A city, a country, an island—Singapore is a singular destination where East meets West and the modern world rubs shoulders with the past. The beauty here is how the city-state balances these oftentimes antipolar ideals and promulgates them to the global meetings industry by incorporating venues of incomparable historical gravitas with the new and outrageously futuristic.
In a community of five million people comprised of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures, with over 40% of them expats, Singapore’s ability to bring together such disparate elements makes it the ultimate meetings melting pot. Or wok, rather.
“Singapore is a lush tropical island that is located at the crossroads of the East-West trading routes in the heart of Asia,” says Pieter Idenburg, CEO of the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, one of the largest exhibit spaces in Singapore. “It is equipped with the best of modern infrastructure, a world-class airport, sophisticated financial services, first-class hotels and fabulous food.”
And during a recent trip this summer, it seemed to be getting even more world-class, first-class and fabulous.
ROOFTOP POOL OF THE CENTURY
There are very few meeting planners in the world who don’t want to organize an event on top of the newly opened $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands Singapore, a glimmering 2,560-room hotel, convention center and casino. It has singlehandedly reshaped the Singapore skyline with its SkyPark—a multipurpose cantilevered roofdeck extending over three football fields in length, perched over three 55-story towers overlooking Singapore’s harbor. If you want a “Wow” experience, go swimming in the world’s biggest pool that high in the sky, with views halfway to Borneo.
Back on the ground, the 4-floor casino warehouses 15,000 sf of gambling space and more than 600 tables, making it one of the biggest casino floors in the world. And for group get-togethers, there’s 1.3 million sf of convention center space, including 250 meeting rooms and a ballroom seating 6,600.
By September, Marina Bay had already signed some 370 events for the convention center, with planners equally floored by the shopping mall navigable by gondola rides through indoor canals, seven celebrity chef owned-restaurants out of a total of 50 restaurants, and a fully integrated art museum.
“No other single destination offers so many diverse attractions under one roof,” says Thomas Arasi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marina Bay Sands. “We will deliver an entertainment, leisure and business experience unlike any other in the world.”
On what used to be a mere diversion located just off the main island of Singapore, Sentosa Island has become a MICE-related juggernaut that’s transformed the country. Just a 20 minute taxi ride from the financial district, the brand new Resorts World Sentosa is a $4.3 billion beach resort, casino, entertainment complex and convention center with Asia’s first Universal Studios. So, planners can book an outdoor New York street set for 1,000 pax, or seat 1,500 inside Pantages Hollywood Theater.
For fun on Sentosa, hit Singapore’s best beaches, surf the man-made waves at the Wave House, check out the view on the Tiger Sky Tower, race downhill on the Skyline Luge or visit the Underwater Dolphin Lagoon. For golf tourneys, the two courses at Sentosa Golf Course play host to Barclay’s Singapore Open.
Sentosa Resorts World has a combined meeting space totaling 60,000 sf, including The Resorts World Ballroom for 7,300 guests. Over 1,800 hotel rooms are spread over six hotels, ranging from the Hard Rock Hotel to the modern Hotel Michael, designed by American starchitect Michael Graves. The casino is connected to all six hotels by short underground and ground level walkways, so it’s all very manageable.
“We are not positioning ourselves as an exhibition facility but rather as an all-in-one destination for international conventions, regional and local corporate events and social functions,” says spokesperson, Robin Goh.
Also new on Sentosa, the 112-room Capella Singapore was designed by English architect Sir Norman Foster, considered one of the top five draftsmen practicing in the world today. A breath of sophistication and luxury, this is a hotel I never wanted to leave. Ever. The property is a converted 19th century British Colonial Army barracks with rainforest-like grounds overlooking the South China Sea. It accommodates groups with over 14,000 sf of meeting space that includes an 8,400-sf ballroom.
If you do nothing else, book group dinners at the Cassia restaurant serving haute Cantonese. Follow that with drinks at Bob’s, inspired by post-WWII Cuban bars from the 1950s.