Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press conference for the sectoral company visit to Marina Bay Sands for the MICE industry

Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press conference for the sectoral company visit to Marina Bay Sands for the MICE industry

1 Over the last few weeks, you have heard us talk about the three categories of companies and how we are going to use differentiated and targeted measures to help them.

2 Companies in the first category are still enjoying good growth and this includes the biomedical and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sectors. In the previous week, we talked about some companies that are having to consolidate their capacities and preserve their capabilities. For example, those in the Maintenance Repair and Operation (MRO) business.

3 Today, we are in the third category of companies that are facing severe challenges fundamentally as their business models have changed because of COVID-19 and technology. Our focus today would be this third group of companies such as those in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) and hospitality industries where they must deal with tourism and the MICE sector. They are also the most severely impacted. We will have to take this opportunity to reshape our industry, to help them take on new skills, build up new capabilities, for us to emerge stronger through the COVID-19 situation.

4 Therefore, we have invited the co-chairs for the Singapore Together Alliance for Action (AfA) on Enabling Safe and Innovative Visitor Experiences, under the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST), Mr Lee Seow Hiang, Chief Executive Officer of Changi Airport Group, and Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, President of Singapore Hotel Association, to share some ways we think the industry will be transformed and how we are going to put in place various measures not only to revive the industry but to emerge stronger.

5 Our determination is that we want Singapore to remain as the top business hub in Asia. We want to continue to strengthen our position as the MICE location of choice. This is why we are going to put in place the various measures to revive the industry.

6 Let me first just give a context of the importance of the MICE industry to Singapore. We have a strong reputation and we are a strong location for many tradeshows before COVID-19. For example, we have ITB Asia, Food and Hotel Asia and Singapore Airshow and other though leadership events like The Singapore Summit and Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

7 We have to be very clear why people choose Singapore as their preferred location and it boils down to three things (i) efficiency in the way we conduct meetings (ii) safety and security in the way we host our guests; and (iii) our neutrality. These three set of things will not change. But, they will take on new meaning in how we bring about this efficiency and safety in a COVID-19 world. This will continue to be an important industry for us because it supports more than 34,000 direct and indirect jobs with a value-add of about $3.8 billion or about 0.8 per cent of our GDP.

8 It is significant not just for the tangible monetary benefits to the economy – such as jobs - but it is also about the exchange of ideas where people come to Singapore
to interact with people from all over the world.

9 At this point, I want to make a very important distinction between the MICE industry in Singapore – how we are going to revive it - and what other people might be
doing. In bigger countries, the MICE industry may be able to survive on their own domestic market alone but the Singapore MICE industry is different from other markets because we are essentially an international MICE industry.

10 We are the platform upon which people come to meet from different places - not just within Singapore and the region - but a truly international market. The way we are going to revamp the industry will have to take into consideration how we bring international travellers safely into Singapore, conduct the meetings safely, and provide them the assurance as they depart from Singapore back to their own country.

11 We have to re-imagine the whole industry. We have the before- sales service, during- sales service, and even the after- sales service, which is why Mr Lee Seow Hiang and Ms Kwee Wei-lin have joined us today. It’s not just about the MICE industry, the event itself, but it is also the before and after which we need to link up with the airport and services of bringing people in and bringing people out. It also has to do with the kind of activities we allow people to have beyond the meeting itself, which is where the tourism and hotel industry needs to come in. We have asked them to share more with you on how we have brought everybody together in order to revive this industry.

12 We see very bright prospects for this industry because if anybody in the world can get this end-to-end service set up properly to provide the assurance, Singapore must be one of them. If anybody can get their act together from the way the invitations are sent out to the way the visitors are received at the airport, passed on to the hotels, coming to the MICE industry, then I have every confidence that Singapore will be one of those countries that can stand out among the competition.

13 If we build this capability properly, it will distinguish us even more compared to many other competitors in this MICE space. We have envisaged a seamless and safe journey for people coming into Singapore, doing preparation work even before they arrive in Singapore, have a safe bubble from airport to hotel to the MICE event itself and even to the recreation part. Thereafter, to provide them with the assurance that when they depart Singapore, they are in the best of health. That is our vision of how an end-to-end service for the MICE industry will come about.

14 This will be our key value proposition for the new MICE industry. We do not see ourselves doing it in silos . We see ourselves doing this as a team from the private sector to the public sector and also to the way we retrain our workers and equip them with new capabilities.

