Both organisers and attendees set to benefit from new tech and incentive programmes.
With regional destinations actively courting the ever-growing Chinese tourist market, Singapore has upped the ante by focusing on the business events segment. Industry members are either joining the collective effort led by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), or creating their own programmes.
STB first launched its In Singapore Incentives & Rewards (INSPIRE) programme for Greater China in September 2015, to promote Singapore’s unique attractions through curated itineraries for incentive travellers. After expanding to India, Europe and North America, the programme is now offered globally to meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) organisers.
China is Singapore’s top inbound country for visitor numbers and spending, although the proportion of MICE business is undisclosed.
“STB is always looking for innovative and impactful ways to improve the visitor experience for Chinese MICE visitors. We offer several programmes for the China market – namely, the Global INSPIRE programme, MICE WeChat Mini Program and newly-introduced MeetSG WeChat Mini Program. These initiatives complement each other and make the MICE visitor journey in Singapore seamless and memorable,” says Juliana Kua, STB regional director, Greater China.
In 2018, STB’s Greater China office teamed up with WeChat to develop the MICE WeChat Mini Program for travel intermediaries and corporate end-users. Comprehensive information on MICE venues, itineraries, ground handlers and STB’s MICE incentive schemes is presented in Chinese.
MeetSG, launched this November, targets people attending business events through the WeChat platform they are familiar with. It also enables MICE event organisers to connect directly with Chinese attendees, providing information on the venue, event schedule, news and push notifications.
Kua adds: “MeetSG is also linked to our Visit Singapore (leisure) mini programme. While MeetSG caters to the event needs of MICE travellers, the leisure mini programme caters to leisure needs by providing information such as dining options and interesting events/activities nearby.”
Both INSPIRE and MeetSG feature large attractions like Sentosa and Gardens by the Bay. The latter draws Chinese corporate groups due to its unique setting of outdoor and indoor gardens, amid the ‘Supertrees’ and cooled conservatories.
SACEOS (Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers), which jointly administers MeetSG with WeMeet, reports keen interest within the industry with “on-going discussions on how they could take advantage of the MeetSG and WeChat mini program”.
Christopher McCuin, Montgomery Asia managing director, says: “It is great to see STB forming this partnership with WeChat to help organisers reach out to the ever-growing base of Chinese business travellers.
“With all of us using our phones constantly for business, the new exhibition ‘mini programs’ will put detailed fair information at the touch of a button on one of the most widely-used social platforms in the world. We intend to work closely with STB on this opportunity.”
Intermediaries and suppliers
Some destination management companies that are strong in the Chinese market develop their own products for Chinese MICE clients. Hong Thai Travel Services director of business development, inbound (China), Jasmine Li, notes that as China is huge and diverse, incentive groups have different focuses, requirements and preferences. The company’s business is mainly from first-tier cities and established companies.
Li describes how Hong Thai handled an Alibaba meeting of IT professionals in March. Being less extrovert and expecting a high level of accuracy, they preferred social media to verbal communication. Delegates also hailed from various cities. “We created a specific WeChat service group to handle and solve issues throughout their whole stay in Singapore,” says Li.
She adds that specific skill sets are required for Chinese incentives. “It is important to understand the attributes of each group and customise service, with attention to detail.”
China-based online travel agency Trip.com processes small corporate groups from fewer than 10 people to more than 1,000. Singapore is among four most popular destinations for corporate users this year.
“Singapore is a great destination: meetings, sites and rich MICE resources attract a large number of customers for business travel, conferences and related activities. We expect and are eager to engage in greater cooperation with Singapore and more destinations to develop joint destination-marketing activities and benefits for Chinese users,” says Ted Wang, Trip.com group custom trip enterprise customer department director.
Global hotel brands are also seizing opportunities. A new strategic partnership with Alibaba will see Accor develop a significant platform through Alibaba’s comprehensive ecosystem. Besides its travel arm Fliggy, DingTalk (an all-in-one mobile workplace) will enhance guests’ experience through digitisation.
Accor’s Haoke (welcome) programme for Chinese guests also applies to M&I groups, with Chinese-language, menus, and payment methods. Haoke practice-certified hotels include Fairmont Singapore, Sofitel Singapore City Centre, Swissotel The Stamford and Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen.
With many Chinese airlines operating to Singapore and the Singapore Airlines Group’s three carriers flying direct to 27 cities in China, the market is indeed huge and diverse, offering the adroit rich pickings.
Main image: Singapore FinTech Festival 2019 was the first business event to offer the MeetSG WeChat Mini Program.