Friday, 27 November 2020

Singapore has scope to be a safe, secure meeting place for businesses amid Covid-19: Chan Chun Sing

Whoever ensures visitors' health security in a faster and better way will gain edge, he says
Singapore holds first physical trade show since February 2020
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2020

As a key travel and transit hub in the region, Singapore has scope to establish itself as a safe and secure meeting place for businesses amid Covid-19, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

"Whoever can ensure visitors' health security in a faster and better way will gain a competitive advantage. Singapore recognises this and has every intention to be amongst the leading lights in this area," he said. "If we are able to build and operationalise these capabilities, it will set us apart from many other competitors."

Speaking at the start of TravelRevive, a two-day travel event, at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, he was outlining how Singapore wants to position itself as a leading MICE destination in a time when businesses may not be able to meet due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions between countries.

TravelRevive, organised by Messe Berlin (Singapore) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), is the first trade show here to pilot new safety measures under the newly developed hybrid event trade show prototype for safe business events, safe itineraries and digital enabler tools.

Yesterday, Mr Chan said Singapore is "not going to play defensive by just trying to get back to where we were" in the MICE space.

Beyond that, Singapore wants to break new ground and establish a new level of experiences that the country can provide.

He said that the Republic's lack of a large local population and its reliance on external visitors mean that it cannot shut itself off from the world, and needs to adopt a risk-management rather than a risk-elimination approach.

While Singapore had closed its borders and imposed travel restrictions in the early days of the pandemic for health and safety purposes, it now has the confidence to progressively resume travel and connect with the rest of the world, Mr Chan said, citing how Singapore has stronger and more varied testing options, as well as tighter contact tracing capabilities.

"However, beyond merely resuming travel in a safe and sustainable manner, Singapore is going to pioneer several things to lead the reinvention of global travel, especially in the MICE industry," he said.

The Alliance for Action team that has been tasked with bringing back travellers aims to take steps to re-establish Singapore's lead as a MICE destination and maintain the country's position as one of the top 10 cities in the world by international visitor traffic.

The TravelRevive hybrid event, with its trials of MICE safety measures, is intended to pave the way for more international trade shows to be held here in the first quarter of 2021.

STB signed three memorandums of understanding with exhibition organisers Fiera Milano, Messe Munich and Informa Tech yesterday. The one-year MOU with Informa Tech and the Infocomm Media Development Authority will see Informa Tech - which organises the London Tech week - launch a new international technology event in Singapore.

The event is currently slated for the second half of 2021 and will bring together industry stakeholders to discuss topics related to innovation and digital transformation in the tech sector.

Meanwhile, both Fiera Milano and Messe Munich will be establishing their South-east Asia regional headquarters in Singapore, to strengthen their links in Asean.

"(The MOUs) demonstrate that global MICE companies still retain confidence in Singapore as the global Asia node, and are expanding their presence in the region through partnerships with our local players," Mr Chan said.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore's business school said "what is critical now is to continue the momentum in managing the pandemic situation well locally - this pull factor will be the key differentiation that sets Singapore apart from competing meeting localities".

Additional reporting by Cheryl Teh

Travel, tourism players welcome first physical trade show in Singapore since Covid-19 outbreak
TravelRevive is first pilot trade show held here under new hybrid event prototype
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2020

Travel and tourism players yesterday welcomed Singapore's - and the Asia-Pacific's - first physical trade show since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, a key step towards having more such trade shows here.

TravelRevive, a two-day trade show being held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre until today, was made possible with the introduction of new safety measures to help ensure the health and safety of exhibitors and attendees.

Among the exhibitors at TravelRevive was tech solutions firm LDR, which has designed walking tours and recently pivoted to providing solutions for virtual conferences and events.

LDR business development manager Kelvin Yeo said that while the trade show was rather quiet, he prefers a quiet physical show over a virtual one even if the latter may come with more meeting opportunities.

"I'd rather have one quality conversation in person than 100 conversations over Zoom," he said, noting that virtual conferences and meetings with multiple breakout rooms can be chaotic.

TravelRevive is the first pilot trade show held in Singapore under the newly developed hybrid event trade show prototype for safe business events, safe itineraries and digital enabler tools, as part of a collaboration under one of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce's Alliance for Action groups.

This prototype is for larger events with more attendees than the limit of 250 imposed for meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) events, for which the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) continues to accept pilot applications.

TravelRevive is the first physical trade show held here since the Singapore Airshow in February. The hybrid event also features virtual conferences.

