STB for the venue management of Singapore Expo. What convinced STB to pick SingEx again?
As a product, Singapore Expo started off with an exhibition focus. We need to bear in mind what attendees and organisers’ changing needs and expectations are. It’s (no longer) just about a space for play, but it has to move towards a solutions focus.

A key point that I hope worked in our favour was a very clear demonstration that we know the business well; we know what the undercurrents, trends and opportunities are; and that we are moving towards (providing) a suite of solutions that (anticipates and meets) the unmet and varying needs of our customers.

Aloysius Arlando

What does this mean for SingEx’s direction going forward?
Being the incumbent, we don’t take competition lightly. That’s why we need to ensure that we are customer-focused, understand the customer journey well, know the marketing and operating environment and then we can establish a suite of solutions that cater to the customers’ and their customers’ needs.

We now try to understand why our clients want a certain design, and what objectives they’re trying to achieve. We’ve become a business event consultant of sorts, and we’ve put in certain investments based on our customers and the feedback we received.
We are also applying some of our learnings – rethinking how the F&B scene should be like – in some of the new services we are rolling out.

Venue management has changed with the evolution of the business events industry. What trends are dominating the market now?
We have new industries coming up and emerging regional opportunities led by burgeoning economies in South-east Asia. Also, because of digital disruption, industries are intersecting more than ever.

This is going to lend itself very well to new events, event design and event platforms, in order to cater to the varied needs of event attendees.

How is SingEx responding to this?
This is where we believe in bringing different communities – the core and adjacent communities – together, to create “aha” and “wow” moments. This is how we designed the FinTech Festival as a platform for the intersection of industries.

You’ve spoken about the festival concept and events “opening up” – is this the future of trade exhibitions?
I think we need to demystify “festivalisation”. It’s very easy to say it means “to spice things up”, but it’s not about being frivolous. The spirit of festivalisation is to activate the senses – whether through visual discourse, physical touch or music – so that the engagement is not just a mono-experience. It’s to make the attendee feel shiok (great).

It’s about what the customer is trying to achieve, and what will make it memorable for their customers. Typically, they have two objectives: to expand their network and have a taste of what the destination has to offer. When you blend business and destination appeal, it collectively becomes an experiential arrangement.

It’s about the different ways to ensure the engagement is welcome. Whether it is done by festivalisation or a more traditional way, it depends on what the event objectives are.
For example, we introduce things like all-day dining, where we let the customer decide when to eat and how much to eat. Food is a conversation starter, and from this simple application, it helps to foster exchange and get conversations going.

What critical concerns are you hearing from the industry?
The baseline provision of services has risen. Merely providing the space and the key to the client is no longer going to cut it. Eight years ago, everybody was talking about free Wi-Fi as the rage; now, it’s commonplace and expected, like electricity.

As clients get more exacting and sophisticated, what is the baseline now?
Key considerations are Wi-Fi, F&B, flexible spaces and providing a range of services. They’re also looking into community engagement and social responsibility – and soon, these are going to be what we call “the new basics”.

What else? That will depend on the operating environment. Some can be plug and play, but in more advanced economies like Singapore, for example, just having a transactional moment is not going to be enough. You need to have the space and the programme to facilitate collaboration, workshops and labs on site.

Tell us about your plans as incoming president at SACEOS. What changes can the trade look forward to with your involvement?
My main objective is to build on the good work and effort that’s been put in by the exco of today and yesteryears. Moving forward, it’s important to look at what key factors are at play in developing the industry – like communities, technology, capabilities, ecosystems and new businesses that are emerging.

The way forward cannot be done by ourselves; it’s a partnership with government agencies and global associations.

I am working on how we can stay connected to these key associations, and build up Singapore as an incubation or pilot-testing base for these associations to reach out to the Asia-Pacific region.

This will also provide business opportunities for our members. Now, it’s about making sure that we can rally the different sectors of the industry to be a force to be reckoned with.

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