“Where do I even begin?” Lynette Pang, executive director, arts and entertainment and enrichment of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), is experiencing a delicious dilemma as she tries to describe the riot of citywide entertainment options now at the fingertips of business events planners. Pang, a former stage actress, points to the Singapore government’s lauded reputation for meticulous strategising as the reason for the burst of creative endeavours.
“We are seeing the fruition of a 10-year plan,” she says. “It was all very deliberate – the aim to grow industries such as entertainment and the arts, as well as sporting events. And one of the key pieces needed to be set up was the hardware. Once the venues were put into place, it would only be then that the activities followed.”
By Pang’s estimates, the “build and they will come” theory has resulted in the doubling, even tripling of the number of musical concerts staged in Singapore. Previously, productions, particularly large ones, could only find a home in the Indoor Stadium, the National Stadium and Kallang Theatre as well as the Padang – an open sporting field where many colourful National Day ceremonies have been held. The double-whammy advent of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) simultaneously expanded the space for performances of all sizes, and more alternatives are scheduled to arrive (see box on page 32).
The fertile ground in Singapore for cultural fare has encouraged foreign entertainment companies to use it as their headquarters and launch pad to expand their profile in the region. Says Pang: “This business climate has also helped to bring in more new products.”
Base Entertainment is a prime example of new entrepreneurship entering the island-state. Its managing director Milan Rokic says staging famous hits from Broadway and the West End – such as The Lion King now playing at MBS’ Sands Theater – helped reinvent the paradigm of the Singapore experience.
Rokic remarks: “We are able to position theatre-going as an attractive option for travellers when they plan their trips. We don’t have to depend on the domestic audience, and this allows us to play longer than any show has historically done in Singapore. This also gives the DMCs (destination management companies), whom we work closely with, a good lead time to put together their itineraries.”
To enhance the corporates’ theatre attendance night, Base Entertainment works with MBS stakeholders, such as the various restaurants and bistros lining the arcades, to arrange pre-show cocktails or dinners as they did for a recent JP Morgan booking. Since no one outlet could comfortably accommodate the group of 900 executives, it was split up among five venues.
Lively after-hours scene
The new ArtScience Museum, Rokic says, adds to the collection of unique spaces around MBS that can be hired out for pre-show hospitality, as will the two future nightclubs Avalon and Pangaea, occupying the eye catching soon-to-open Crystal Pavilion. If a company goes for a buy-out performance, Base Entertainment can offer special perks such as having the company chief executive address the audience before the curtain rises – as in the case of leading telecommunications provider SingTel – or invite guests to come up on stage after the show and pose with the actors.
Thanks to the STB’s aggressive promotion, overseas clients are well versed in the city’s latest major leisure offerings. Lester Chin, MCI Singapore assistant director, congress operations, says: “The key attractions such as Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World are well publicised and documented. What our customers are not familiar with and would be interested to know more about is the local F&B or party scene.”
This is where Chin and his MCI colleagues have to be one step ahead. “With so many places opening up, we’re constantly doing site visits and familiarising ourselves with what is trendy,” he says. Chin cites the Skypark’s restaurants on top of MBS, Dempsey Road precinct – former British army barracks and now a cluster of wine and dine outlets – and 1-Altitude atop a skyscraper bank building in Raffles Place, featuring bars, fine dining and golf simulators as their current post-event chill-out recommendations.
Resorts World Sentosa has been a huge success since it launched in January 2010, providing business events participants a convenient one-stop location to stay, converge and play. Universal Studios, one of several gems of this Integrated Resorts complex, is a meeting planner’s paradise, offering seven themed zones, several anchor shows and an environment sworn to creating unforgettable memories. “Remember, a conference is known for two things – the F&B and the entertainment,” says Paul Stocker, RWS vice-president, MICE sales. “That’s usually the big take away of any programme.”
Singapore’s latest range of leisure infrastructure has only led to better marketing opportunities. “We now have a lot of tools in our tool box. Being able to offer more after-hours activities has allowed us to go after wider incentive travel business,” says Stocker. “Groups can continually return to Resorts World and experience something unique each time. And we can even host multiple groups inside the park at any one time.”
Chin of MCI Singapore describes Universal Studios as instantly appealing to many clients. He observes: “Movies are exciting and something people always enjoy. Its New York zone, for example, has a certain charm, and people like it because they see facades and characters they can identify.” A dinner set up on the street for 450 Amway executives in October last year generated many positive comments, according to Chin.
