The tradeshow industry is about accelerating the sales cycle and driving local economies. With Asia rapidly increasing economic output and consumer growth, the emerging markets in the East have overtaken North America, and Singapore has established itself as the best place to get business done in Asia.
As Asia has grown in economic might, so has the number of corporations relocating from long-established economic powers, like the United States. Stalwart U.S.-based brands to open offices in Singapore in recent years include Procter & Gamble, which relocated its cosmetics headquarters from Cincinnati in 2012, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley. With thousands of global corporations based in Singapore, tradeshow success there becomes a high likelihood.
“The exhibition industry in Asia continues to be a remarkably dynamic and fast-growing market,” said Paul Woodward, managing director, UFI. “As the exhibition markets in the traditional, more mature economies have been faced with challenging economic conditions, the industry in Asia has continually managed to grow year after year.”
Heading that growth is Singapore. The International Congress and Convention Association in 2012 ranked Singapore as the top destination for conventions in Asia for the 10th straight year. Singapore is the only Asian city to rank among the world’s top five cities since 2006, along with Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. The Union of International Associations also lists Singapore as the top nation as well as top city for international meetings and conventions – well ahead of more traditional international powers, including the United States.
Singapore is considered one of the most westernized Asian states and has English as its official language, which is required learning in local schools. All official signs are in English, as are most signs in restaurants, stores and other establishments. Yet, the population also speaks Mandarin Chinese, Tamil and Malay, making Singapore an ideal location for business folk from opposite ends of the Earth to convene and communicate, and Singapore is ranked among the wealthiest nations on Earth.
There are nearly 7,000 global corporations with headquarters in Singapore, a city-state with a population of about 5.2 million and the highest concentration of millionaires in the world at about 17 percent, according to the Boston Consulting Group. And the outlook is positive for businesses in Singapore as well as the tradeshow industry. Organizations like the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and UFI, which bills itself as the “global association of the tradeshow industry,” are seeing increases in their membership and activities in Singapore and other Asian nations.
“A rising number of international exhibition organizers are looking to participate in the growth in Asia,” said Woodward. “We are also pleased to see UFI’s membership in Asia continue to grow along with the industry there.”
About 85 percent of business leaders surveyed said they expect to increase their profitability this year in Singapore and other member states comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And 93 percent indicated a “positive or very positive” outlook for investment opportunities in the Southeast Asia region, indicating more growth and more opportunities for international tradeshow organizers and the exhibitors participating in them.
Part of that positive economic outlook undoubtedly has to do with Singapore having no corporate tax and no capital gains tax in order to spur economic investment and growth. The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at nearly 40 percent and a capital gains tax of up to 20 percent. The highly regulated Singaporean society has an excellent educational system and a very low crime rate, making it one of the safest places in the world for business leaders to congregate, network and hammer out deals.
Situated along the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is a relatively short flight of no more than six hours to economic powers, such as India, Australia, South Korea, Japan and China. It is approximately a 20-hour flight from the United States, depending on where you live and the number of stops scheduled. And Singapore’s Changi Airport was named the world’s best during the 2012 World Airport Awards.
With economic might, a world-class airport, plentiful hotels and ideal location in the world’s fastest growing region, Singapore and its three primary convention center facilities make doing business there a priority for any tradeshow business or organization looking to gain market share in Asia and Australia. The Sands Expo and Convention Center, Suntec Center and Singapore EXPO are regularly cited among the world’s best while providing plentiful exhibition space and installation and dismantling services. The IAEE continues working with the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers to ensure its certified meetings planner program is equally world-class.
With so much going for it, tradeshow organizers and exhibitors considering doing business in Asia or with Asian businesses in the United States need to get involved in Singapore and ensure they are positioned to grow with the global economy instead of being hampered by outdated 20th century business practices.