Interview with Oliver Chong, Director of Conventions & Meetings, Singapore Tourism Board‘Long haul from Europe to Singapore is seeing an increasing number of enquiries, but they’re not as yet translating into groups’, says Oliver Chong. He is Director of Conventions & Meetings at the Singapore Tourism Board and keeps a constant watch on the level of that sector of business.
However, many destinations would be happy to be able to quote the statistics that he can quote for Singapore. ‘Hotels reported 84% occupancy in 2010. This was an improvement over 2009, but still below 2008.’
Singapore, however, received 11.6m visitors, representing a 20% rise, whilst their spend amounted to £9.4bn, a rise of 49%. How do these statistics make sense? Simply because Singapore is becoming more and more favoured by its neighbouring countries. People are flocking in from China, Japan and many other Asian countries, easily taking up the slack left by Europe and the USA.
There is also some flow of business diverted from the troubled countries of the Middle East. ‘IATA’, Oliver quotes as an example, ‘were due to hold their conference in the Middle East and moved it at short notice to Singapore. This brought about 800 airline CEOs and their colleagues to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Conference complex.’
A tiny island, Singapore boasts some for the world’s most sophisticated infrastructure for MICE events - and in profusion. It has always been a global crossroads for trade and communications. As many as 98 airlines use Changi Airport. ‘We have 46,000 hotel rooms now, rising to 50,000 by the end of the year and 53,000 during 2012’, says Oliver. He cites the arrival of the 5-star Fullerton Bay Hotel (in addition to the already established Fullerton Hotel); the Santos Grand and Park Regis and the 5-star Grand Park Orchard Hotel. There are also several new boutique hotels, such as the Hotel Michael.
Nothing in Singapore can be far from anything else, so delegates can always find accommodation that suits their budget and is close to the venue they are attending.
A surprise to many first-time visitors is the range of leisure and cultural activities available in the tiny destination. And the choice is constantly widening. The Jurong Lake District is being extended and developed. World-famous rivers are to be replicated , complete with flora and fauna from their regions. China has loaned Singapore two giant pandas for ten years. The former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings are being transformed into an additional art gallery and museum capacity so that many cultural treasures, previously hidden from sight, can go on public display.
The Sports Hub is rising on the skyline, to be the country’s new National Stadium. Additional berths are soon to be opened, with deep water approaches to allow the largest cruise liners to disembark their thousands of passengers more conveniently.
‘There is always something new for group organisers and delegates’, Oliver Chong sums it all up modestly.