Vaccinated travel lanes give Singapore MICE sector a boost

 Friday, November 5, 2021 



The expanded Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme here has given the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector a boost, with industry players noting growing interest among their clients.

Mr Mathias Posch, President of International Conference Services, said that several large-scale conferences are now considering Singapore as a destination, including discussions about relocating conferences from other Asian destinations to the Republic.

He said that the VTLs are an important signal to our industry that Singapore is opening up to international travel, and that helps with booking hesitancy that we have experienced in recent months. It is a good start and shows the commitment of the Government to having international travel resume.

Asia-Pacific managing director for BCD Meetings and Events, Mr Sanjay Seth, said its Singapore office alone has received a dozen new inquiries since Oct 9, when the first major expansion of the VTL scheme was announced.

The scheme, which allows quarantine-free travel between Singapore and several countries, is a significant step for the industry here, which relies heavily on foreign attendees and in-person networking.

The countries include the United States, Canada, The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany, Brunei and South Korea, as well as Australia and Switzerland, which were added to the list on Oct 26.

Managing director of Koelnmesse Singapore, Mr Mathias Kuepper, said the promising news on the VTL expansion has resulted in an uptick in inquiries from exhibitors originating from VTL countries for one of its events next year.

While welcoming the expanded VTL scheme, some industry players feel it is not enough on its own to help the sector recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Other factors, such as easing of domestic health restrictions and a clear road map, need to fall into place before the sector is primed for full recovery, they said.

Ms Sarah Chew, Executive Director of Design and Production company Kingsmen Exhibits, does not expect a huge impact with the current list of VTL countries.

With international events in Singapore previously, they rely on Asian regional attendees, she said, noting that many Asian countries are not on the current VTL list.

For one thing, domestic restrictions on the MICE sector need to be eased, said some industry players.

Mr Dylan Sharma, vice-president of advocacy and communications at the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers, said the VTLs are a “huge leap forward” in the safe reopening of MICE events.

But what is equally important is a clear road map for the reopening.

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