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By Ron Chen, Correspondent ASEAN Region

Singapore will not be able to rely on domestic tourism as only 176,000 domestic trips took place in 2019 when compared to 14.5 million international arrivals. Therefore, the country hosted the first physical travel trade show (Travel Revive) in Asia since the COVID-19 outbreak to boost inbound Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions (MICE) tourism. By collaborating with industry bodies across the tourism supply chain and significantly investing in ‘touchless tech’, the city-island state could serve as a demonstrable example for MICE tourism during and post-COVID-19, says GlobalData.

Held between 25th–26th November 2020 by Messe Berlin (Singapore) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB), ‘Travel Revive’ was expected to host close to 1,000 domestic and international individuals.

Travel and Tourism Analyst, Johanna Bonhill-Smith comments: “GlobalData forecasts international business arrivals to fall by -35.3 per cent in 2020 due to international travel restrictions brought about by COVID-19. The loss of MICE tourism will prove devastating for major cities across the globe that typically rely on high-volumes of business travelers.

“Only 14 per cent of international arrivals into Singapore were for business in 2019. With less tourists visiting for leisure purposes, attracting high-yield business travelers acts as a ‘stepping stone’ in tourism recovery. *GlobalData’s latest survey revealed that 95 per cent of the global respondents are currently concerned about the impact of COVID-19. The same survey also revealed that 65 per cent of global respondents are influenced by ‘how digitally advanced/smart a product or service is’.”

For MICE tourism to resume, destinations should promote social distancing measures and integrate ‘touchless tech’ at each stage of the traveler journey. This is where Singapore can put itself forward as a prime example of how things should be done.

The ‘Emerging Stronger Taskforce’ that includes various industry trade bodies worked together to create an environment where the event space remains safe and close contact is minimal. Plexi-glass shields in exhibition booths, private meeting pods and social distancing ambassadors were spread across the event.

However, greater investment in ‘touchless technology’ will have been one of the greatest facilitators for this event going ahead. Starting their journey prior to arrival at Changi Airport, attendees were able to utilize the ‘safe travel concierge’ – an online travel tool that helps travelers manage visits by customizing travel checklists of pre-entry requirements for Singapore. On arrival at the event, visitors could check-in through automated registration kiosks and use QR scanners at the site to limit the risk of close social contact.

Bonhill-Smith concludes: “Business tourists are typically high-yield travelers and hence, business tourism was an attractive market segment prior to COVID-19. It is unlikely to witness an instant resurgence in business travel worldwide as many destinations are battling with a second wave of COVID-19. Nevertheless, Singapore has made steps to become a key leader in MICE tourism recovery. If successful, its approach could be used as a shining example for future strategies across other destinations.”

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