Singapore this year walks with a lively spring in its step. Always among the top Asian destination choices for business events, meetings and incentives, the opening of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in January and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in April is giving corporate organisers fresh reasons to pick the Lion City.
“The city has opened itself up to a broad range of opportunities with the diversity of the two resorts and the different dynamics that they both bring to Singapore,” says Charlotte Weston, regional marketing manager, Pacific World Asia.
“Clients are now spoilt for choice with world-class meeting facilities with a vast range of onsite accommodation to match. Increased arts and entertainment spectacles add a new dynamic with new permanent shows such as The Lion King at MBS and Voyage de la Vie at RWS, as well as a plethora of restaurants complete with celebrity chefs, and increased options for large spectacular events whether it be at the breathtaking SkyPark on top of Marina Bay Sands or the fun-filled Universal Studios at Resorts World.”
She adds: “Singapore already has an advantage over many Asian destinations with lots of choices for large offsite events, and they just get even better. Ballrooms that can hold over 4,000 people for a sit-down dinner at both resorts are also something else.”
Pacific World has several clients looking at both integrated resorts for different events.
“With something so new, there is fortunately no such thing as cookie cutter. Each resort has great flexibility to enable us to get very creative on behalf of our clients, and anything we do at either of them is new for now. The two resorts give us a wealth of opportunities to inspire our creativity to be at the forefront of repositioning Singapore’s events appeal,” notes Weston.
Business events hub
Events professionals such as Pacific World have many chances to craft memorable experiences for their events, as the city is a magnet for regional meetings.
“We host over 6,000 business events every year,” says Melissa Ow, assistant chief executive for business travel and MICE group at Singapore Tourism Board (STB). She points out that both RWS and MBS have received a steady stream of bookings for a pipeline of business events. “The integrated resorts will propel the growth of the MICE industry towards meeting the STB’s overall target of achieving S$30 billion (US$21.7 billion) in tourism receipts by the year 2015.”
Groups from North Asia and South Asia, particularly China and India, are the biggest source markets right now for the city’s business events sectors. Although the economy of many countries in Europe and North America currently are still soft, STB still actively promotes the Lion City in these regions, specifically for groups from the UK, Italy, France and the Benelux countries.
STB is also working to bring more high-profile events into the city to further boost its image as the happening place in the region. This year, new event wins include the inaugural Asian edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference; the BIT 3rd Annual World Congress of Cancer 2010 – the first held outside China; and, a new international event for the performing arts industry dubbed LIVE! Singapore 2010.
With the recent launch of its new destination branding called YourSingapore, STB intensifies efforts to heighten awareness of and interest in Singapore as a leading business events city. Moreover, its ongoing “Business Events in Singapore” incentive scheme help event organisers to win bids.
“The scheme has been instrumental as an enabler for industry partners to clinch new events as well as to grow the number, scale and stature of business events staged here,” Ow observes.
Let the games begin
Officially unveiled in January, RWS is still in the midst of its phased opening with two hotels – Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas – and attractions such as the Marine Life Park and the Maritime Xperiential Museum waiting to be unwrapped. Nevertheless, the resort’s current inventory of hotels, meetings venues, attractions, food and beverage and retail outlets already offer groups the flexibility to create a wide range of tailor-made experiences for their event.
RWS has a total of 60,190sqm of meeting and incentive space – both indoor and outdoor, which has a combined capacity for 35,000 people. The available space is staggering given that the resort is in a tiny island on the southern tip of Singapore.
Since kicking off its events business in March, the resort has hosted more than 150 events for groups ranging with the number of participants ranging between 10 and 3,500 – from large-scale conventions like the Asian Bankers Summit to smaller corporate functions such as the Canon Product Launch. Its theme park Universal Studios Singapore has become a top choice for companies hosting evening events. DBS Bank, Singtel, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lamborghini and Nomura Asia have all organised exclusive functions there in the past months.
“Our MICE offerings pack a lot of punch,” says Elena Arabadjieva, director of MICE at RWS. “We are an all-in-one destination offering a very compelling entertainment and leisure line-up, which makes after-meeting hours of our guests and their accompanying family members very attractive and enjoyable.”
She adds: “We take pride in all our events in terms of conceptualising them for our clients and executing them with flair and professionalism. We customise every event and strive to
make the experience a memorable one for all delegates.”