But it’s the synergy of RWS’ attractions, onsite talents – the culinary team is composed of 350 chefs, including star kitchen masters Joel Robuchon, Scott Webster, Kunio Tukuoka and Susur Lee – and events department that has been responsible for the surge in bookings, says Stocker. “Nothing is cookie cutter with us when we work with DMCs. Our portfolio of attractions gives them more options than what they may have been offered in the past.
“Our job is to suggest to our customers something different from what they may have originally wanted, something that they weren’t thinking about.”
Besides just regular park buyouts (as corporates DBS Bank, Mastercard and the SPH group have done) or taking over a themed zone, clients can have their pick of RWS’ wealth of venues for corporate entertainment such as the World Square, where the dinner reception of the 77th UFI Congress of the Global Association of Exhibition Industry was held last November, featuring appetisers by the celebrity chefs; the waterfront to view the nightly Crane Dance; and the Sky Bar of Hotel Michael, which can accommodate up to 450 guests and has a spacious alfresco area and pool area.
Synergy of venues
Outside of RWS, Sentosa Island likewise provides an infinite menu of places to unwind after an intense day of brainstorming – it all depends on the events planners’ creative juices and wacky ideas.
A beachfront is a beachfront. But after Pacific World Singapore transformed Tanjong Beach (one of three sandy coves in Singapore’s original playground designated for entertaining) into a circus for the final night of the French group Tax Free Association’s conference, magic was in the air. Manual Ferrer, the DMC’s regional director, says the use of Chinese acrobats, balloons and related parapharnalia helped create an interesting and festive atmosphere. “It was pure party!” he recalls.
Established facilities such as the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Esplanade (the durian fruit-shaped twin structures alongside Marina Bay) are also realising the value of going for the corporate entertainment market. Suntec has not only hosted the typical cocktail stand ups, gala dinners and themed affairs in its ballrooms, but has also staged a boxing match there with a dinner preceding. Last year, the Suntec management teamed up with RWS to cross-sell each other’s assets and create business opportunities of holding conferences during the day at the convention centre, then continuing onto the resort in the evening for social functions. The World Congress on Biomechanics in August 2010 exemplified this collaboration.
The Esplanade has designed the “Esplanade Presents” package for those companies “wishing to keep their hosting sessions intimate”, says Lim Ewe Leong, director, partnership development.
This covers eight to 12 guests, who will be invited to sit in the VIP boxes in the concert hall or theatre and comes with benefits such as reserved car park lots and pre-show cocktails in special sections. Post-show appointments to meet the performers (if they are amenable) can be arranged. Past clients have included law firms, financial institutions and foundations. For a longer-term initiative, corporates can also consider taking up the “Corporate Patron” programme, which involves an annual commitment and is enhanced with added privileges such as priority ticket bookings, branding opportunities and use of the Esplanade Suites – private hospitality rooms next to the VIP boxes – all throughout the year.
Finding talent to stock the various corporate gigs is never a problem.
Pacific World’s Ferrer says: “There are many good musicians and dance artists (in Singapore) to call on whenever we need them.” Michael Chiay, managing director of DMC, MCI Hong Kong, adds: “There is a very good mixture of local and foreign talent based in Singapore, like the band Wicked Aura.” Officially known as Wicked Aura Batucada, the 13-member home-grown troupe trades on interpreting the catchy Brazilian beat, using popular as well as innovative instruments fused with rhythms from other cultures. The boys’ act is simply an infectious celebration of life and spontaneity, making them a hit with their peers from Singapore to the UK, Colombo to Melbourne as well as older corporates in team-building sessions and after-dinner engagements that they have been invited to enliven.
The blooming of Singapore’s cultural climate has not only seen a steady influx of overseas performances whetting the appetite of domestic and regional audiences for “soul food”, but also the rapid nurturing of Singaporean and Asian artistic flair.
Says Pang of the STB: “We want Singapore to be a city that brings together different creative talents and be the place where people can dare to experiment and express their Asian identity.”
FRONT ROW SEATS
Singapore’s seemingly constant upgrading and unveiling of new business and leisure facilities is matched by the quality of its offerings for post-event entertainment. From water extravaganzas and circus-style acrobatics to classic theatrical storytelling, a host of top-quality shows and performances are available in various locations around the city. Below is a shortlist of what’s currently on offer.
Marina Bay Sands
The Lion King – the acclaimed Disney musical – has been playing at the Sands Theater since March, and due to record demand, will go on through August, according to producer Base Entertainment, which intends to bring more Broadway and West End hits to Singapore. The cartoon story of a wide-eyed lion cub’s transformation to “King of the Pridelands” is brilliantly reimagined by director Julie Taymor, with help from Elton John and Tim Rice’s Academy Award-winning song Can You Feel The Love Tonight?
