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May 18, 2008

SINGAPORE: Still ahead of the Asian pack

The explosion of Asia’s developing economies is no secret, with destinations from China to India growing in popularity within the events industry as their infrastructures grow. However, no emerging Asian destination can yet compete with Singapore, which was recently named Top Convention City in the region in the 2007 ICCA Global Rankings – an accolade it has achieved no less than nine times.

Just as impressive is the fact that Singapore also came third in the Top Convention City in the World list for the second running. Just how long the city can stay ahead of the emerging Asian ‘pack’ remains to be seen, but the Singapore Tourist Board (STB) is clear about the reasons behind its success so far. “Singapore’s position attests to its appeal as a premium business travel and meetings, incentive travel, convention and exhibition destination,” it claims.

The Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre: Helping keep Singapore on top

The STB has played a key role in fostering this continued “appeal”, working with the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB) to bolster the city’s calendar of business events. Notable achievements this year include the newly created BioMedical Asia and Singapore International Water Week. According to the STB, these events are down to the Strategic Clusters Approach business strategy, which the SECB launched in 2006 to “attract, anchor and grow a pipeline of business events that add impetus to the country’s key economic clusters”, such as biomedical sciences, IT and digital media, environment and water technologies, banking and finance, transportation and logistics, and tourism.

Clear results
Since the launch of this strategy, the SECB has collaborated closely with private sector partners and fellow government agencies to create and develop these two inaugural shows. BioMedical Asia was held at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre from 14-17 April, while Singapore International Water Week will be held at the same venue from 23-27 June.

BioMedical Asia 2008 was a week-long business festival that brought together international and regional pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, research institutions, regulators, investors, physicians and other key stakeholders, who gathered in Singapore for a technology showcase, six main conferences and seven industry-focused summits and workshops, where more than 200 international speakers discussed the latest biomedical issues and findings.

"The successful staging of the inaugural BioMedical Asia augurs well and lays a strong foundation for future installments of this international event,” said Aloysius Arlando, assistant chief executive, Business Travel and MICE Group at the STB. “The event provided a key platform for us to showcase Singapore as a premier business travel and MICE destination to the international participants, profile our strong knowledge-based economy, while solidifying our position as a thought-leader in Biomedical Sciences in Asia. The congregation of leading experts in the field and international speakers at the event has catalysed intellectual exchange, which will propel Singapore's Biomedical Sciences industry forward in the years to come."

The Singapore International Water Week will consist of five events. The STB collaborated with a number of national bodies to create the event, which will bring together global experts and creating business and networking opportunities for the water and environment technology industry.

New shows and extended runs

Singapore has also hosted a series of inaugural tradeshows this year, such as the recently concluded BikeAsia and Japan International Apparel Machinery (JIAM) tradeshow. This was the first time JIAM had been held outside Japan, attracting 25,000 international participants to the machinery and equipment showcase for the apparel and textile industry. Coming up, there’s international travel show ITB Asia, which is already proving popular among exhibitors, despite not taking place until October.

On top of new events, the STB has successfully extended the run of a number of existing ones. For example, the bi-annual International Dental Exhibition and Meeting (IDEM) 2008 was held from 4-6 April at Suntec Singapore, and the event will be staying in Singapore for 2010, 2012 and 2014.

IDEM 2010 is expected to draw about 5,500 international dentistry experts and professionals to Singapore for a trade fair, conference and gala events. “We have chosen Singapore because of its advantages in providing a central meeting location in Asia-Pacific – a growing market in the dental industry,” said Michael Dreyer, managing director of Koelnmesse, which organises the event.

Attracting organisers
On top of a vibrant event base, three major players in the business travel and meetings industry have recently opened offices in Singapore. Kellen Company, one of the world’s largest association management businesses, with more than 100 association clients, has forged an alliance with Singapore-based CMA International Consultants to set up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in the city. Through this partnership, Kellen Company and CMA aim to provide “global solutions to international associations and national government organizations”, as well as encourage its existing clients to hold events in Singapore.

Leipziger Messe, the organiser of the largest interactive gaming exhibition in Europe, Games Convention (Germany), has also recently opened an Asia-Pacific office in Singapore. The company will leverage on its position in Singapore to further develop Games Convention Asia, which it brought to Singapore in 2007, and tap into the Asia-Pacific market for its shows.

The third player to set up base in Singapore in 2008 is Kenes International, a leading professional conference organiser. Through its strong background in medical events, Kenes will enable Singapore to hold on to and develop more medical-related events and consolidate the state’s position as Asia’s biomedical hub.

“Our goal is to assist medical/scientific societies or individuals in the Asia-Pacific region by offering our professional congress organisation and association management services,” said Kenes International managing director Dan Rivlin. “By doing so, this will further improve the exchange of ideas and sharing of information in the entire region.”

Improving infrastructure
One area Singapore cannot afford to neglect if it is to compete successfully against its emerging neigbours for events business is infrastructure, and the city has been moving forward in this area. The completion of two new resorts is on schedule: Marina Bay Sands in 2009 and Resorts World at Sentosa in 2010. Meanwhile, the Singapore Flyer, currently the world’s tallest observation wheel standing at a height of 165 metres, was officially opened in April, offering panoramic views of the Marina Bay area. More importantly, the Flyer is available for corporate bookings and provides a unique space for meetings and corporate events.

Furthermore, the planned landscape and infrastructural enhancements to Singapore’s famous shopping street, Orchard Road, is now also underway, while the city will also boost its cruise capacity when the new International Cruise Terminal at Marina South becomes operational in 2010.

These activities, along with €167 million to be invested in professional tourism training, clearly indicate that Singapore won’t give up its pole position as Asia’s Top Convention City without a fight.

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