Despite the global economic crisis putting a pall on the city’s vigorous efforts to be a top-of-mind destination for business events, a sense of something-big-waiting-to-happen is palpable in Singapore.
The electric atmosphere has been created by the excitement and anticipation over the impending launch – in the first quarter of 2010 – of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands. The two multibillion-dollar integrated resorts will open up new venue and programme options to event organisers, who are always looking to add something fresh to their itineraries. Together, both properties add a total of 4,300 guestrooms and more than 68,190sqm of meeting and incentive space to the city’s events inventory.
What’s more, new attractions will also arrive in the city with these twin openings.
“We are excited to finally see the physical product,” says Theresa Lee, assistant MICE manager at UOB travel planners. “The Universal Studios Singapore at Resorts World in particular will give the city its very own theme park.”
The new properties also broaden and deepen Singapore’s resumé as a destination of choice. Says Anthony Ang, director of international sales of Pacific World Singapore: “We are known for corporate meetings. The emergence of the integrated resorts raises Singapore’s profile as an incentive destination.”
Open for business
Already, RWS is accepting enquiries and confirming corporate groups bookings for events from May 2010. About 20 events have been signed in black and white as of August this year. The venue reports that a lot of interest is coming from Japan.
“We are in a position to package things in a way that no venue operator can. We give event organisers the option of a one-stop shop from venue, F&B, post-event activities and entertainment,” says RWS head of MICE Elena Arabadjieva. “It’s really up to them if they want to take it. We just want to make it easy for corporate groups who come to us to put an itinerary together.”
However, she hastens to add: “It does not mean that we are entering the events company business.”
At the moment, the RWS events team and their prospective clients are together learning about the myriad possibilities that the new property can offer for corporate events.
“There are more than 20 different places within Universal itself that can be opened up for corporate functions. There is no such place before. This is unchartered territory,” says Arabadjieva, adding “what to me is interesting is the possibilities for incentives because Singapore has yet to make a mark there. We are filling a gap by being able to offer things like a treasure hunt inside Universal Studios.”
For a small city, Singapore has plenty of outdoor space. Both RWS and Marina Bay Sands both take advantage of the city’s sunny tropical climate by incorporating several open-air venues apart from the theme parks and other attractions.
Meetings and incentives professionals point out the outdoor option is something that’s always suggested when proposing a programme to a corporate client.
“The good thing about Singapore is that many venues like the Asian Civilisations Museum have indoor and outdoor facilities,” notes Monique Ng, executive producer at Luminous EMC Singapore. The company recently handled the topping out ceremony at the Marina Bay Sands attended by 120 people, where a special platform was erected at the construction site.
“The only thing about holding an event out in the open is the weather, which can be unpredictable,” she adds, “you can either switch the programme indoor or you must have a back up marquee”.
Lee of UOB Travel Planners has an affinity to outdoor venues particularly for pre- and post-event activities as an antidote for groups who normally spend majority of meeting time in confined spaces. The DMC had organised events at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where part of the programme is a guided garden tour with the park’s horticulturist.
One of its most memorable functions was a sunset evening cocktail aboard the Singapore Flyer for a local pharmaceutical company. The group of 60 people boarded three capsules, each carrying 22 passengers.
“After the cocktail, we organised the dinner in one of the F&B venues at the bottom of the Singapore Flyer. But now, we are introducing a new element to this programme by offering to have dinner in Clarke Quay,” says Lee.
“What makes the experience special is that we ferry them down the Singapore River via an exclusively chartered pump boat which can be themed with the company logo for the occasion.”
Outdoor venues like Sentosa, Singapore Zoo and Night Safari among others already have an existing line-up of activities that event organisers can use and adapt, customising the experience.
For one, UOB Travel Planners leverages on the different outdoor activities and tours being offered around the city.
“Most of these tours run on fixed times and last for about half a day. Very often, our group only have two hours to spare,” says Lee. “So we normally make special arrangements with the tour or venue operator to tailor their package for us and run it at a time that aligns with the group’s schedule.
“Of course, we strive to put a twist to it by adding a new element to the entire experience.”
Back to your roots
In a business that thrives in generating “wow” factor, events that pack a lot of punch are the order of the day.
“With today’s budget cuts, groups are looking for something that is not as luxurious but is very adventurous. We are out for a managed experience that can add value and not something you can pick up from the streets,” says Singapore-based Charlotte Weston, regional development manager at Pacific World.
Instead of a run-of-the-mill city tour, groups could try a hands-on activity that lets them experience the local scene directly via an Amazing Race type-adventure, a treasure hunt, hand-painting or a special lesson in making Peranakan desserts.
As a relatively new resident in Singapore, Weston sees things with fresh eyes and catches interesting things that most locals and long-time expatriates deem ordinary and dismiss out of hand.
“There are a lot of things people take for granted because they assume that everybody knows them like the Merlion and the Peranakan culture, which are actually new in the eyes of visitors.”