Close to 1,000 attendees and exhibitors are expected on site, including some 65 foreign delegates from 14 countries. The organisers are STB and Messe Berlin (Singapore).

A total of 36 exhibition booths have been set up, with each exhibitor getting a dedicated meeting pod. These booths and pods are equipped with plexiglass panels, which enable face-to-face discussions to be held safely.

The Warehouse Hotel director of sales Elaine Luei said that while there are fewer buyers at the event compared with pre-Covid-19 trade shows, the measures put in place - such as the plexiglass shields at each meeting pod - are thorough and "help to protect people".

"The organisers were quite proactive in telling us what to expect," she added.

As part of safe management measures, attendees were separated into cohorts of 20 and interactions were limited across groups. They were also given TraceTogether tokens to facilitate contact tracing.

Foreign delegates and some local attendees and exhibitors were required to take antigen rapid tests yesterday.

STB executive director for exhibitions and conferences Andrew Phua explained that different testing approaches are being used for the various MICE events.

For each pilot event, we work closely with the Ministry of Health. It's really quite customised in (seeing what is) the best way and best approach to test... and at the same time, ensure that everybody is tested safely and business events can be held in a safe and trusted manner," he said, adding that about 500 people will be tested at TravelRevive.

Safe itineraries, which include private museum visits and virtual tours, have been curated for foreign delegates, who need to take a test on alternate days, in addition to the tests required on event days.

Changi Airport Group has also developed an online tool called the Safe Travel Concierge to help travellers customise a travel checklist of pre-entry requirements.

Among the foreign delegates at the event yesterday was Ms Natjariya Rodprukpoom, managing director of Thailand-based tour agency Asia Hub, who is in Singapore until Saturday.

She is here not only to meet some hotel and attraction partners, but also to assess the situation for tourists here.

"We want to know how Singapore takes care of the tourists, how it controls the (infection spread), and what is going on with the tourist industry in Asia. Coming here, I see how Singapore has developed the technology to (track us and our itineraries), and Singapore has done very well," she said.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) survey finds growing confidence in overseas travel among top tourist sources
By Tiffany Fumiko Tay and Cheryl Teh, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2020

Confidence in overseas travel is growing among Singapore's traditional top sources of visitors, with three in four leisure travellers and nine in 10 business travellers indicating that they are likely to go abroad in the year ahead, a recent survey has found.

The online survey of 14 key markets, commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), also found that respondents had a strong perception of Singapore as a safe destination to visit amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

This bodes well for the tourism sector's recovery even though travel restrictions and quarantine rules mean it will likely be some time before demand picks up, Mr Chang Chee Pey, assistant chief executive of STB's international group, told the media yesterday.

Recent breakthroughs on the vaccine front provide some light at the end of the tunnel, although it could still take months or years for vaccines to be distributed globally, he noted.

As part of STB's preparations for the safe and gradual return of international travel, it is launching a platform to help shape the future of tourism.

Called SingapoReimagine, it will kick off with a series of forums here and around the world to share knowledge and exchange ideas on reshaping global travel.

There will also be engagements with stakeholders at home to spur the renewal of Singapore's tourism offerings.

"Covid-19 has devastated our industry, but it has also given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset, and re-imagine what travel and tourism should be for the next generation," Mr Chang said during a launch event at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

STB's assistant chief executive (marketing group) Lynette Pang said that travellers of the future are likely to travel less frequently, seek greater value and prioritise safety, hygiene and sustainability.

To that end, Singapore's tourism sector is reshaping itself with a focus on robust hygiene and safety standards, technology-driven experiences and integrating nature and urban landscapes, she said. Examples include contactless touchpoints, hybrid physical and online events and the upcoming Mandai eco-tourism hub and Jurong Lake District tourism development.

Mr Chang said Marina Bay Sands' newly launched hybrid studio, which hosted about 200 viewers for yesterday's in-person and online event, is also used to beam broadcast-quality visuals and holograms worldwide. He added: "This is just one example of what we think the future will look like."

The second part of a guide on how meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) events can be held safely amid the coronavirus pandemic was also announced yesterday. It expands on business model development and other capabilities required to help firms in the MICE industry pivot to the hybrid event model.

Dr Edward Koh, who is STB's executive director of conventions, meetings and incentive travel, said that he is optimistic about the direction that the travel and tourism industry is taking.

"Cancellations for MICE events have tapered off, and we have many events from 2021 onwards that are now waiting to see the protocols that we have in place," he said.

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