Major events in Singapore unfazed by WEF postponement

Several organisers of upcoming high-profile meetings, conferences and exhibitions have said they would press ahead. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The decision by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to postpone its leadership summit in Singapore has not deterred those planning other major events here, such as the Shangri-La Dialogue in June.

Several organisers of upcoming high-profile meetings, conferences and exhibitions told The Straits Times on Friday (Feb 5) they would press ahead. While some pointed to pre-existing plans to scale down or adopt a hybrid format including virtual elements, all acknowledged that they were still working out specifics amid the uncertainty of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Explaining the rescheduling of its special annual meeting from late May to between Aug 17 and Aug 20, the WEF said worldwide travel restrictions and differing quarantine and air transport regulations had posed challenges to its plans to gather global leaders face-to-face.

But the other high-level event of the year - the annual Shangri-La Dialogue by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies- remains committed to its dates of June 4 to 6.

The Dialogue, which was cancelled last year for the first time since its inception in 2002, gathers defence policymakers from around the world to discuss security issues at the eponymous Singapore hotel.

"We are watching the international Covid-19 situation closely and, if necessary, will review the dates for the event," a spokesman said.

Other events also sticking to schedule, but with plans for largely virtual iterations, include the World Cities Summit by the national development ministry's Centre for Liveable Cities and Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The biennial meeting was originally set to be held at the Marina Bay Sands' Expo and Convention Centre from June 20 to 24, in conjunction with the National Environment Agency's CleanEnviro Summit Singapore and Singapore International Water Week by water agency PUB.

For Singapore Maritime Week from April 19 to 25, some public activities such as learning tours traditionally held around the event will be cancelled, said its organiser, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. In the same week, the Singapore Yacht Show, slated for April 22 to 25 at One Degree 15 Marina in Sentosa Cove, expects to put on a local-only event, in contrast to its 2019 show which attracted more than 60 per cent of its exhibitors from overseas.

"I honestly can't see Singapore easing its borders by April," said the Yacht Show's founder and chief executive Andy Treadwell.

Currently, with "reciprocal green lane" arrangements with Germany, Malaysia and South Korea suspended till the end of April, only business or official travellers from Brunei and some Chinese cities are allowed into Singapore.

Short-term visitors from these places, as well as New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia - excluding the state of New South Wales - can also apply to enter.

Outside of these countries, a small number of special exemptions are made for top executives in sectors such as banking and from areas like Europe, according to a Business Times report.

Even then, most events in Singapore are limited to 250 attendees. A separate track allows for larger, Covid-19-tailored prototypes - such as the TravelRevive show last November, which drew some 1,000 in-person attendees including 65 foreign delegates from 14 countries.

In selecting these prototypes, the Singapore Tourism Board assesses the event risk profile - and organisers' readiness and ability to implement safe management measures, said its executive director of exhibitions and conferences Andrew Phua.

President of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Saceos) Aloysius Arlando said that it was not about rushing out more prototypes, but implementing them in a rigorously phased and calibrated manner.

Mr Treadwell agreed, saying: "More than making sales, we all want the virus to go away."

This article has been edited for clarity.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.