SINGAPORE - As a key travel and transit hub in the region, Singapore has scope to establish itself as a safe and secure meeting place for businesses amid Covid-19, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday (Nov 25).
"Whoever can ensure visitors' health (and) security in a faster and better way will gain a competitive advantage. Singapore recognises this and has every intention to be amongst the leading lights in this area," said Mr Chan.
"If we are able to build and operationalise these capabilities, it will set us apart from many other competitors."
Speaking at TravelRevive, a two-day travel event at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, he was outlining how Singapore wants to position itself as a leading Mice destination in a time when businesses may not be able to meet due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions between countries.
TravelRevive, organised by Messe Berlin (Singapore) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), is the first trade show here to pilot new safety measures for Mice events, such as automated registration kiosks, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
STB said it is the first international trade show to be held physically in Asia Pacific since the coronavirus outbreak.
It is also the largest Mice event held and piloted here since the outbreak, with close to 1,000 participants expected to attend physically, including about 65 foreign delegates from 15 countries.
Currently, the limit for other Mice events is 250.
The trade show is also a hybrid event with some participants attending virtually.
On Wednesday, Mr Chan said Singapore is "not going to play defensive by just trying to get back to where we were" in the Mice space.
Beyond that, Singapore wants to break new ground and establish a new level of experiences that the country can provide.
He said that the country's lack of a large local population its reliance on external visitors means that it cannot shut itself off from the world, and needs to adopt a risk management rather than risk elimination approach.
While Singapore had closed its borders and imposed travel restrictions in the early days of the pandemic for health and safety purposes, it now has the confidence to progressively resume travel and connect with the rest of the world, Mr Chan said, citing how Singapore has stronger and more varied testing options, as well as tighter contact tracing capabilities.
"However, beyond merely resuming travel in a safe and sustainable manner, Singapore is going to pioneer several things to lead the reinvention of global travel, especially in the Mice industry," he said.
Besides deploying safe travel and event protocols, such as Covid-19 tests and using the TraceTogether system to track contacts of Covid-19 patients, Singapore has also re-imagined the entire traveller and Mice experience from before visitors arrive here to after they leave Singapore, he added.
These include structured "safe itineraries" for TravelRevive attendees, in which they can pick and choose curated tours to join, offering them personalised tour options yet maintaining safety.
For example, attendees can go on a guided site visit to a traditional kelong fish farm, virtual tours from their hotel rooms, and private museum visits - experiences tailored to minimise contact with the public.
The gradual resumption of Mice events is one of seven areas which industry-led coalition groups, convened by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, are studying.
The Alliance for Action team that has been tasked with bringing back travellers aims to take steps to re-establish Singapore's lead as a Mice destination and maintain the country's position as one of the top 10 cities in the world by international visitor traffic.
The TravelRevive hybrid event, with its trials of Mice safety measures, is intended to pave the way for more international trade shows to be held here in the first quarter of 2021.
On Wednesday, STB will also sign three memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with exhibition organisers Fiera Milano, Messe Munich and Informa Tech.
Under a one-year MOU with Informa Tech and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the former will launch a new international technology event in Singapore.
It is currently slated for the second half of 2021 and will bring together industry stakeholders to discuss topics related to innovation and digital transformation in the tech sector.
Other tech festivals which Informa Tech organises are the London Tech Week and AfricaTech Fet.
Meanwhile, both Fiera Milano and Messe Munich will be establishing South-east Asia regional headquarters in Singapore, to strengthen their links in Asean.
"They demonstrate that global Mice companies still retain confidence in Singapore as the global Asia node, and are expanding their presence in the region through partnerships with our local players," Mr Chan said.
"Our pipeline of projects also gives us the confidence that we are moving in the right direction."
Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore’s business school said that Singapore has been progressive and innovative in holding scaled-up Mice events, and leveraged on its long-standing reputation as a meeting place of choice for many well-regarded international events.
"Riding on the nation’s infrastructure in communications and hospitality, what is critical now is to continue the momentum in managing the pandemic situation well locally – this pull factor will be the key differentiation that sets Singapore apart from competing meeting localities," he said.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said that there were no new local Covid-19 patients in Singapore for the 15th day in a row.
- Additional reporting by Cheryl Teh