MICE sector heats up

Sumathi V Selvaretnam 22 Jan 2013

There have been cohesive efforts to develop Singapore’s MICE sector since the 1970s and the investment is certainly paying off.

Singapore was the Top Convention City in Asia for the 10th consecutive year, according to the International Congress and Convention Association’s Global Rankings for 2011. It was also named the Top International Meeting Country for the first time in the Union of International Associations Global Rankings that same year.

 In 2011, Singapore welcomed 3.2 million business visitors, who accounted for 24% of total visitor arrivals. While 2012 figures were unavailable at press time, the Singapore Tourism Board expects this segment to have maintained its contribution to total visitor arrivals this year.

This has translated to brisk business for local MICE venues. Resorts World Sentosa for example, hosted some 2,500 events in the first three quarters of 2012, welcoming more than 700,000 delegates. “We are expecting growth of about 10% in 2013,” says Noel Hawkes, Vice President, Channel Development & Attraction Sales, Resorts World Sentosa.

Need to innovate

Due to the strengthening of the Singapore Dollar and the economic slowdown in Europe, industry players have been very competitive in terms of rates as well as flexibility, says Hawkes.

But while Singapore has been the preferred MICE destination for many, this competitive environment is posing a challenge of innovation, improvement and staying ahead of the game, says David Wareing, Marketing Communications Director, Singex.

Many organisers are looking for venues that can support “Confex” events – a hybrid business conference event with an exhibition component to it, says Wareing. MAX Atria, a convention space by Singex caters to this new breed of delegates through its well-appointed meeting rooms and adjoining exhibition halls. “Understanding the demand for increased connectivity during events, MAX Atria has partnered with Xirrus Inc to provide complimentary high-performance Wi-Fi to all event delegates,” adds Wareing.

Singex has also partnered with key global and regional MICE players to promote a mutual exchange of best practices and solutions, which is an ideal platform for further growth, Wareing says.

Resorts World Sentosa, meanwhile, is packaging its MICE offerings in innovative ways. “We are working with some other venues to host their off-site events at our attractions, such as Southeast Asia’s first and only Universal Studios theme park and the Maritime Experiential Museum,” says Hawkes. It new Marine Life Park, billed as the world’s largest oceanarium, will soon be added to the mix.

“Clients are expecting more in terms of service and flexibility,” says Hawkes. “The team will need to constantly challenge themselves to create even more unique experiences to keep new guests flowing in, and return clients coming back for more.”

Singapore’s ongoing transformation further enhances the city’s appeal as an exciting business destination, says Jeannie Lim, Executive Director, Conventions & Meetings and Exhibitions & Conferences, Singapore Tourism Board. “Upcoming new developments, which include major projects such as the River Safari, Singapore Sports Hub, and the National Art Gallery, will add to the existing repertoire of offerings and further reinforce Singapore’s value proposition to both new and repeat visitors.”

The new year will also see the completion of Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre’s S$180 million modernisation programme that will welcome significant enhancements to its convention and exhibition facilities, Lim says.

Talent challenges

Attracting the right talent into the MICE industry is an ongoing challenge for each of the major players. At the recently concluded TravelRave, a travel trade festival, leaders at the Asia Travel Leaders Summit acknowledged that companies had not grown their organisational capabilities quickly enough to cater to the rapidly evolving demands and new segments in Asia’s tourism industry.

The Summit also shared views that the talent crunch was expected to be most acute at the managerial levels. Businesses need to start accelerating the development of next-generation leaders now to support future business growth, Lim points out. “Travel and tourism businesses need to spend more time in mentoring the younger employees, invest in cross-cultural training for an increasingly diverse workforce, and better understand the new generation of potential leaders.”

Singapore is working closely with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, and other government agencies to develop training programmes to address the needs of the industry across all levels, says Lim. “These would include programmes that range from entry level to professional skills upgrading, as well as leadership development.”

Industry players are also stepping up their own recruitment efforts. To further supplement its permanent staff, Singex works with select recruitment agencies to contract manpower. This gives it the flexibility in meeting the demands present at Expo and MAX Atria, says Wareing.

“Singex also firmly believes in nurturing the next generation of MICE professionals. To this end, we work with local tertiary institutions to bring in their students at different levels of involvement at MAX Atria and Singapore Exop and stay in touch with them to explore career opportunities at Singex upon their graduation,” says Wareing.

 

MICE highlights in 2013

•        The 52nd ACI(The Financial Markets Association) World Congress

•        The World Federation of Engineering Organisations Congress

•        The 79th World Library and Information Congress

•        International Furniture Fair Singapore

•        Tea and Coffee World Cup Asia

•        BioPharma Asia

 

Reaching out

The Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers is working closely with industry players to reach out to tertiary institutions and raise awareness of career opportunities in the MICE industry.

In September last year, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) organised a Singapore MICE Leadership Dialogue that was held in conjunction with the International Congress and Convention Association’s Management Financial Committee meeting for the first time in Singapore. The Dialogue allowed tertiary students to engage world-renowned MICE industry leaders to help them increase their understanding of the sector.

Source: Singapore Tourism Board

 



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