SINGAPORE – The business events sector here will rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, according to the industry’s leading body.
Saceos – or the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Providers – cited the high-profile international conference series last month and noted that he was “confident that 2022 is expected to be a year of stabilization and 2023 a year of normality “.
His renewed confidence comes with the industry’s new capabilities to host hybrid meetings and a list of tent events already in the bag.
Mr Dylan Sharma, vice president of advocacy and communications at Saceos, called the past 21 months a “long winter”, but noted that the sector – where 60 percent of operators have suffered “serious” declines in income – is different from what it was in 2019.
Foreclosures, hibernations and consolidations such as the marriage between SingEx Holdings and Sphere Exhibits have taken place.
Companies are now learning to do more with less, as the spur of recent layoffs remains recent and new capabilities in dissemination, data management and cybersecurity are now needed, he said.
Even though the Omicron variant threatens to take the industry out of service a second time, the rapid adoption of hybrid meetings, the adoption of sustainability and health and safety measures have made the industry more resilient and Singapore an even more attractive destination. .
The pandemic has made the industry realize that while Singapore may be one of the world’s major business cities, there is much more to do, Sharma said, adding: “We have always been known to be clean, we’ve always been known to be safe. But the pandemic has actually strengthened our value proposition. “
The recovery will not happen overnight, but if fears over Omicron fade, a series of landmark events next year and beyond await, he noted.
The government, which frequently speaks of the strategic role Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) play in Singapore’s share of the global voice, is steadfast in its confidence in the “long-term prospects” of the industry.
Mr. Poh Chi Chuan, Executive Director of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) for Exhibitions and Conferences, said, “Mouse events have significant benefits for our economy, including creating business for our sectors. lifestyle and hospitality.
Before Covid, the sector accounted for 34,000 jobs and $ 3.8 billion, or 0.8%, of Singapore’s national economy. Business travelers are preferred over leisure tourists because they spend almost twice as much. Average tourism spending was $ 1,450 in 2019.
“Business events such as the World Cities Summit, the Singapore Fintech Festival and the inaugural Singapore International Agri-FoodWeek are good examples of events that can advance our local industries,” said Mr. Poh.
“These are international platforms that bring global leaders and actors in their respective fields to Singapore to exchange knowledge and ideas, while exploring business opportunities here and in the region.”
Earlier this year, STB opened a new office in Brussels, Belgium to tap into the growing European market, which sent 2.13 million visitors to Singapore in 2019.
The Brussels office helped secure the Asian satellite event of the St. Gallen Symposium, which took place in Singapore in May. He also won the annual congress of the International Association of Young Lawyers – a global association for lawyers and corporate lawyers aged 45 and under – to be held next August.
A calendar of events extending until 2028 is already taking shape.
Around the world, surveys of companies and travel planners show that people are eager to return to meetings and conferences with clients, although travel for internal meetings and staff meetings has mostly been done. evaporated.
Mr Akshay Kapoor, regional sales manager for business travel management company CWT, said a survey of his customers in March found widespread vaccine distribution and reduction in the number of cases are “The most important factors to keep them coming back to business travel”.
Singapore performs well in both cases, he said. “The government has done an exemplary job in achieving immunization levels of 96 percent among the eligible population and now with its booster program. Singapore has seen the worst of the pandemic in the past three months, but this situation is now stabilizing. “
While Omicron had limited impact in the United States, CWT began to receive cancellations and postponements of large-scale business travel and physical events in Europe. “The road to recovery will not be linear,” Kapoor said.
Without a domestic aviation market like its ASEAN neighbors, “Singapore’s recovery is highly dependent on a non-quarantine travel ecosystem, not only in Singapore but also among other major economies like China and India. “.
While 80% of attendance was virtual last year, the ratios are more balanced between the physical and virtual worlds this year, Sharma said. The number of hot-bodied participants will increase if travel restrictions continue to ease around the world.
He added: “We hope it becomes more of a case of 80 percent attending physical events, and 20 percent who cannot join us or choose not to travel, join virtually.”
But with hybrid events drawing fewer visitors to the country, as event costs skyrocket with additional health and safety demands, are these new meeting formats even sustainable?
Yes, says Mr. Sharma. “The cost has gradually gone down with new entrants, new players, new solutions, but the value proposition, engagement levels have actually increased with the personalization of virtual platforms.”
PMG Asia-Pacific Managing Director Kong Man Haw agreed, “With the ability to broadcast live to audiences overseas, our opinion is that hybrid events can certainly support our local event industry.”
Kong’s integrated event management company, which began offering hybrid solutions even before the pandemic, suggests local venues increase their broadband bandwidth to meet new event expectations like the live broadcast.
He said: “The local hotels that we work with, a significant part have already set up studios where the organizers can record events or broadcast events live. It’s a big draw for hybrid event planners like us.
Companies also have the option of providing service in all regions, for example helping customers who wish to provide uniform sets of ‘happy hour drinks, wellness packs or meal sets to attendees. virtual in some cities of Asia-Pacific, in Japan ”.
More than 30 countries have already imposed border restrictions since the World Health Organization declared Omicron a “variant of concern” on November 26.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) called on governments to take a “clear, consistent and thoughtful approach” and to distinguish between business travel and leisure travel, especially when it comes to travel. keep borders open for “back to business” travelers.
“In a recent GBTA survey of global business travelers, 91% said they were fully or partially vaccinated,” he said.
“The random opening and closing of global borders has not been shown to be a mitigating or sustainable factor due to the increased impacts on economic and supply chain recovery.”
For now, the local MICE industry takes a stoic approach.
“Fear has always been the unknown, the uncertainty. But in the absence of any unknowns, we continue to move forward with a roadmap for reopening, ”said Mr. Sharma.
Mr Kong added, “2020 has shown us how unpredictable the future is. Our goal is to continue to be pragmatic, to remain agile and to innovate.
“The outlook is still positive as we continue to receive inquiries about hosting physical events in 2022.”