Editor's Blog

Why Singapore needs to constantly reinvent itself
Sun 26 Nov, 2017 at 12:00 am

It is not often that an established MICE destination needs to enhance its brand and add to its attractions in order to keep up with regional competition. But the limited geographical area of the city-state has not deterred Singapore from embarking on a new campaign to reinvent its attractiveness. The meeting and conference infrastructure that Singapore has, is ample by any standards and continues to attract large conventions, many of them repeat clients. However, of late, new association congresses as well as incentive groups have shown some leaning towards destinations such as Thailand and Malaysia, both well-connected by international flights. Singapore Tourism Board (STB) research suggests clients are now looking for more quality and depth, seeking innovation, value creation and inspiration from their meeting experiences in any destination.

STB has evolved an inside out approach by telling the ‘Singapore story’ in order to help the MICE delegate to connect, to recall interactions and to feel the human element in a familiar destination already acknowledged for its infrastructure and meeting hardware of undoubted quality. The aim is to provide the MICE visitor with a stronger emotional connection, a greater differentiation for Singapore and the potential to influence visitors even when they do not have imminent travel plans. The Changi Airport has evolved as a destination by itself with the Terminal Three opening earlier this year and the new complex featuring shopping and entertainment due to be inaugurated next year. The new STB tag line “Passion made possible” is bound to resonate as new experiences in Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, The Chamber at Art House (the old Parliament building from 1965-1999) and the Warehouse Hotel all offer experiences that carry a story. People do not remember facts but they remember stories.

The World Bank currently ranks Singapore as the second easiest country in which to do business. This has been substantiated by the visits of 1.5 million MICE visitors from China in 2016, 1.47 million from Indonesia, 660,000 from India and 562,000 from Malaysia, aided by 7000 flights arriving and departing every week from Changi Airport. The awesome 300,000 square metres of meeting space and 67,000 hotel rooms create an offer that is hard to decline.

For incentives, some of the new experiences on offer are a mega zip line adventure park, a dragon boat race, a smart-phone based, clue-led treasure hunt and amazing race in the heritage areas of Singapore such as Chinatown and Little India.

Speaking about Singapore’s interest in the MICE sector, GB Srithar, regional director south Asia, Middle East & Africa for STB, said: “Singapore has always been a strong draw for MICE travellers from India and Sri Lanka and we are seeing greater interest from the Middle East. What is becoming more evident to planners is the flexibility to pick from unconventional meeting venues such as restored heritage buildings, lush open gardens and rooftop venues with panoramic views of the city skyline. Visitors can also participate in an array of recreational activities including culinary and cultural outings that delve deeper into the passions of Singaporeans.”

In my opinion, hotel room rates have been a bane for the Indian meeting planner while choosing Singapore. An average rate of five-star luxury hotels of S$444 per night with upscale hotels commanding S$253 per night, it is much more expensive than neighbouring destinations such as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. While in the last year or so, the addition to room inventory in the 4 and 3-star segment has led to a miniscule reduction in the room tariff, I do not believe that one can expect the room rates to decline further by any appreciable extent. So the only way to keep attracting visitors is to keep reinventing and adding to the quality of the personalised experiences that Singapore can offer.

In that lies Singapore’s mantra to remain a leading destination of the Asia Pacific region.

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