Massive new projects add to the island’s business tourism sectorSingapore has a track record stretching back many decades as a favoured meeting point for every kind of convention, meeting and exhibition. Proof that it is maintaining that reputation is the fact that in 2009 it was acclaimed, for the third year in succession, the ‘Top International Meetings City’ out of 1,653 cities in the statistics published by the Union of International Associations (UIA).
Singapore has kept in the forefront as a MICE destination and has been highly regarded globally because it never stops innovating, enhancing and extending its facilities. In 2010 projects have been completed that are amongst the most ambitious in the world, whilst additional important projects have been announced for next year and the years that follow.
It is a popular destination for events of all types and sizes and has constantly ensured it has all the ingredients sought by event organisers. As the Singapore Convention Bureau describes it: ‘Singapore provides a rich environment of vibrant knowledge, a wide network - and fun. The key consideration is the quality of the experience, including a wide diversity of options that give organisers total flexibility in putting together the kind of enjoyable, memorable, convenient and safe experience that they want for their delegates and their guests. They can be sure that Singapore is safe and stable, that it will provide ease of accessibility from every part of the world and will offer them a choice of world-class facilities and services’.
Visitors are always made to feel welcome in Singapore and this is particularly true for delegates to conferences and award winners on incentives. The whole population is well aware of the importance of incoming delegates to their economy and livelihoods and so levels of service are universally high. Visitors can regard it as very much an English-speaking population but, at the same time, it is a destination offering the fruits of many different cultures. They thrive side by side and add colour and depth to any visit. Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street are all fascinating localities which offer an insight in such diverse cultures.
Life is never the same once you have visited Singapore – and the chances are that one visit is never enough whether you are an organiser or a delegate. And it is not difficult to travel in and out of the country or to bring in delegates from any part of the woprld to an international gathering. Changi Airport is one of the most important travel hubs in the whole of South and East Asia. Its modern airport hosts 80 airlines serving over 200 destinations and it is growing in popularity as a port of call for cruise ships.
Singapore has large special-purpose centres for the biggest conferences. It has a wide choice of hotels of every size and star-rating. It can surprise with its variety of open spaces for team-building and excursions.
It can cater for such massive conferences and exhibitions even though it is in the middle of town because its facilities are located on six levels. A big advantage in being downtown is that within a short distance there are over 5,000 hotel rooms, 300 restaurants and countless shopping outlets.
Any country, especially as tiny as Singapore, would be very happy to claim Suntec as a venue, but Singapore has even more to offer. On the eastern side of Changi International Airport is Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre. This already boasts 123,000sqm of indoor and outdoor space, including multi-purpose halls, welcoming about 6m visitors to 600 events each year, but will be adding in 2012 a new design of meeting space to increase its capacity still further.
Downtown Singapore is literally dotted with hotels to suit every budget, so event organisers can be confident that delegates will not have any difficulty in identifying one that will be close to the chosen venue and suited to their pocket.
It would not be difficult to name as many as 30 5-star hotels, including all the main international chains, such as Fairmont, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental, Mandarin Oriental, Pan Pacific, Shangri-La and Sheraton and so on through the alphabet. To those, it would again be simple to add another list of 30 4-star properties.
And, of course, hotels in Singapore cannot be listed without inclusion of the iconic Raffles Hotel, which is now part of the Fairmont Group, but where visitors, over so many decades, have been invited to throw their peanut shells on the floor.
Singapore had a glorious period when it was a vital Asian hub in the British Empire and much of its grandiose colonial architecture has been given a new lease of life in today’s world, especially in the tourism sector. There are colonnades of shops nestling amongst the pillars and, in the hotel sector, there is, for example, the very impressive Fullerton Hotel that for decades was the island’s main post office.
But Singapore is constantly taking advantage of progress made in design and a new example is the Grand Park Orchard. It was previously Park Hotel Orchard but has now been transformed with an investment of S$80m (nearly £40m) to become the crown jewel of the Park Hotel Group. Located in the internationally known Orchard Road, home to so many top hotels and large shopping malls, this 11-storey property has has a herring-bone external glass façade and a dramatic media wall.
The larger of the two meeting rooms can seat up to 134 theatre style and permit delegates to have same-floor access to the main lobby on the 4th floor. The new investment has also added a 4-storey retail podium known as The Knightsbridge.
Outstanding new projects
Visitors to today’s Singapore, no matter how well they might think they know the destination, are going to be in awe of the new arrivals on the skyline. Marina Bay Sands is one of the biggest tourism projects ever undertaken in any part of the world. Little wonder it has changed the skyline, as it comprises three 50-storey tower blocks that support the Skypark across the three roofs. The resort houses a luxury hotel with 2,500 rooms, as well as 120,000sqm of state-of-the-art convention and exhibition space. It has theatres that will host Southeast Asia’s first long-running Broadway musical, The Lion King. There is entertainment, gaming, the impressive Marina Bay Sands Shoppes comprising 300 stores offering international luxury brands and labels new to Singapore. Visitors will be able to browse Bally, Prada and Tiffany & Co. Louis Vuitton plans to open a ‘floating island store located in a striking glass and steel Crystal Pavilion that will sit on Marina Bay.
The resort will also be the location of two famed nightlife establishments, Pangaea and Avalon, opening shortly. The Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel, is already offering breathtaking views of Marina Bay and the whole of the Singapore skyline. And all that is only the beginning, because Marina Bay is to become Singapore’s new downtown as part of a bigger plan to remodel the whole city, emphasising its exciting, liveable aspects. Marina Bay is to integrate residential, business and entertainment facilities, offering a modern, seamless environment in which to work, live and play.
