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Singapore preparing for the safe resumption of MICE Business

GB Srithar, Regional Director (India, Middle East and South Asia), Singapore Tourism Board

As with most other economic activities in Singapore, business-to – business (B2B) events such as meetings, conferences, exhibitions and trade shows have been put on hold since March 2020.

With the resumption of economic activities in the country, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is preparing for the calibrated and safe resumption of B2B events in the coming months. To do so, STB has developed a risk management framework for business events of up to 50 attendees, based on strict safe management measures. STB will trial this framework with two pilot events before gradually scaling up to other events and event organisers (EOs) thereafter.

Safe Business Event Risk Management Framework

Under STB’s Safe Business Event Risk Management Framework, EOs must achieve five key outcomes:

  1. Infection control measures for every stage of an event attendee’s journey (pre- to post-event)
  2. Limits on crowd density
  3. Limits on close contacts between individuals
  4. Ensuring a safe and clean environment
  5. Preparing for emergencies relating to COVID-19

The framework was created inconsultation with the industry and is aligned with international best practices. It arises from reflections and lessons learnt over the past few months, when businesses in Singapore’s MICE sector conceptualised and reimagined what a safe event could look like. Apart from adopting best practices in safety, hygiene and sanitisation, Singapore’s MICE businesses have also experimented with innovative digital solutions such as technology to support the creation of virtual and hybrid business events. One such event was the International Dental Exhibition and Meeting (IDEM), which converted its physical trade show and conference into a fully virtual event in June 2020. Featuring a digital conference and exhibition, it has attracted close to 4,000 participants, with over 300 exhibiting brands from over 50 countries, demonstrating how virtual engagements can augment face-to-face events safely and effectively.

Piloting ‘hybrid’ events

Hybrid formats with a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions are likely to be the norm for business events in the near future. To prepare for this transition, STB’s Safe Business Event Framework will be applied to two potential ‘hybrid’ events, viz., the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Computational Electromagnetics (August 24 to 26, 2020) and the Asia Pacific MedTech Virtual Forum 2020 (September 24, 2020). Each event will feature a maximum of 50 onsite attendees, in addition to approximately 1,000 attendees participating virtually across both events.

Held in Southeast Asia for the first time, the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Computational Electromagnetics2 was initially planned for March 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19 developments. In its new hybrid format, sessions will be streamed online for delegates to attend the conference virtually.

To be organised by the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed)3, plans are underway for their Virtual Forum 2020 to include hybrid elements – a first for the association. Delegates can take part in virtual networking and online discussions, which may be complemented by physical panel discussions and networking events.

The two events were selected as pilots because their organisers have actively engaged event venues as well as STB to examine the safe management measures required for a safe event. If these two events proceed smoothly, STB may allow other similar B2B events that can implement the requisite SMMs to resume gradually.

Collaborating with industry

To provide further guidance for our MICE businesses, STB and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) are collaborating with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) to formulate an Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR) – a public-private partnership focused on three strategic objectives: Establishing best-in-class standards for new event safety measures, creating agile business models with a focus on digital capabilities, and developing pathways for professional development in the post-COVID-19 world. The IRR will serve as the ‘roadmap’ to guide Singapore’s EOs as they plan for the safe resumption of other B2B events in Singapore and a sustainable recovery.

Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board, said, “Singapore’s business events sector has shown much resilience during this difficult period, and we are grateful for their innovativeness and adaptability. While COVID-19 has severely disrupted the industry, I am confident that Singapore will lead the way in reimagining what a safe and high-quality business event could look like. Together with our industry, we want to set Singapore apart as the world’s leading destination for safe, trusted and innovative business events.”

Speaking about this, GB Srithar, Regional Director, India, Middle East and South Asia, STB added, “It will take a while for global travel sentiment to return and for borders to re-open and we are prepared for recovery to be a slow process. The resumption of MICE events is to be done in a careful and calibrated manner, with limits on the size and capacity of events to ensure safety of on-site participants and allow for wider interactions through virtual platforms. Singapore has exhibited a strong record in hosting business events and has been amongst the preferred destinations for MICE activities of Indian businesses. STB is working closely with the relevant government agencies and industry stakeholders on the required safe management and ‘hybrid’ event measures to better prepare for evolving norms in the MICE space.”