Singapore loses two incentive travel events as costs rise

Singapore (pictured) says goodbye to two large-scale incentives; holds steady in exhibitions and conferences
  • Overall travel costs to Singapore increasing
  • Incentive travel programmes may be more price-sensitive
  • Singapore’s international exhibitions and conferences line-up looks strong for now
Singapore (pictured) says goodbye to two large-scale incentives; holds steady in exhibitions and conferences

Rising prices in Singapore and strong regional competition are causing major business events to seek alternative destinations in Asia-Pacific.

After five successful years in Singapore, USANA Health Sciences announced in 2019 that the Asia Pacific Convention would move to South Korea. Herbalife will also hold its last Asia Pacific Extravaganza in Singapore this May – at least for the next few years.

Back in 2019, USANA said rapid growth and increasing attendance at its Asia Pacific Convention, projected to reach 11,000 delegates (from 6,000 pax), necessitated a search for other host cities. The 2020 event was postponed and will now take place from May 4-6, 2023, in Gyeonggi.

Venue size is unlikely a constraint, as the Singapore EXPO has successfully hosted some 22,000 pax at large-scale MLM events, such as the Herbalife Asia Pacific Extravaganza.

A regular attendee of the Herbalife event, who declined to be identified, shared with TTGmice that the main reason was high costs.

“Hotel rates are way too high in comparison with countries around the region. F&B catering is restricted and pricey but of poor quality. Singapore is losing its competitive edge as neighbouring countries will be able to offer better deals.

“At direct selling conventions, expenses such as airfare, hotel accommodation and even tickets to attend the event are borne by delegates although they are top achievers. While winners may enjoy coming to Singapore, overall costs are becoming too high,” the source added.

That is why large-scale incentives seem to be heading elsewhere, where convention bureaus are dishing out subventions to defray costs.

Established track record
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) maintains that the country’s value proposition remains compelling.

“The fundamentals that make us a key MICE hub and attractive location for business and leisure events hold strong. They put us in good stead to partner with international companies and support them as they grow their Asian footprint,” said STB’s Edward Koh, executive director, conventions, meetings & incentive travel.

He added: “It is not uncommon for organisations to rotate their events to other countries, to build and maximise engagements with members, agents, and associates from other parts of the world. The competition for MICE should not be viewed as a zero-sum game.”

Indeed, apart from the more price-sensitive incentive travel programmes, international exhibitions look secure. Many are anchored in Singapore, supported by government agencies and other organisations with vested interests; think of the various “weeks” – water, energy, maritime, aviation, fintech and other key economic sectors.

The new SILMO Singapore (April 12 to 14) exhibition has committed to three years here. Meanwhile, Vinexposium announced in 2022 that its flagship event, Vinexpo Asia, would relocate from Hong Kong to Singapore, and run at Marina Bay Sands from May 23-25.

Some stalwarts are also scaling up. FHA-F&B has gone from biennial to annual this year while maintaining its size.

Some PEOs, however, are divesting – Convention & Exhibition Management Services has sold its café & restaurant and jewellery shows to the Italian Exhibition Group.

The flux in Singapore’s business events industry bears watching.

But with several big international exhibitions and conferences scheduled over the next few years, Koh said: “The robust line-up of events demonstrates the industry’s confidence in Singapore’s ability to deliver high-quality events.”

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