Making a Splash in the Region
Singapore Exhibition Services has successfully put on some of the biggest shows in the region, including BroadcastAsia/CommunicAsia, Food&HotelAsia and OSEA. The company's chief executive, Ms Lindy Wee, talks about how her company has succeeded in overseas markets.
Singapore Exhibition Services (SES) runs a number of the biggest shows in Southeast Asia. Can you share some of your observations about the regional markets that you’ve worked in?
We have tradeshows in Myanmar and Vietnam, both of which are emerging markets for event organisers. When we first went to Vietnam, there were already many similarly themed exhibitions. For example, there were 10 exhibitions staged in a year for the food and hospitality industries when we launched Food&HotelVietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. Hence, there was a need to distinguish ourselves to stand out from the rest.
For Myanmar, we are pacing ourselves. From what we have observed, there is a need to improve on infrastructure, particularly exhibition venues. We were in a convention centre for our first Manufacturing Myanmar exhibition in 2014, and we made use of all available space, with literally no room for growth.
What preparations can event organisers undertake before entering these markets?
For emerging markets such as Vietnam and Myanmar, besides extensive groundwork, the organisation must also be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Companies need to devise viable strategies to grow these trade shows into events that advocate value creation and provide the local attendees with different perspectives and insights into the industries they serve.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
One highlight was in the year 2000 – we moved our event Food&HotelAsia to the Singapore Expo when it first opened. It was a sizeable 60,000 square-metre venue, and it was a big challenge to fill it up – but we did it! We were the first organiser to accomplish this feat, which was not only deeply meaningful to me, but also a very important development for the industry. The Singapore Expo was a world-class exhibition venue when it opened.
The Singapore MICE industry has come a long way, but in what areas can we improve?
Maintaining relevance is an art that has to be constantly honed, in tandem with the fast evolving global economic and business landscapes. This is a challenge that exhibition organisers are facing now, and will continue to face in the future. Size is also important in order to attract even more visitors from abroad. Industry players need to place a higher emphasis on clustering related industries’ sectorial events to be staged concurrently. In addition, exhibition organisers should also explore ways to introduce more associated seminars and meetings for both the private and public sectors. International business matchmaking sessions and social networking events would also contribute to the overall success of events.
Looking ahead, what will help Singapore maintain its edge as a destination for events?
Continual support from the government in the upgrading of infrastructure is extremely vital to help boost the industry and sustain its progression. Despite having multiple world-class exhibition facilities, Singapore could benefit from having a purpose-built exhibition venue of about 120,000 to 150,000 gross square metres that would allow us to stage even larger exhibitions.