Singapore strives to become the global-Asia node for MICE

; a previous edition of BTA
  • Singapore’s business events calendar features strong line-up for 2022
  • Resilient business events community is fully invested in sector’s recovery
  • Post-lockdown events require remodelling to address attendees’ expectations
A 2018 edition of BuildTech Asia, which returns as a hybrid event this year

More than 20 major physical exhibitions and conferences will be taking place in Singapore between February and October this year, underscoring the city’s importance as a business events hub.

This steadily growing number comprises 13 shows returning after postponement or virtual versions, while three debut events hope to break new ground.

Richard Ireland, president, Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS), acknowledged the pandemic’s severe impact on the business events industry and the current critical phase of recovery.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, the success of over 200 pilot events, including the Singapore Airshow, ITAP and Bloomberg New Economy Forum, validates that large-scale events can be run safely in a controlled environment without zoning restrictions,” he said.

“With a strong line-up of events in 2022 such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Shangri-La Dialogue and Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), there is a sense of optimism and excitement among the industry that we are on the right track towards a more normalised environment this year.”

Strength in numbers
Singapore’s business events calendar kicked off with the Singapore Airshow 2022, held from February 20-25. The event drew almost 13,000 trade attendees from more than 39 countries/regions, with over 70 per cent of the top 20 global aerospace companies making an appearance.

“We are thrilled that our exhibitors and visitors came together for conversations, and more importantly to collaborate,” said Leck Chet Lam, managing director, Experia, organiser of Singapore Airshow. “We are especially appreciative of returning exhibitors who demonstrated their commitment to the industry.”

Meanwhile, currently ongoing is the 11th edition of BuildTech Asia (BTA) from March 15-17. Held at the Singapore EXPO & MAX Atria, the hybrid event expects to welcome more than 10,000 in-person and online attendees from over 120 physical and virtual exhibitors, and 44 industry associations and partners from 16 participating countries. More than 10 per cent of the physical exhibition features Asian exhibitors, including Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and China.

“BTA can play a pivotal role in helping industry players map out a sustainable business transformation journey, foster new partnerships, and plug into a comprehensive global network of industry experts and peers,” said Chua Wee Phong, chief executive (markets) of Constellar, the organiser.

Also happening this week is the 17th edition of the biennial Asia Pacific Maritime (APM) exhibition and conference being held at Marina Bay Sands from March 16-18. Billed as the first large-scale maritime trade event in South-east Asia, APM will feature six official pavilions with some 7,000 delegates expected to attend in person.

“As a tradeshow serving the maritime industry, where the latest engines and navigational systems often take the spotlight, the opportunity to demonstrate and see the products on display cannot be easily replicated online,” said Yeow Hui Leng, group project director, RX, organiser of APM.

The conference and workshops are free for all attendees. “We hope the learning and networking opportunities offered will help to pivot companies and professionals for a brighter future,” said Yeow.

Moving forward, the Asia Climate Forum will return from April 18-20 under new owner MMI Asia, a subsidiary of Messe München. It will be co-located with CleanEnviro Summit, itself part of SIWW.

Other returnees at press time include Milipol Asia-Pacific (May 18-20); Asia Tech x Singapore (renamed from ConnectTechAsia; May 31 to June 3); Shangri-La Dialogue (June 10-12); Speciality & Fine Food Asia (June 22-24) with new component Speciality Coffee & Tea Asia; World Cities Summit 2022 (July 31 to August 3); OS+H Asia 2022, Seafood Expo 2022 and FHA-Food & Beverage in September; followed by FHA-HoReCa and FLAsia 2022 in October.

New entrants, in the meantime, include Global Health Security Conference 2022 (June 28 to July 1), FIND – Design Fair Asia (September 22-24) and Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia (October 26-28).

Fiera Milano is partnering dmg events to launch FIND, pitched as Asia’s biggest Furniture, Interiors and Design Fair of 2022 and anchoring the new Singapore Design Week. This event may fill the vacuum after the long-standing International Furniture Fair Singapore (IFFS) took a break.

Ernie Koh, Singapore Furniture Industry Council presidential advisor and chairman of IFFS, believes the business events industry will steadily rebound.

“We will keep the industry informed on the next iteration of IFFS when we are ready to share more on a new format which aligns with industry demand and launched with the right conditions in place,” he elaborated.

Work in progress
Although Singapore’s business events industry warmly welcomes the robust roster of slated events, the future of several tradeshows remains uncertain.

For instance, the Tax Free World Association (TFWA) recently announced that it will not proceed with its Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference scheduled from May 8-12, but has indicated it remains “committed to returning to Singapore with a live exhibition in 2023”.

The thrice-postponed IBTM Asia Pacific seems to be another casualty. The event website now states the new show dates will be April 4-5, 2023, although organiser RX has yet to issue a formal statement regarding the postponement.

Despite Singapore’s reopening, observation and inquiries among the trade suggest that foreign participation remains low, as sellers and buyers need certainty when deciding whether to participate. At press time, Singapore hasn’t moved to the endemic stage and measures vacillate to ensure public health safety.

Given slim pickings, it remains to be seen if the Singapore market can sustain similarly-themed tradeshows, even if they position themselves as distinct.

Business events consultant Lloyd Tan commented: “Strategic business models of the pre-Covid era need a rethink and reshape. Covid-19 has opened up many options. Running a physical event post-Covid will be very different in meeting the expectations of exhibitors, conference delegates and trade attendees. These events need remodelling to address attendees’ behavioural pattern changes.

“The trend today is about forging partnerships and alliances to stay on top of the game. If an organiser is not taking this route, then resetting, rethinking and reshaping the business model as the way forward, it will be left behind by competitors.”

SACEOS’ Ireland agrees there is still much work to be done and more clarity needed on the reopening roadmap for the industry.

“That said, the recent announcement of simplified safe management measures (SMM) and plans to reopen our borders inject further confidence that the MICE and events industry can once again be a key contributor and enabler of Singapore’s economy.”

Montgomery Asia’s managing director Christopher McCuin added: “I hope the SMMs can be further relaxed as soon as safely possible to ensure we keep pace with other major global MICE destinations.

“Any rule relaxation should provide all participants with a conducive, fun and engaging environment for doing business, with health and safety remaining a core consideration.”

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