Lion City roars ahead of the pack

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 September, 2010, 12:00am

All eyes in the events industry are turning to what must be the most exciting growth story in the region: the rise of Singapore as a destination for meetings, incentive travel, exhibitions and conferences (Mice).

The Lion City growled off the economic downturn with the recent opening of two integrated resort projects that feature casinos, hotels and conference facilities, in addition to theatres, museums, shops and restaurants. Backers say the schemes should give Macau a run for its money, while enhancing the city state as a non-gaming visitor destination.

Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands have given the Mice industry something to savour with potential for growth bringing benefits to other Singapore venues. Singapore's tourism board says the strengths of the Mice industry in the city are its strategic location, extensive air links, entertainment and recreation options, a business-friendly environment and an English-speaking workforce.

'What is unique to Singapore is that experiences are built around the visitor, with their needs and preferences in mind,' says Melissa Ow, assistant CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, adding that events such as the Formula One Night Race, Youth Olympic Games and Human Capital Summit are expected to lift the city's prospects even more. 'Singapore's pipeline of business events is a barometer of the health of the business events industry,' Ow says.

According to Singapore-based business formation consultants, Janus Corporate Solutions, about 6,000 business events are held in the city annually. In 2008, the city state accounted for a quarter of all the business events held in Asia with three million business travellers.

'The Mice industry generated about S$6 billion (HK$35 billion) that accounted for 40 per cent of the total tourism revenue for 2008,' a Janus spokesman says. 'There was a slight dip in visitor arrivals last year, but the Singapore Tourism Board forecasts 11.5 to 12.5 million tourist arrivals for 2010.'

Such revenue and delegate numbers bring ample rewards, not least recognition as 'Top International Meetings City' for the third year running in the Union of International Associations annual statistics report. Out of 1,653 cities, Singapore was also ranked second 'Top International Country', up from third place in the figures for 2008. The United States tops the list of 194 countries.

Singapore tourism chiefs see the integrated resorts of Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa as key to attracting event delegations. 'Collectively, they have transformed the business travel and Mice landscape in Singapore,' says Jacqueline Ng, director of industry development with the city's tourism board. But there are other attractions.

'The opening of other tourism developments and experiences will further augment our position as a must-visit destination,' Ng adds. 'These include development plans for the Mandai cluster, including the River Safari, the International Cruise Terminal, and Gardens by the Bay.' The River Safari comes with on-site facilities for Mice events while the International Cruise Terminal will double Singapore's berth capacity.

Gardens by the Bay comprises three botanical gardens along Singapore's Marina Bay waterfront aimed at diversifying the range of business events venues available in the city.

Resorts World Sentosa has secured more than 50 events for next year, with delegates able to experience the first Universal Studios in Southeast Asia.

With Marina Bay Sands and other future developments in the area, a combined Mice precinct of more than 200,000 square metres is supported by about 10,000 hotel rooms, with access to a range of events, entertainment, retail and food and beverage offerings all within walking distance. 'This is a unique proposition in Asia,' Ng says.

One of the biggest tests for Marina Bay Sands will be when leaders from the global exhibition industry will descend on the resort for the UFI Congress in November. Its organiser, Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, represents the trade fair industry worldwide.

The event 'highlights Singapore's prominence as a leading Mice destination in the world', says Marina Bay Sands president Nigel Roberts.