With several pilot events under way and others to come, Singapore's meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry is gearing up to ensure that the Republic retains its position as a leading Mice hub.
Experts said that there is a first-mover advantage to be captured, and Singapore's handling of the coronavirus crisis means that it is ready to reinforce its position as a global Mice destination, but with the necessary precautions in place.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is currently processing up to 50 applications to hold pilot Mice events with up to 250 participants each. At least 20 pilot events have been approved so far.
Applications opened early last month, with event organisers required to comply with strict safe management measures and guidelines.
The pilot events like last month's Singapore International Energy Week and the upcoming TravelRevive, where prototypes such as meeting pods for Mice events are put in place, provide insights that enable measures and guidelines to be refined, said Dr Edward Koh, executive director of conventions, meetings and incentive travel at STB.
Pilot antigen rapid testing for Covid-19 will be scaled up at TravelRevive to pave the way for larger-scale events to be held, and special travel itineraries will be curated for the event's attendees in preparation for the eventual resumption of leisure travel in Singapore, he said.
The Republic has consistently ranked among the best Mice cities in the world and Asia-Pacific, with cities such as Bangkok, Shanghai and Tokyo also popular among event organisers, observers said.
Mr Teh Seng Leong, global real estate, hospitality and construction mergers and acquisitions leader at professional services firm EY, said: "Singapore's Mice sector has its strengths in the availability of large spaces, relative proximity to the Central Business District from meeting venues, and integrated mixed-use venues incorporating retail, hotels and food and beverage, all of which will be strong considerations for meeting organisers."
Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore's business school said that the country is well positioned to capture the demand for Mice events - which have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis - given its handling of the coronavirus outbreak thus far.
"It's very critical for Singapore to capture the lost opportunities from the past few months while demand is still there and unfulfilled, especially while other countries may not be ready to expand and move forward because of Covid-19 or other factors," he said, adding that events must be done safely.
He added that if Singapore does not do so, it could run the risk of event organisers turning their attention to other countries.
Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said the hybrid form that Mice events will probably take in the post-Covid-19 economy could provide an opportunity for industry players to capture a larger audience across the world.
"The industry will have to leverage technology in order to stay ahead of the curve," he added.
Mice players are exploring technologies such as Web conferencing platforms and augmented reality capabilities.
The Mice sector supported more than 34,000 jobs and contributed an economic value-add of $3.8 billion, or nearly 1 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product, according to a survey commissioned by the STB last year.
Dr Koh said: "Beyond the tangible economic benefits, Mice is central to our position as a global business hub and key node within Asia."
Noting how Singapore's Mice industry is largely dependent on international events, Dr Chiam said: "It is critical that we build confidence among participants - both local residents and international travellers - that it is safe to attend Mice events in Singapore."
Putting in place measures like pre-event testing and using the TraceTogether app or token for contact tracing helps to ensure a safe visitor experience and build confidence in the industry.
Mr Aloysius Arlando, president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, said that Singapore's lack of a domestic market has pushed the industry to be even more creative and find innovative ways of engaging with audiences over digital platforms.
For example, last month's Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific event at the Singapore Expo also saw the use of a Web platform which allowed event participants to network with one another and explore a 3D smart factory.
Mr Arlando, who is also the chief executive of events organiser SingEx Holdings, acknowledged that while challenges for the industry remain, especially with cash-flow considerations and revenue not coming in, industry players are remaining resilient and putting cost management measures in place to position themselves as best as they can.
"Forward-looking, progressive companies... want to be associated with partners who are path-breaking, who look at pushing the boundaries and yet are able to be trusted. I think that's the brand value that Singapore brings," he said.