Reimagining the future of meetings

In this interview, Wee Min shares his thoughts on how the meetings industry will change in a post-COVID-19 landscape and how Marina Bay Sands sets the stage for returning events.


wee min interview

Q: How has the MICE industry been affected by COVID-19? In your opinion, how can the industry approach this global phenomenon and emerge stronger? 

The MICE industry has definitely taken a hit on all fronts since the start of the year – event organisers / planners, venue operators and the peripheral businesses supporting the industry – as a result of travel restrictions, supply chain disruptions and border closures. Faced with an unprecedented global phenomenon, event planners had to reconsider all options while balancing two priorities, the health and safety of their delegates and minimising any financial or business impact. 

Recovery for the MICE industry will not be immediate but instead will be in phases. It has to be a combined effort in order to restart the industry and begin hosting in-person functions again. Venues will play a key role in the recovery of the events industry. Venue operators need to exercise greater flexibility and reinvent themselves in order to respond effectively to changing customer expectations. Continuous engagement and open communication on precautionary measures implemented by venues to ensure safe distancing and hygiene standards will also give event planners and delegates an additional level of security.


Q: How different will events be in a post-COVID-19 world?

Safe distancing measures and reduction of crowd capacity will require event organisers to think creatively when they plan their next event. Venue operators will need to work with clients to re-look the entire event design, from onsite registration process, crowd management to having meeting rooms fully equipped with video conferencing facilities.

COVID-19 will quicken the pace of digital transformation in the industry. Technology will be utilised for pre-event registration to create a contactless customer experience and for contact tracing purposes. There will also be a re-emergence of hybrid meetings – a combination of physical and virtual components, as event planners leverage on the almost limitless reach that virtual streaming offers to engage their wider community and gain a bigger audience than they otherwise would have.

Connectivity is the new baseline. If it had not been a pre-requisite for site selection in the pre-COVID-19 world, it will certainly be top-of-mind now and for the future. Marina Bay Sands’ upgraded Wi-Fi infrastructure and bandwidth is not only vast, secure and high speed – it can also be fractionalised and customised to suit individual event needs. As the single largest owner of first-to-market equipment in lighting, video, sound and logistics equipment within Asia, we have made and will continue to make the investment to ensure that we are well-equipped to meet the varying technical demands from event organisers with their new event set-up.

With the health and safety of the delegates taking centre stage in future events, more clients will be looking to work with venues with recognised hygiene accreditations. Our property is certified SG Clean by the Singapore Government, which assures clients of Marina Bay Sands’ commitment towards hygiene. As we’re gearing up for our IR re-opening, we are building on another layer of initiatives and process re-design to ensure an even higher level of sanitisation.


Q: What are some of the measures Marina Bay Sands will be implementing to ensure the health and safety of delegates after re-opening?

We will re-open with an even more comprehensive suite of hygiene and precautionary measures across our operations.

Enhanced protection and temperature screening

  • Delegates are required to have their temperature taken via thermal scanners placed at the entrance of Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
  • Masks will be made available for delegates at our Business Centre.
  • Hand sanitisers are placed at various locations including meeting rooms, registration tables, coffee break areas, and in elevators.
  • We are also working closely with clients to establish contact tracing models by leveraging on clients’ event registration processes. All visitors will need to provide key information to the SafeEntry record upon entry and exit. If an individual is suspected to have COVID-19, our Facilities team will be mobilised to deep clean the affected meeting space(s) based on National Environment Agency (NEA) cleaning guidelines. 

Enhanced Hygiene Protocols

  • Automated self-cleaning handrail machines will be installed at all escalators in Sands Expo and Convention Centre to ensure that high touch points such as escalator handrails are constantly cleaned and sanitised.
  • All audio visual equipment will be cleaned and sanitised after each use.
  • Electrostatic sprayers will be used to disinfect meeting services spaces including our business centre, podiums, waiting areas, exhibit halls and lobbies.
  • To maintain clean and fresh air for our delegates, we will increase the frequency of air filter replacement and Air Handling Unit (AHU) cleaning at our exhibition halls and ballrooms. We have also increased external air flow into the building to maximise fresh-air intake.
  • Primary elevator lobbies will be staffed during peak hours to provide assistance and additional sanitisation, such as wiping of buttons.

Safe Distancing Measures

  • As an operational guideline, all room capacities including in our business centre will be reduced to prevent any potential overcrowding.
  • With input from our clients, we will redesign all onsite registration processes with safe distancing measures and implement queue management systems where delegates queue at least one metre apart.
  • Our new event set-ups aim to socially distance delegates as much as possible. Theatre-style set-ups will have chairs spaced one metre apart and maintain a 1.5 metre distance from one row to the next. Banquet table capacity will be reduced, with the distance between tables doubled. Our meeting rooms will also observe social distancing and be equipped with teleconferencing capabilities.
  • Digital signage across our MICE venue will display safe distancing reminders and what we are doing to keep our venue clean.

Modified F&B offerings

  • Our MICE team has been working with chefs and the banquet team to redesign the way we serve food to our guests. All meeting buffets will be re-designed into set lunches or modified buffet offerings instead of self-service.
  • Menus will include healthier options, prepared in accordance with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board’s Healthier Choice guidelines.

Having an operationally safe venue and sanitised operations will be the baseline moving forward for all venues hosting large business events. It is the collaborative partnership that we have with our clients, partners and stakeholders that will enable us to co-create new experiences for our respective client communities and truly set us apart. Together, we will reimagine the future, just like how we redefined business events experiences in the last 10 years together. 

Ong Wee Min is the Vice President of Conventions & Exhibitions, MICE, Marina Bay Sands. Wee Min is responsible for the overall management of the Sands Expo & Convention Centre to ensure its continued success as the top business events and MICE venue in the region.