Coming soon to the Grand Theatre: Disney Live! and Imperial Stars on Ice.
Resorts World Sentosa
Crane Dance, the world’s largest dancing animatronics show, is performed at Resorts World Sentosa’s Waterfront zone. Watch this unusual ballet using 30-metre, 80-tonne cranes “acting out” the love story of the legendary birds, enhanced by digital art, LED displays, light and water effects and finally, pyrotechnics, all synchronised to a beautiful score.
The genius behind this extravaganza is Jeremy Railton, known for his award-winning international productions, including his work for the 57th Annual Academy Awards.
Voyage de la Vie, or the “Journey of Life”, is the park’s resident theatrical circus performance. An ensemble of over 40 international cast members from 19 countries interpret – through dance, mime and acrobatic stunts – a boy’s metaphoric adventure toward adulthood, where he meets unusual characters symbolising themes such as Love, Temptation, Conflict, and Life and Death.
WaterWorld is a live-action stunt spectacular at Universal Studios Singapore’s “The Lost World” zone. Based on the blockbuster film Waterworld, viewers thrill to a tidal wave of death-defying stunts, along with authentic explosions of fire and water, that leaves the audience gasping for more.
Wicked Aura Batucada is a home-grown Singaporean percussionist band specialising in Afro-Brazilian beats mashed with funk, rock, reggae, electronica, vocals… you name it. Their armoury consists of a variety of traditional and improvised contemporary instruments, notably drums from diverse cultures including the African djembe, Brazilian surdo, Indian dhol as well as the Malay kompang and rebana.
The all-male troupe may be a staple on the concert-music festival route, performing overseas in Hong Kong, Madrid, Reading, UK, and Colombo among others, but they are also available for corporate engagements, team-building sessions and workshops. These masters of innovative rhythm have a sure-fire formula to get a group’s adrenaline pumping.
1. Capitol Theatre (also known as Capitol Cinema), a 1930s neo-classical gem, is being restored to re-emerge as a 1,800-capacity entertainment centre. Opening to be announced.
2. Gardens by the Bay in the Marina Bay area will answer events planners’ demand for alfresco space targeting big dinners of 1,000 guests or more. The first phase of the project to be launched is the 54-hectare Bay South Gardens featuring horticultural themed spaces and a 30,000-capacity concert lawn. This will open in 2012.
3. The National Art Gallery will debut three years from now as one of Southeast Asia’s largest visual arts venues. Fashioned from the combination of the former Supreme Court and City Hall, its halls will contain not only Singaporean works but also regional masterpieces. The museum’s rooftop plaza will be a place to wine and dine and take in the skyline of Marina Bay. This will open in 2014.
4. Sports Hub will feature a 55,000-seat multipurpose stadium with a retractable dome roof and eco-friendly cooling system ideal for Singapore’s year-round tropical climate. Complementary venues include the existing 12,000-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium as well as a new 3,000-seat Multi-purpose Indoor Arena and 3,000-seat indoor Aquatic Centre able to house up to 6,000 people. This will open in 2014.
AT MARINA BAY SANDS
5. Crystal Pavilion will house chic nightclubs Avalon and Pangaea, both nightlife fixtures in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and London as well as an enormous Louis Vuitton boutique. Opening to be announced.
AT RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA
6. Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium will transport visitors back to the 10th century during the boom of the Asian sea trade through various interactive installations and multimedia displays. Opening by year-end.
7. Marine Life Park will feature one of the world’s largest oceanariums and provide a unique dining experience for corporate groups. Opens 2012.
The teamwork between Singapore Airlines and subsidiary Silkair and Changi Airport has raised Singapore’s hub profile to world-class levels. SIA links the island-state to 63 cities in 35 countries around the world, while Silkair connects to 31 countries in the region.
Most foreigners – except for those on the list of the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (www.ica.gov.sg) – do not need a visa to enter Singapore, but the usual rules of possessing a valid travel document, onward/return ticket and sufficient funds apply.
Located one degree north of the equator creates a steamy environment good for plants, but not so comfortable for people. Not to worry, one is never far from a pleasantly cooled shopping mall or hotel lobby, prompting one writer to dub Singapore “the air-conditioned island”. Average temperatures range between 27?C and 31?C (although it feels hotter these days). There are two distinctive monsoon seasons from mid-November until early March and from mid-June to early September.
Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English are the official languages, reflecting a multicultural society, enriched with various global nationalities that have settled in the city. Chinese dialects such as Hokkien and Cantonese, and the distinctive patois known as “Singlish” are still very much in use.
Singapore Tourism Board