Just off the south coast of Singapore is the tiny island of Sentosa. It has long been a recreation and sports destination and its facilities have now been hugely expanded. The whole project adds a very wide range of options that can be integrated into a leisure or incentive programme according to the wishes of an organiser. It is the location of the newly opened Resorts World Sentosa, where business events and leisure and entertainment converge, giving unlimited scope for imaginative programmes of conferences, brainstorming, hospitality and themed parties.
The new resort is to house the first Universal Studios theme park in Southeast Asia. There will be 24 attractions, of which 18 are original or specially adapted for Singapore. Visitors will marvel at the biggest single collection of DreamWorks Animation attractions such as the Far Far Away Castle from the world of Shrek along with the Madagascar, a Crate Adventure indoor boat ride. Astonishingly, as many as six individually themed hotels are to provide more than 1,800 rooms, including Hotel Michael, Hard Rock Hotel, Spa Villas, Equarius Hotel, Crockfords Tower and Festive Hotel.
Resorts World Sentosa features specialty shops unseen anywhere else. Visitors will be invited to step into the first Victoria’s Secret outside the USA – and to indulge in all things chocolate at the Hershey’s Store.
Delegates wil have a choice of shows on their doorstep. The Voyage de la Vie will be an original rock circus spectacular showcasing renowned acrobatic stars. Lake of Dreams will be a unique musical extravaganza where fire, water and light are the stars of the show. And the Crane Dance will be an enthralling love story between a pair of mechanical cranes, whose undying love for each other transforms them into real birds.
Cable car enhancement
Since 1974 visitors to Sentosa have been able to enjoy a ride by cable car. This mode of transport has now been enhanced with a major new investment of £20m, so that the journey through the air is itself a memorable visitor attraction and will add to any leisure programme.
Mount Faber is a high point on the main island of Singapore that itself provides spectacular views and hillside walks. However, it is also the location of The Jewel Box Station where visitors can board the Singapore Cable Car for a memorable 10-minute sky-high trip across the harbour to Sentosa. A £20m overhaul has introduced the world’s first jewel-encrusted cable car cabin.
Since its re-launch in July 2010, the 67 new cabins have been carrying over 70,000 passengers a month to the stations of HarbourFront and Sentosa. Eight adults can now ride in each of the new cabins and as many as 1,400 passengers can be transported per hour. The cable car ride is an attraction in itself but it also carries visitors to the new Resorts World Sentosa that is expecting 18m arrivals in the current financial year.
This most luxurious of cable car systems has cabins illuminated by LEDs, creating the effect of sparkling jewels against the night sky. The lavish interior includes large panoramic windows, flip-up seats for eight guests, a level walk-in concept that is wheelchair friendly, interior and exterior ambient lights, an 8-language interactive touch-screen infotainment system available and a removable table for Sky Dining.
The star of the revamped cable car system is the World’s First 7-star VIP Jewelled Cabin. It is a Swarovski-encrusted cabin that features a Crystal Panel glass floor by Swarovski, large black leather upholstered chairs with arm rests covered with glittering Black Crystal by Swarovski Elements and roof illumination through a ceiling Crystal Panel by Swarovski.
As a central location for Asia and as a hub for bringing together commercial interests from the East and the West, Singapore is seen as an obvious choice of venue for international conferences and conventions in many different sectors. Between now and 2016 as many as 160 important events have been booked, with expected total attendances of 170,000 delegates. Notable amongst them are the Public Broadcasters International 2011, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Conference 2012, the 13th International Conference of Associated Research Centres for Urban Underground Space 2012, the 2013 International Congress on Ultrasonics, the Asian-Pacific Congress on Computational Mechanics (APCOM) 2013, and the 8th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health 2016.
Nature and gardens will play a greater part
Singapore crams so much into so small an area, that people around the world can be forgiven for imagining that the whole country must be bustling, crowded and noisy. This would be a total misconception. Singapore has long been proud of its extensive and unusual parks and nature reserves, such as Bukit Timah, Labrador and the Sunger Buloh Wetland Reserve. Now work is well under way on the development of the The Mandai precinct and a River Safari that will give the island Asia’s only freshwater river-themed park with boat rides through freshwater habitats.
A project that is a public-private joint venture, when ready in 2012 it will boast the largest collection of freshwater flora and fauna. WRS – Wildlife Reserves Singapore – have managed the Jurong Bird Park, the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari, which in total have been visited by over 70m people. It has operated a ‘nocturnal zoo’ and ‘nocturnal birdhouse’ for over 15 years. These have been innovative in providing unique interactive experiences.
The new River Safari will maintain this level of innovation, as the WRS will, in collaboration with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, house giant pandas. The panda cubs have already been earmarked for transfer to this new home and keepers from Singapore are being trained to give them the care they require.
The STB and the SECB
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is the country’s leading economic development agency in tourism, which is a key service sector. The Board champions tourism and builds it into a key economic driver for Singapore.
The Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB), part of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), is the lead government agency for the business events sector in Singapore. Its mission is to champion business travel and business events as key drivers of the tourism sector. It also assists business event organisers, corporations and associations by providing comprehensive and impartial information on Singapore’s MICE facilities, incentive venues and industry partners.
Singapore App enhances business visits
Singapore Tourism Board has developed the City Advantage Guide smartphone application. It enables the user to view detailed listings of all dining, retail, hotel and wellness establishments participating in the programme, including promotional offers, opening hours, website addresses and phone numbers. They can also qualify for special deals by simply flashing their smartphones. Business travellers or event organisers are able to customise their Singapore experience by selecting from the privileges and promotions available.