Mice events in Singapore can resume from October with higher limit of 250 attendees

ORGANISERS can once again apply to hold meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) events in Singapore, subject to attendance caps, from Oct 1.

The move, unveiled on Monday by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), will allow Mice events of up to 250 attendees, raised from the limit of 50 under a framework that was released in July for business event safety.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing told reporters: "We want Singapore to remain the top business hub in Asia. We want ourselves to continue to strengthen our position as the Mice location of choice, and this is why we are going to put in place the various measures to revive the industry."

He was speaking from integrated resort Marina Bay Sands (MBS), where he and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo went on a tour of a broadcast studio for hybrid-format events.

The latest decision to open up applications for larger-scale Mice events "takes into account the importance of the Mice industry as well as the strong industry interest in and demand for business events", the STB said in a statement.

The agency noted that the industry had contributed S$3.8 billion in value-add to the economy before the coronavirus crisis struck, even as business travellers are high-yield visitors who statistically spend nearly twice as much as leisure tourists do.

As part of the reopening, industry members and the government are working to roll out insurance for inbound travellers' critical Covid-related expenses by the fourth quarter.

The Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers will also launch a work plan this month with the STB and Enterprise Singapore.

The Event Industry Resilience Roadmap public-private partnership is meant to offer guidance on safety measures and best practices as business events gradually resume.

Besides an emphasis on safety and hygiene, virtual and hybrid events and new business models were identified as key ways for the Mice sector to stay relevant.

The STB has also partnered Messe Berlin (Singapore) - the organiser of the annual ITB Asia trade show for the travel industry - to hold a meeting in November for participants from around the world to put their heads together on the future of travel.

The 13th Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), which is scheduled for Oct 26 to 30, will be a pilot for the reopening of the Mice industry. It is slated to take place in a hybrid format that mixes physical events at MBS with online participation.

Calling the new 250-person cap a "building block”, Mr Chan said that Singapore will eventually “be able to scale this to many times more”.

“We are working with overseas partners, including overseas event organisers… 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.”

This year’s plunge in international visitor arrivals “can fundamentally damage Singapore’s hub status, whether it’s aviation, hospitality, or across business sectors” if prolonged, Changi Airport Group chief executive Lee Seow Hiang said.

“We are therefore very conscious that we have to take considered steps to re-establish our aviation physical links with the rest of the world, even as we enhance our virtual and digital connectivities,” Mr Lee added.

Keith Tan, chief executive of the STB, said the reopening "will safeguard jobs and core capabilities", as well as help related sectors such as hospitality and aviation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) noted that a shift to hybrid events in the Mice sector has created job opportunities such as digital events managers.

More than 2,400 roles have been offered since April by some 220 companies in the tourism sector, including professional positions such as conference and event planners, system analysts and marketing sales executives, according to the MOM.

Said Mrs Teo: “Although the hiring demand in tourism was lower than before, in the last six months, we found that there were some businesses in tourism that were trying very hard to adapt.”

She cited work-from-hotel packages, domestic tours and hybrid-format meetings as examples, adding that “these opportunities present themselves to the companies that are willing to make the adjustment”.

To curb layoffs and build up manpower, Workforce Singapore also introduced reskilling schemes for the hotel, Mice, attractions and tour and travel sectors in February.

More than 1,400 workers were retrained and redeployed as at end-August, even as 28,000 places under the Enhanced Training Support Package (ETSP) have been filled. The ETSP covers part of the wages of workers who have been sent for skills upgrading.