Weston believes putting Singapore’s local and multicultural aspects in the forefront will help the city attract incentive groups, besides the typical meetings, conferences and exhibitions crowd.
“People associate Singapore with corporate meetings. We always try to show them the other side of Singapore – the heart of Singapore,” she points out. “Only when groups get to see the city’s character through its tiny enclaves do they see its potential for incentives.”
Undoubtedly, challenges still abound. Everyone is waiting for the end of short lead times and pared-down budgets.
But groups will be reassured that the commitment remains to deliver quality events that pull out all the stops as the city upholds its reputation as being one of the best in the world. n
Changi Airport is a major international and regional hub, with more than 70 airlines making a port of call to connect the city-state to more than 160 cities and 53 countries. Singapore Airlines is the primary carrier to and from the city. Budget airlines Tiger Airways and Jetstar have made Singapore their base of operations.
Groups from Malaysia and Thailand can opt for the rail link to the island nation through the regular services by Eastern & Oriental Express and KTM trains.
Uniform weather all year-round with temperatures ranging between 23°C and 31°C. There are two monsoon seasons – from December to March and from June to December.
Citizens from most countries can enter the country visa-free. Passports must be valid for at least six months during the length of stay. For the latest visa rules, visit the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority website at www.ica.gov.sg
Primary language is English but Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are also widely spoken, reflecting the country’s racial mix.
LUMINOUS EMC SINGAPORE
tel: 65 6398 5490
tel: 65 6336 1286
UOB TRAVEL PLANNERS
tel: 65 6252 2322
SAMPLE 3-DAY INCENTIVE ITINERARY
Rice, Spice And Everything Nice
Little India – the focal point of the Indian community in Singapore. Discover colourful spice-scented streets, a hive of shopping and day-to-day activities that permeate every nook and cranny of this ethnic heritage enclave.
Tiffin Curry Luncheon at Raffles Hotel – the “Grand Old Dame of Singapore”. After lunch, visit museums in and around town – National Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum – for a closer perspective on the social and cultural history of Singapore and the region.
Evening at the Esplanade – Take a ride on the Singapore Flyer followed by Dinner at Seafood Paradise @ Flyer for a sumptuous seafood feast including the famous Singapore Chilli Crab.
Fengshui And You
Our fengshui (Chinese geomancy) programme takes participants into a deeper understanding of this ancient practice – harnessing the power of nature to enhance one’s financial and general wellbeing. It will also let your group have a peek into real life examples of how fengshui is applied in modern Singapore, both in the personal and business spheres.
Chinese Dim Sum lunch in a downtown restaurant, followed by a visit to Chinatown’s restored traditional shophouses from the bygone era. Learn more about life in the old days by visiting Chinatown Heritage Centre, and then experience authentic Chinese tea culture at the tea art centre.
Walk on the wild side with a visit to the world’s first Night Safari. Enjoy dinner at the Ulu Ulu Safari Restaurant (one of the venue’s F&B outlets) or revel in a jungle-themed dinner by the lake.
Group will be brought to Katong on the eastern side of Singapore to pay a visit to Katong Antique House – the private home museum/antique shop for a guided tour by owner Peter Wee, a fourth-generation Peranakan, for a brief morning lesson on this unique culture.
Enjoy a local Peranakan lunch at Blue Ginger Peranakan Restaurant or True Blue
After lunch, your group can opt to continue their immersion into the Peranakan culture and heritage at the Singapore’s Peranakan Museum, or they can enjoy a free afternoon of shopping, a favourite modern local pastime.
Farewell dinner proceeds in style and elegance at The China Club, an exclusive members-only dining establishment on the 52nd floor of Capital Tower with a commanding view of the city and its harbour. The China Club’s stylish décor and ambience evoke a strong sense of Orientalism and exotic Chinoiserie, which is enhanced by themed entertainment, custom-made table items and giveaways.
Prepared by Pacific World Singapore
VENUES WITH A VIEW
This former military barracks, where young Singaporean boys used to serve their mandatory service, is now a hip wine and dine destination. Its trademark black and white bungalows house a slew of chic F&B outlets. The tropical setting is a unique selling point, providing urbanites an accessible chill-out destination 20 minutes away from the CBD area.
This 40ha home of 1,000 nocturnal animals has a lot of built-in attractions that can be tailor-made for a corporate programme. Groups can have their entire dinner served aboard the safari tram while simultaneously taking a guided tour of the property.
Definitely not resting on its laurels, Sentosa is offering more exciting group activities to corporates on offsite events. Its three suites of teambuilding challenges – The Imbiah Challenge, The Siloso Fort Challenge and beach teambuiling activities – will be joined by many more in the coming months. Also, new attractions will join the new 450-metre Megazip, these are the Wave House for some surf action and i-Fly, the indoor skydiving simulator.
Now an iconic landmark amidst the frenzy of development in Marina Bay, the Singapore Flyer offers groups their very own exclusive flight aboard a private capsule that can carry up to 26 passengers for 360-degree view of the Lion City. Beneath this towering edifice that stands 165m from the ground, plenty of F&B and meeting venues await and several of them like Flyer Theater and Sky Deck deliver events under the stars.