Right now, RWS fields an average of 1,000 events enquiries a month.
“The interest is overwhelming, which means that our events calendar is extremely promising. We have confirmed more than 250 events from now until 2011. Most encouraging is the fact that clients are coming back to hold more events.”
In the first year of operation, RWS expects to welcome some 400,000 corporate and events guests, with around 20 to 30 percent of them coming from regional and international markets.
Marina Bay Sands, with its iconic Sky Park astride three hotel towers, soft opened in April and officially opened in June. The US$5.5 billion property standing right at the heart of the central business district cuts a distinctive figure across the Singapore skyline.
“We are enlarging the pie for Singapore’s expo and conventions sector by offering large, flexible facilities with accommodation, entertainment and dining options under one roof,” says a MBS spokesperson.
Now open for business, the hotel has 2,560 guestrooms and suites, the casino, Sands SkyPark and the five-storey Sands Expo and Convention Centre, which at 120,000sqm can hold up to 11,000 delegates. F&B outlets and retail shops have also been unveiled at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, with more to coming online in the next several months.
Other facilities such as the museum, theatres and crystal pavilions will begin operations next year. When fully completed and operational, MBS expects daily visitors numbering 70,000.
There were some teething problems with reports saying that the property was not fully ready to hold events when it hosted its first conference in April. Whatever kinks in the operations are hopefully ironed out now that MBS is officially open.
“The business momentum at Marina Bay Sands has never been stronger, although we have just opened our doors a month ago,” says a MBS spokesperson.
“We have received many positive feedback on our services, food and facilities. They include Great Eastern Life Assurance which said in a note that we have ‘exceeded all expectations’.”
“We have inked 180 deals for events that will take place at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. This will bring approximately 270,000 delegates and participants to our property.”
The integrated resort is working to secure over 500 prospective business events clients over the next four years. Like its rival, MBS also has clinched brand new events such as Cruise Shipping Asia 2011 and Art Stage Singapore 2011 and 2012.
Singapore has a lot riding on the success of both integrated resorts, but the city is not one to rest on its laurels. Expect new facilities and venues to come up in the next several years.
STB’s Ow says: “We are undergoing a dynamic transformation, which will be catalysed with the opening of the two integrated resorts, followed by a host of new developments such as the International Cruise Terminal, the Gardens by the Bay, the National Arts Gallery, the River Safari and the Singapore Sports Hub.”
Besides new convention centres, both of Singapore’s integrated resorts give more venue options for creative events.
Resorts World Singapore
Universal Studios Singapore: Indoor venues with seating capacity from 50 to 3,500 are available at Pantages Hollywood Theatre, Stages 28, Far Far Away Dining Room and WaterWorld amphitheatre. Exclusive nighttime outdoor events can also be held at the park’s public areas such as Festive Walk, Hollywood Boulevard and the Bull Ring among others. Other themed zones and rides such as The Lost World and Ancient Egypt can also be chosen to provide spectacular backdrops for events. Apart from the theme park and hotel venues, there are many F&B options available at the resort.
Shows: Voyage de la Vie is a theatrical rockcircus now playing at the 1,600-seat Festive Grand Theatre five times weekly. Other shows are also staged on limited run at the resort.
Upcoming attractions: The Marine Life Park claims that it will be the largest oceanarium in the world with more than 700,000 marine creatures and the Maritime Xperiential Museum is a 360-degree multimedia theatre where guests board a shipwrecked Arabian-bound vessel and hear a fascinating story about shipping on the Silk Route unfolds.
Marina Bay Sands
SkyPark: Located 200m above ground with great views of the city and the South China Sea, this architectural masterpiece spans 12,400sqm – big enough to fit three football fields. It features three 150m infinity pools and a landscaped gardens with 250 types of tree and 650 types of plant, making it a 1.2ha tropical oasis. The new home for some of the city’s gourmet restaurants, this unique cantilever has a spectacular observation deck that can hold 3,900 people.
Event Plaza: It is a versatile outdoor venue by the sparkling Marina Bay. It features movable steps that use a unique hydraulic system. Suitable for various themed events with a capacity to host up to 10,000, the venue recently held a live screening of the exciting final game of the World Cup.