15 Let me go through some of the changes that we will see. The first change will be that MICE events will not be just physical events. It will be a combination of physical and virtual. It will not just be a face-to-face interaction, it will also encompass elements of digital interaction combined with face-to-face interaction which will bring our MICE industry to the next level. It will not just be about the meetings itself, it will also be about health assurance. It will not just be about the domestic market, it is also about the international dimension.

16 These are the things that we will see being changed. Today, co-led by Mr Lee Seow Hiang and Ms Kwee Wei-lin, the Alliance for Action on Enbaling Safe and Innovative Vistior Experiences, has worked closely with industry stakeholders such as the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) and various agencies such as Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Ministry of Health (MOH) to explore the facilitation of safe and innovative visitor experiences in a COVID-19 environment. Therefore we have Safe Business Events, Safe Leisure Itineraries and Digital Enablers.

17 Working together, we have developed the protocols and solutions which will remain commercially viable while fulfilling the need to safeguard the health and security of Singapore and incoming travellers.

18 Starting from Oct 1, event organisers may apply to STB to seek approval to pilot MICE events of up to 250 attendees. The Singapore International Energy Week Conference will be the pilot in October. With such pilots, we aim to lead the way as a trusted, safe and innovative destination for MICE events. While the recovery is long and uncertain, we are confident that when we put in place all these building blocks, we will get there.

19 You might be wondering why 250 attendees? This is because once we have the building block of 250 attendees, we will be able to scale this many times more . We are working with overseas partners including overseas event organisers such as Messe Berlin to see how we can learn from the experience of other countries scaling this up from the hundreds to the thousands in a safe and sustainable manner.

20 There are many protypes of this and you saw some of the exhibits outside. They are all components of how the entire concept comes together to enable safe meetings for people to interact. Once we have these prototypes and protocols worked out, I am sure we will able to scale this to the rest of players in the industry within Singapore and to also work in collaboration with our overseas partners so that once again, we can link up the MICE industry as a global industry with different nodes playing different roles at different times.

21 This will be an end-to-end solution that we are looking at. An entire seamless system that incorporates the government and the private sector coming together to work through all these new protocols to give our people a sense of assurance.

22 With that, I invite Seow Hiang and Wei-Lin to give you a sense of what we are talking about. I will also invite Minister for Manpower, Mrs Josephine Teo to give you a sense of opportunities that we still have in this industry from the jobs and employment prospects.

Closing remarks

23 Friends of the media, you will noticed from the sharings by Seow Hiang, Wei-Lin and Minister Josephine Teo that a couple of weeks ago, we said that we are not going to wait for COVID-19 to blow over. We are not going to imagine that everything will go back over to the good old days after COVID-19 blows over. This is an industry that is proactively leaning forward to build new capabilities to survive and thrive in a COVID-19 world and post-COVID-19 world.

24 So if you look at what the Alliance has done, they are not waiting for COVID to go away. They are looking at how we can re-plan the entire Tourism and MICE industry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. How do we provide end-to-end services to all of our visitors and customers from the time that they decide to come to Singapore, even before they stepped into Singapore, to the time that they depart Singapore, and after the event. How do we provide them with the same level of efficiency and the same level of security? Today, when we talk about security, it is not just about physical security, it is also about health security or health assurance and this becomes our added advantage in this COVID-19 world.

25 Not many places in the world would think of it in this way. How do we provide these enhanced services in the COVID-19 environment and if we can do this, they will continue to distinguish ourselves amidst the competition. Now, what has not changed in our focus is that we serving not just the domestic market but the international market. So when our mental model changes, the protocols change, the skillsets required by our workers change. There are many things that we are doing concurrently in order to revamp the entire industry so that we are much stronger.

26 I was personally happy this morning in the conversation to hear Mr Aloysius Arlando, President of SACEOS, share with us how we are training the next generation
of workers in the changing Tourism and MICE industry - how the management is changing their thinking of not just physical interaction but a combination of physical and virtual interaction; how do we develop new skillsets to bring about this combination which will create new opportunities; and how do we bring together Government, people in the Aviation industry, Hotel industry, MICE industry, Leisure industry? It is not to think of it in isolation, but think of it from an end-to-end service whereby this is a complete seamless package for our visitors in arrival.

27 This is the way that we are going forward and we are confident that this industry; the MICE industry; the Tourism industry will continue to provide good job opportunities for fellow Singaporeans.


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