World Economic Forum 2021

Tourism, events sectors to get a boost from WEF meeting

Experts say it will also be a testament to S'pore's ability to manage Covid-19 measures for such a signature event

Some delegates at this year's World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January. The WEF Special Annual Meeting 2021 is set to be held in Singapore next May. It will be only the second time the meeting will take place outside of D
Some delegates at this year's World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January. The WEF Special Annual Meeting 2021 is set to be held in Singapore next May. It will be only the second time the meeting will take place outside of Davos since it began in 1971. The 2002 edition was held in New York, as a show of solidarity with the US after the Sept 11 attacks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hosting the World Economic Forum's (WEF) next annual gathering of global political and business leaders bodes well for Singapore's tourism and events sectors, said experts yesterday.

Public health experts also said that if handled properly, the WEF Special Annual Meeting 2021, slated for May 13 to 16, would be a testament to Singapore's ability to manage Covid-19 measures for such a signature event. The WEF meeting typically attracts about 3,000 delegates to its usual location in Davos, Switzerland.

The switch to Singapore next year because of its handling of the coronavirus puts the city state firmly on the map, said Maybank Kim Eng analyst Chua Hak Bin.

He added that having all the world's attention on the South-east Asian country presents an opportunity for it to prove that it has emerged from the pandemic unscathed, and is ready to resume business as usual as a connectivity hub for the rest of the world.

This is only the second time that the WEF meeting will take place outside of Davos since it began in 1971. The 2002 edition was held in New York, as a show of solidarity with the United States after the Sept 11 attacks.

Mr Benjamin Chiang, Asean government and public sector leader at EY, noted that the choice made by the WEF was an "intangible vote of confidence" in Singapore as a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) destination capable of managing the pandemic.

CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun said that while the "exciting, headline-grabbing" news was worth celebrating, another measure of success would be if the event can get the tourism and Mice industries back on their feet, by giving people the confidence to travel to Singapore without hesitation.

"It's the bread-and-butter, regular, routine events in Singapore - whether food festivals or anime conventions - that contribute to monthly tourism receipts," he noted. "So while hosting the WEF is a feather in the cap for Singapore, more importantly, it's the reassurance it gives others that all events can be held here - safely."

Industry stakeholders agreed that the decision was a major endorsement of Singapore's capabilities as a leading global Mice hub.

This, said Mr Aloysius Arlando, president of the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers, would hopefully lead to more job and business opportunities - and in turn help Singapore's economic growth along.

This year's gathering in Davos, in January, was attended by the likes of US President Donald Trump and teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry reiterated that the health and safety of the local community and meeting attendees was "of utmost importance".

"Attendees will be required to adhere to the prevailing stringent public health requirements, and safe management and distancing measures in Singapore," said the spokesman.

Dr Jeremy Lim, from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS), said: "Everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. And we probably need to have a tiered testing regime based on countries - similar to what Singapore has been doing."

He added: "Hosting the WEF is a higher risk than not hosting the WEF. So it's really about managing the risk, and at essentially three points.

"First, making sure, to the best of our abilities, no one with Covid-19 comes into Singapore. Second, anyone who has Covid-19 and somehow slips through is detected early enough to minimise transmission. And third, if there is transmission, we detect it early enough that we can lock down all the persons who have been in contact, so that we can contain any secondary, tertiary spread."

Professor Dale Fisher from NUS' Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said: "We've got all these tools to prevent spread, and it'll be a combination of tests or interventions to make this particular conference safe. I'm quite sure that Singapore will not let this become a 'superspreader' event."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2020, with the headline 'Tourism, events sectors to get a boost from WEF meeting'. Subscribe