Future success Made in Singapore

EW’s editor, Paul Colston, speaks to Chi Chuan Poh, the executive director for exhibitions and conferences at Singapore Tourism Board (STB):

The UK’s Birmingham NEC was the venue recently for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and event organiser Nineteen Group.

While in the UK, Chi Chuan Poh, executive director for exhibitions and conferences at STB, told EW how that collaboration had come about.

“I met up with the folks from Nineteen Group last year in Brighton at the AEO CEO Summit. They had a great show in the emergency services and security side and, looking at the event calendar, this was a white space for Singapore, as we didn’t have a show that was dedicated to this area.”

Chi Chuan explains that he made his ‘elevator pitch’ to Alison Jackson (Nineteen Group MD). “We hit it off right away and they took up the suggestion to come to Singapore where we introduced them to industry players and venues. They were quick to proceed with plans for a show. Less than a year later, we signed the MoU.”

Nineteen Group is also setting up office in Singapore to help drive the show, which will open at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in November. Safety & Security Asia will feature: The Security Event, The Fire Safety Event, The Health & Safety Event, and The Emergency Services Show.

“Exciting times,” as Chi Chuan says.

Nineteen’s Safety & Security Event Series and The Emergency Services Show boast over 1,500+ exhibitors and 58,000+ visitors in its European editions and group director Tristan Norman says: “Recognising a gap in the market, our event series presents a unique proposition. By building on our expertise and insights gained from our European events, we believe that the Asia-Pacific edition will play an equally significant role in driving advancements in our safety and security.”

In Singapore they clearly have a  knack for creating a events in such calendar gaps as the exponential growth of International Water Week testifies – uniting some existing shows and some launches.

Chi Chuan emphasises that the magic sauce is really being able to find the right partner and one that is committed to the community that they serve.

“Nineteen is clearly excited over the opportunities that Singapore and Asia has to offer,” Chi Chuan says, and sees a much larger play for the growing region and how, by putting the show in Singapore, Nineteen, and other organisers are able to tap into this potential. He mentions work also in progress with Italian Exhibition Group that set up office in Singapore about two years ago.

“They are bringing in their unique version of the Cafe Show, where they showcase the best of Italian gelato, coffee and pastry. And they are bringing in their jewelry show to Singapore,” he notes.

STB is also working with Comexposium, the French organiser which has completed IRS and, in June, they bring in the National Retail Federation’s big show.

Made in Singapore

Chi Chuan is adamant MICE business is rebounding strongly with Covid firmly in the rear-view mirror.

“Everybody is appreciating what value exhibitions bring and the ability to meet up with people, to generate that serendipity to increase our networks and to push forward our knowledge. Digital platforms are not even a close substitute,” he says.

Chi Chuan explains Singapore has built a strong pipeline of shows coming in 2025-2026 and beyond.

“It’s an opportune time for us to showcase that new narrative focused on how Singapore sees itself as a business events capital.”

The current ‘Made in Singapore’ campaign is not new, but an extension of the existing Passion Made Possible campaign – “although a bit more focused on what business events is,” explains Chi Chuan.

STB is also celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and its CVB’s 50th anniversary. “We believe that the half a century of efforts have allowed us to better appreciate what business events can do,” says Chi Chuan.

Legacy, sustainability and technology

Legacy is another corner pillar of STB’s new marketing strategy, and they are putting their money where their mouths are in this respect.

The STB team is working on a legacy toolkit to enable event organisers to see how they can create positive impacts in their events in Singapore.

The funding formula available to orgnisers in Singapore is simple and transparent, Chi Chuan adds. The task being to give ideas to them on how any funding can be utilised. And it is not just about covering costs and venue hire, but includes a whole range of initiatives.

“While Singapore was at the forefront of offering many hybrid solutions and technology to enable meetings to go ahead online during the pandemic, today technology is all about allowing us to collect data, and data doesn’t lie,” says Chi Chuan.

“It’s not just about putting people together, but about using the data to get clear insights. How you then monetise those insights is something we’re really interested to look into and technology can be a great enabler here.

“Technology also helps us to track decisions made in the sustainability area,” Chi Chuan says. “For example, checking the results of switching menu choices, and how much carbon saving is actually made and how much food waste is generated.

“Using data smartly has to be  something that’s woven into the event planning and technology allows us to do that.”

Accreditation & recruitment

STB is working closely with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) on accreditation and has the entire destination certified.

Organisers and contractors have also worked with local associations and industry association SACEOS to come up with an accreditation framework and road map to help their members become more sustainable. Here again, STB can help point to grants in place to help with that process.

Speaking of challenges, Chi Chuan says Singapore is trying to position itself as a choice career pathway for young people in business events to combat the problem of recruitment. He says STB is working with the polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education and vocational training institutions on introducing young people into the sector.

Visitor numbers

In terms of statistics on visitation, Chi Chuan shares that March saw Singapore achieve 1.48 million arrivals, or about 95% of the pre-Covid numbers. He says the China market is a little slow to come back compared to the rest of the world, but notes that Singapore has now achieved visa-free status with China.

Singapore sits in the middle of the three of the world’s largest countries, Indonesia, India and China itself, and all are within a short flight distance, he notes.

“Spend is up the the arrivals are coming back,” Chi Chuan concludes, adding: “We are looking for a very good year in 2024, 2025 and going forward.”


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