Singapore National Parks
The National Parks Board of Singapore oversees the city’s green oases, including the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Fort Canning Park and HortPark – all of them have plenty of open-air spaces for teambuilding, cocktail and dinner receptions, product launches and other corporate events.
Singapore River Cruise
Like many of its counterparts in different Asian cities, Singapore River is enjoying a second lease in life, being the beneficiary of a major rejuvenation as the government transforms more areas along the waterfront into lively lifestyle districts.
Like its nighttime counterpart, many activities available at the Singapore Zoo are currently repackaged and customised for corporate groups. Enjoy a round of tai chi on the zoo’s grounds followed by a hearty jungle breakfast. Or groups can arrange a leisurely walk along the Reservoir Picnic site before a sumptuous dinner among others.
The Jewel Box
On top of Singapore’s Mount Faber, The Jewel Box is a fabulous hilltop venue. The panoramic view of Sentosa is marred at the moment by the construction on the island. But visitors can look forward to restored and improved vistas in the months ahead. To add to an extraordinary experience, board the glass bottom cable car towards Sentosa Island for a truly bird’s eye view of the surroundings.
UP & COMING
Gardens by the Bay
It is another development in the Marina Bay downtown area. This S$900 million (US$634.88 million) will feature three distinctive waterfront gardens that will define Singapore as the world’s premier tropical garden city. Cutting-edge innovations in environmentally- friendly technology, sustainable natural resource management are being applied in its development. First phase is set to open in 2011.
International Cruise Terminal
Singapore is building a new International Cruise Terminal at Marina South to double its current cruise handling capacity, adding two more berths to the island’s cruise facilities. It will help strengthen Singapore as Asia’s premier regional cruising hub.
Marina Bay Sands
Eyed for an official unveiling in early 2010, the integrated resort will feature the iconic SkyPark which topped the three hotel towers. Measuring 340m long and 38m wide, the park will include landscaped gardens, restaurants, bars and three swimming pools. Marina Bay Sands will be home to a new 120,000sqm expo and convention centre that will be spread over five floors that can hold up to 45,000 people.
Resorts World Sentosa
Opening in early 2010, this 49ha integrated resort will offer groups a whole new range of venues for accommodation, business events, F&B and entertainment. Groups will be able to lease certain parts of the Universal Studios for dinner events like 1940s street parties in old New York and an Egyptian theme event straight out of The Mummy set. RWS has 32,370sqm of indoor and outdoor space for incentives and another 27,820sqm comprising of grand ballroom and function rooms for meetings and conferences.
Groups with serious environmental commitment will find a kindred spirit in this eco-friendly hotel. Early this year, it officially unveiled the herb garden on the fifth floor, organically growing lime trees, lemon trees, Italian and Thai basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, curry leaves, chilli, pandan leaves, laksa leaves, lemongrass and green peppercorn.
FOUR SEASONS SINGAPORE
Providing value for money, the hotel has a “Meetings With More” package available until year-end. It includes continental breakfast daily, 10 percent savings on banquet menus, and 25 percent attrition allowance among others. Ten percent of the total room revenue generated at the event will be credited towards a future event at any Four Seasons property worldwide.
GRAND COPTHORNE WATERFRONT HOTEL
Sitting on the banks of the historic Singapore River, the Promenade at the ground level of the hotel provides a cosy, alfresco venue for corporate events. With the canopy of trees lining the entire stretch of the promenade, the venue is easily themed for any type of business function.
PAN PACIFIC SINGAPORE
With 26 meeting rooms totalling 2,970 square metres, the hotel offers a lot of flexibility for a variety of business events. The Ocean Rooms have the one of the largest in-house installation of ADSL lines in a hotel for the delivery of high-speed and wireless internet.
J Bar on Level 9 recently completed a major refurbishment, expanding seating capacity to 120 patrons. Ideal nighttime spot in the heart of Singapore’s financial district features a cosy balcony that can hold small groups out for a quick cocktail in an alfresco setting.
SHANGRI-LA HOTEL SINGAPORE
There are three intimate garden venues – Waterfall Terrace, Garden Terrace and The Pavilion. For small- to medium-size meetings and events, 23 additional function rooms indoors are available. The State Room at The Valley Wing, with an expansive outdoor terrace, is an elegant function room for intimate formal events.
With the property’s three purpose-built function venues named Amethyst, Onyx and Turquoise, corporate meeting planners can look forward to the advantage of having calming natural daylight and views of the surrounding greenery outside.
THE RITZ-CARLTON, MILLENIA SINGAPORE
The hotel has 3,252sqm of meeting space but groups can still savour The Ritz-Carlton experience beyond its premises. With the hotel’s outdoor catering service, corporate event organisers can deliver five-star culinary treats and presentation, complete with themed setting in any outside venue of their choice.