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With nearby destinations in Malaysia and Thailand offering a greater range of post-conference and extra-curricular activities, how is Singapore positioning itself in the Southeast Asian MICE market?Sing when you're winningFEATURE22Conference+Meetings WorldSeptember 2010Singapore's core business profile hascompleted its transition from themanufacturing to the knowledgesector. It is a progression necessitated by thecity state's relative wealth and lack of spacemeaning conventions in the food, IT, ICT,financial and bio-med sectors are now bigbusiness in Singapore.But, despite the ongoing civil unrest andincomplete infrastructure in Thailand andMalaysia, these developing MICEdestinations are enticing PCO's away fromSingapore, lured away by their white sandbeaches and rich culture. If you've travelleda long way for your event, you want to seemore than city streets. Just shy of 5,000 international flights landat Changi airport every week, which islocated 25km and half an hour from the citycentre by train. Accommodation in thetown, particularly at four- and five-star levelis in short supply, with occupancy ratescomparatively high for a major businessevents destination. For example, the Grand Mercure RoxyHotel, which serves Singapore Expo, Suntecand the central business district rarely dropsbelow 97 per cent in the May-July period.It's a similar story at the Crowne PlazaChangi Airport, which has a dedicatedthree-minute monorail connection to theairport terminals. It's this infrastructure that makesSingapore standout in Southeast Asia, saysexec director of Singaporean eventsorganiser SES, Stephen Tan. He believedSingapore's infrastructure, the "lack ofbureaucracy, and the ease of gettingproducts into the country" is key to itssuccess.However, he agrees the lack ofSingapore's ancillary offering is the mostdifficult obstacle to overcome. "We are notreally able to create back areas, or placesfor people to go, other than resort space,"he says. According to Tan, people come for theevents and once they've taken in some ofthe local Peranakan culture, as well as keysights such as Raffles Hotel and the Flyer,they cross to the islands of Malaysia orThailand for a few days rest and relaxation."There is no point trying to createsomething artificial here when it alreadyexists there," he says, adding that theyshould be seen not as a threat to doingshows in Singapore, but as a source ofadded value.Darren Tan is the MD of World Express, adestination marketing company now in its41st year of business."There's no point comparing Singapore toThailand. We are a two or three day stop,Thailand is a two or three week one. InSingapore you can plan an event and beassured it will run according to that plan,"he says. "It's a key selling point of doingbusiness here."However we need hotels. A lot more areplanned but the ones here at present arefull. We need a broader price range toprovide for all sectors. In particular, for localSingaporean events, we have a high-take upof lower tier hotels."So perhaps the true value of exhibiting inSingapore is the options that are presentedby its location in South East Asia. Worldclass venues and service, a variety ofexhibition space and a lack of bureaucracyis complemented by fine foods, sights andculture courtesy of the region's Malay,Chinese and Peranakan cultures.The Singapore Exhibition and ConventionBureau (SECB), a child of the SingaporeTourism Board, is responsible forchampioning the country's business events,which is heralds as key drivers behindSingapore's ongoing industrial growth.The bureau is a member of the eight-strong BestCities global alliance, whichcounts Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai,Edinburgh, Vancouver, Melbourne and SanJuan among its complement. The allianceexists to deliver best convention bureaupractice for the meetings industry, managingservices offered from deliberation toexecution.Singex's convention space is undergoing atwo-year programme of expansion, which ithopes will make it more competitive againstthe new Marina Bay Sands resort and itssmaller rival Suntec. However, with its three curvaceous andstylised towers joined at the top by the340m-long signature SkyPark, the casinoand events centre Marina Bay Sands will ofSingapore: tradition v innovation course have the novelty for several years yet.Singapore - fast facts. Is one of the smallest countries inthe world (700 square km). Has a population of almost fivemillion, almost all of whom live inthe city. Uses one language for each of itsfour major ethnic groups: English,Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Malayis the official language. Enjoys a remarkably open andcorruption-free environment,stable prices and a per-capitaGDP higher than that of mostdeveloped countries