Weathering the storm

Despite the global travel standstill, Singapore’s business events industry continues to be abuzz with movements that will carry the sector out of one of its deepest ruts

Singapore’s buisness events and tourism industry is in a learn-and-grow mode to ride out the Covid-19 business depression

As Singapore undergoes a gradual reopening of the economy and with ‚Äėfast lane‚Äô business travel now a reality, the beleaguered business events sector can now breathe a small sigh of relief.

To help the sector make good use of the downtime, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has developed a three-step framework. Coined Learn Test Build, it features several new platforms, such as the self-diagnostic tool Tourism Transformation Index (TXI), upcoming physical space ThreeHouse, and the newly-opened Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN).

Singapore’s business events and tourism industry is in a learn-and-grow mode to ride out the Covid-19 business depression

Under the Learn stage, TXI provides a holistic gauge of a company’s current state of digital transformation across six areas: leadership and organisation, process and operations, customer, innovation, technology, and data. Businesses can then identify the next steps that they should take to advance their state of transformation.

Under the Test stage, STB will launch ThreeHouse in 4Q2020. The new physical space at its headquarters will allow companies to collaborate and prototype new ideas and solutions. If successful, these ideas will be picked by STB to be scaled to a bigger platform.

Finally, under the Build stage, STB has opened its tourism data pool, STAN, to the tourism industry, which can now access 10 years’ worth of Singapore’s visitor arrival data broken down by market, region, visitor profile and mode of arrival. Businesses will be able to gain consumer insights, create visualisations, analyse datasets and collaborate with other players on data analytics projects.

This platform is essential for businesses to ‚Äúidentify where the pockets of opportunities are once the tourism industry shows signs of recovery‚ÄĚ, said Quek Choon Yang, chief technology officer, STB, elaborating that ‚Äúcertain sectors and certain source markets will recover quicker than others‚ÄĚ.

STB will soon conduct an industry-wide capability upskilling programme and engage stakeholders, including business events companies, hotels, attractions and travel agencies, on how to adopt STAN and data analytics in their businesses.

Learning never stops
The country’s private sector is also doing their part to help prop the industry up.

In April, Google and UOB announced a new curriculum under its SME Leadership Academy training programme, customised to help SMEs in retail, tourism and F&B respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The curriculum has been expanded ten-fold and aims to help 4,000 businesses by end-2021, with new topics covering the use of digital solutions in managing businesses from home, effective management during crises, as well as financial relief assistance available for SMEs. Sessions are led by trainers from Google and UOB, and have moved from in-person seminars to hour-long webinars over several weeks.

Andrew Phua, executive director, Exhibitions & Conferences, STB, commented: ‚ÄúAs we take steps towards embracing what a post-Covid-19 world holds for the MICE industry, we encourage our MICE industry partners to use this downtime to rethink event formats, explore new partnerships and upskill. We have to be well-positioned and ready to resume business when the time comes.‚ÄĚ

Staying top of mind
Singapore has leaned on unique marketing campaigns to maintain its soft power in the tourism market.

For instance, business events destination Sentosa Island planted a flag in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a popular Nintendo Switch video game that was launched in March 2020 and sold 13.4 million copies as of May.

Game players can ‚Äėvisit‚Äô Sentosa Crossing, a digital reimagination of the holiday island portraying a recreation of Sentosa‚Äôs iconic attractions and offerings, including Skyline Luge Sentosa, Capella Singapore, beach bars, nature trails and movies by the beach.

STB also partnered with Zouk nightclub to host Zouk Phuturescapes, a weekend virtual rave held in Asia, UK and US in May, featuring headliners such as Diplo, San Holo and Christina Novelli. The Zoom party drew more than 6,000 participants and more than 300,000 viewers on social media.

‚ÄúSingapore has been featured in Hollywood movies and video games, all of which have garnered the world‚Äôs attention and curiosity. These activations are the perfect outreach channels to increase awareness of Singapore as a MICE destination in a more dynamic and entertaining manner,‚ÄĚ said Vincent Yap, director, integrated marketing solutions, Pico Art International.

He expressed hope for more campaigns that can enhance Singapore‚Äôs image as a destination with the capability to organise hybrid meetings and tradeshows, as well as to help organisers expand their online footprint and engagement. ‚ÄúThink VR, AR or mixed realities, where someone can virtually walk into 3D tradeshow or conference,‚ÄĚ he suggested.

Sean Xiao, director & president, Sino Elite M.I.C.E. Services, chimed in that local MICE businesses could benefit from more promotional activities on hotel rooms, conference venues, teambuilding programmes, and cultural experiences.

Fresh set of tools for the new normal
Industry stakeholders have also kept on going despite business challenges, getting creative in keeping in touch with and developing new products for their clients.

In end-February, Sino Elite M.I.C.E. Services started to develop tools for cloud conferencing that were rolled out at the end of March. The solution includes a small live broadcast room that can accommodate groups of 10, which has been picked up by several local hotels. It has also tailored special discounted packages for clients and offered free trials to selected partners.

Meanwhile, GlobalSign.in has taken the opportunity to develop a tool that can help its clients transition into online events.

Built on a pre-existing events management solution, GEVME Live can help companies run livestream webinars with multiple speakers and thousands of listeners interacting through chat and live Q&A, digital conferences with hundreds of speakers and multiple tracks, as well as online exhibitions with a 24/7 digital booth and one-to-one meetings.

The company has also started a Digital Events Series to address the knowledge gap event organisers may have regarding digital events.

Veemal Gungadin, founder and CEO of GlobalSign.in, shared: “Making the leap to digital events was a company effort that required everyone’s roles to be converted overnight, and we had to go beyond our comfort zone to acquire new skills.

‚ÄúIn the new world, a blending of technical and event management skills would be required to be able to deliver virtual events. We found that there is (also) a new role for this: the digital event manager.‚ÄĚ

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