Singapore reeling from cancellations as coronavirus spreads

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Singapore's central business district Singapore's central business district

Singapore’s meetings industry has been badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak with a string of major international associations events and exhibitions withdrawing from the city.

Today Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) pulled the plug on its inaugural IBTM Asia Pacific trade show, which was due to be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, April 6-8th.

It compounded a miserable start to the year for Singapore.

The Association of Corporate Counsel, The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, Alzheimers Disease International, The International Trademark Association (INTA) and the CORENET Global summit have all cancelled or postponed events in the city.

In a statement INTA said it was responding to official advise from Singapore to cancel the event.

“This decision follows the evolving developments, continuing uncertainty, and global concerns regarding the coronavirus, as well as guidance from the Singapore Ministry of Health to event organizers to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events.

“It comes after much thoughtful discussion with our internal team and consultation with outside counsel, and in agreement with INTA’s president, officers, and counsel.

“We firmly believe that we are making the most judicious decision, so as not to jeopardize the health and safety of registrants, staff, and the public.”

Singapore has the highest number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases – 84 as of February 20th – outside China.

The prosperous city-state is a meetings industry giant, regularly featuring at the summit of reputable lists ranking cities by the number of international association conferences they host.

Today its tourist board was advising event planners to take ‘all necessary precautions’ - including temperature screenings and asking delegates who have recently been in China to stay away.

As an international flight hub and business centre, Singapore is particularly exposed to outbreaks of this kind. Indeed it was a 100-delegate conference in the city that helped spread the novel coronavirus around the world, when people who attended the event contracted the virus from a Chinese colleague and took it back to South Korea, Malaysia, the UK and Spain.

However the city, which has issued an orange alert, signifying that the disease is severe and spreads easily, has acted quickly to stem the outbreak, implementing a sophisticated tracing mechanism to track down people who might be infected, and taking a zero tolerance approach to breaches of isolation rules.

The WHO has singled out the authorities in Singapore for praise.

Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the city state was, ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in addressing the coronavirus outbreak. “We are very impressed with the efforts they are making to find every case, follow up with contacts, and stop transmission,” he said.


The Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS) has been engaging with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and government agencies to provide advice and proactive measures to the meetings industry.

SACEOS members have been encouraged to stay well informed and prepared to safeguard the Singapore events community in light of the changing face of the Wuhan Coronavirus situation.

“Singapore's MICE industry has been through similar past episodes like SARS and H1N1. The experience and learnings the industry has garnered are being put into effect through a coordinated approach, to manage the current Wuhan coronavirus situation. The industry is working together to implement relevant measures should the situation worsens. More importantly, we want to ensure that the health and safety of the workers in the industry and attendees to events are safeguarded. SACEOS believes that with our collective experience and wisdom, and as a whole industry, we will continue to be agile and work with partners to face the evolving situation with greater confidence,” said Aloysius Arlando, President SACEOS.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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