Upcoming attractions: Two theatres with a total capacity for 4,000, one of which will be a permanent home to the Broadway musical version of The Lion King slated to open next year; a museum with a lotus-inspired design, which will showcase renowned arts exhibitions from across the world; and the glass and steel Crystal Pavilionswill house some of Singapore’s trendsetting clubs and lounges.
Charlotte Weston, regional marketing manager, Pacific World Asia
“While the integrated resorts are stealing the limelight, new dining and event concepts are popping up and Sentosa’s ever-developing beach bar chill-out scene offers great potential for events that one doesn’t expect to find in Singapore. Furthermore, Capella Hotel (on Sentosa Island) has opened up a different dimension for Singapore, offering a genuine luxury resort-style property just minutes from the city.”
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Singapore Tourism Board
GETTING THEIR ACT TOGETHER
While the two integrated resorts get most of the attention, across the city-state other venues have freshened up with new offerings, writes Gigi Onag.
There is a lot brewing on Sentosa Island aside from Resorts World (RWS). The 500-hectare island brims with attractions, venues and facilities fit for both business and leisure. A favourite offsite teambuilding destination for Singapore-based companies, recent improvements on the island will only make its lustre shine even more brightly.
“Recent additions such as the MegaZip Adventure Park, Wave House Sentosa, Azzura Beach Club and Tanjong Beach Club have enhanced the exciting array of meetings and incentives options on the island resort,” says Addison Goh, sales director of Sentosa Leisure Group.
Outside RWS, the island has over 200 attractions, restaurants, beach bars and retail outlets from which companies can shift through for creative event ideas. Organisers also have to bear in mind that Sentosa’s business events venues extend to the Southern Islands, which offer stretches of pristine tropical beaches.
“We work with events organisers from start to finish on programme, theming, logistics, sound and lighting,” Goh says, adding that “we are now working to introduce a host of brand-new night-based events and festivals to complement the island’s attractions and offerings”.
Following the success of “Lights of Spring” during Chinese New Year and the return of “Jazz by the Beach” in April, the Halloween-themed “Sentosa Spooktacular” will have a second staging on the island in October and Singapore’s biggest countdown party by the beach will return at year-end with its five-parties-one-venue concept, hopeful to lure more than the 20,000 revellers who showed up the previous time.
Hotels in the city are generally unfazed by the competition posed by the integrated resorts, nevertheless, many have refreshed their events offerings in different ways to keep pace with the new standards being set by these new entrants.
“We are competing for different market segments,” says Lourdes Juco, director of sales and marketing, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore. “They have managed to attract new business where Singapore was unable to compete for previously. I would say that instead of the ‘pie shrinking’, we have a larger pie for everyone to share now.”
This June the hotel opened its 293sqm rooftop herb garden on level 3. The garden is intended to be a regular cocktail venue for corporates opting for green events. The garden features 19 types of plants such as aloe vera, thyme, basil, mint, lavender, rosemary, chilli padi, lemongrass, pandan and more, and it hopes to educate guests on the merits of tropical herbs. For groups between 30 and 50 people, the herb garden has a green cocktail package for S$65 (US$47) per person.
At Fairmont Singapore, its Raffles City Convention Centre (RCCC) just came out from a major refurbishment exercise. The Stamford Ballroom, Olivia and Sophia foyers, VIP Lounge as well as the Stamford and Plaza meeting rooms received new wall fabric, new paint, new furniture and new lighting fixtures among others.
Koo Sok Hoon, Fairmont Singapore associate director for marketing communications, says: “We will leverage our brand’s strengths and will remain focused on our target markets which are primarily small- and medium-scale business groups.”
Mandarin Orchard Singapore is counting on unique experiences it can tuck on as a value-add to make the difference for event organisers scouting for a venue.
Hotel general manager John Sartain says: “Customisation is key. Packages are passé. We reward meeting planning through value-added offerings and redemption credits for future meetings, similar to the concept of points redemption with frequent flyer programmes.”
He explains: “We offer a meet-and-shop experience featuring exclusive discounts at the newly opened Mandarin Gallery – a boutique mall annexed to our hotel that houses some 103 shops featuring leading fashion brands and lifestyle services including beauty, hair and spa salons.”
Juco of Shangri-La says: “We must remain relevant to the needs of MICE planners. As Asia’s attractiveness grows, more long-haul and incentive travels will be planned. We need to evolve constantly with better products and services. Differentiations among the competitive set will be the key to success.”
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