Haji Lane in Kampong Glam (Photo courtesy of Danny Santos)
Booming Singapore features a rich, fascinating melting potSingapore is a booming cosmopolitan city, conveniently located and easily accessible to key Asian markets. But that only begins to tell the story of why it’s one of the hottest international meetings destinations. “Together with our unique combination of state-of-the-art meeting facilities, excellent infrastructure, pro-business ecosystem and vibrant variety of leisure offerings, Singapore is well-positioned to meet the emerging needs of the increasingly discerning traveler,” says Kershing Goh, regional director of the Americas for the Singapore Tourism Board. More American planners are arranging trips to Singapore for their groups, but many are just beginning to discover the city’s exciting, culturally diverse attractions. Their discovery is driven by attendees’ desire to get out of their hotels and have authentic cultural experiences. “There has been an interest in enhancing meeting itineraries and expanding the program beyond the ballroom or boardroom,” Goh says, adding that groups are interested in having local experiences that enable them to learn about and appreciate the city. Here’s an overview of some of Singapore’s top cultural attractions, as well as a summary of some its top convention centers and hotels.
A Mixture of Cultural AttractionsSingapore Botanic Gardens was founded and laid out in the English Landscape Movement’s style by an agri-horticultural society in 1859. The tropical garden, located at the fringe of the city’s main shopping belt, showcases the best and most spectacular of tropical flora set in stunning verdant landscape. Guided tours are available on most Saturdays throughout the year, and a full slate of special events is offered. Holland Village is named after Hugh Holland, a former resident who was an architect and amateur actor, but as the name suggests, the Dutch established the first community in the village. It’s a charming and cozy expatriate refuge, tucked away behind the national Botanic Gardens. Groups enjoy roaming the busy streets, shopping in unique stores and dining in the many restaurants. A spinoff of the popular Pinacotheque de Paris, Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris is an art, history and civilization museum. It opened last year and features a wide variety of artwork, ranging from Rembrandt, Picasso and Monet paintings to the native arts of Southeast Asia. Special exhibitions from the Paris museum augment the permanent collection. Singapore’s Chinatown features Buddhist temples, authentic Chinese food and great, inexpensive shopping. Groups that want to learn about the history of Chinatown and the group of Chinese immigrants who were the main founders of Singapore should visit Chinatown Heritage Centre on Pagoda Street. The center has recreated the original interiors of the building’s shop-house tenants of the 1950s. Group tours can be arranged. One of the most colorful and exciting areas of Singapore, Little India is located east of the Singapore River and north of Kampong Glam. It has a distinctly Indian feel, with most business signs written in Tamil, and restaurants and shops selling all sorts of Indian items. Groups enjoy visiting the busy Mustafa Centre market, which is open day and night year-round. In Kampong Glam (sometimes called the Arab Quarter), music fills the air on Haji and Bali lanes, which also are great for unique dining and shopping experiences, particularly for Persian carpets. Groups can visit Sultan Mosque, built in 1825, where they can view the distinctive golden dome and highly skilled craftsmanship, though non-Muslims are not permitted in the prayer hall.
Marina Bay Sands Resort Complex
An Abundance of Top VenuesSingapore provides meeting planners with a plethora of venue choices. The city boasts major, cutting-edge convention centers. Sands Expo and Convention Centre, located in the heart of the Central Business District and next to Marina Bay Sands Singapore hotel, offers 1.29 million sq. ft. of space, 250 meeting rooms and room for 2,000 exhibition booths. Singapore Expo, situated five minutes from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), provides 1.32 million sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Centrally located, Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre has 1.08 million sq. ft. of meeting space on six levels, and includes a convention hall for up to 10,000 people, an exhibition hall, meeting rooms, a 596-seat theater and a ballroom. Most groups stay at hotels within walking distance of these convention centers. Some of the top hotels with more than 500 guest rooms are Conrad Centennial Singapore, Pan Pacific Singapore, Marina Mandarin Singapore, Fairmont Singapore and The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore. A new property, The South Beach, is located in the hub of downtown Singapore. Designed by Philippe Starck, it blends contemporary architecture with restored heritage buildings, and provides outstanding views of the Lion City’s skyline. It has 654 guest rooms, including 49 suites and two sky gardens, and 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. FourPoints by Sheraton Singapore, Riverview is scheduled to open by the Singapore River, near the Central Business District, in July 2016. Occupying the site of the former Riverview Hotel, it is undergoing a $17.8 million renovation, and will feature 476 guest rooms and 9,429 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Photo courtesy of Singapore FlyerSingapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel, features 28 capsules that provide panoramic views of iconic places such as the Singapore River, Raffles Place, Marina Bay and Empress Palace. Each capsule accommodates 28 passengers. Group rides, including meals, can be arranged. Recently enhanced with a new, contemporary building and thoroughly renovated, Asian Civilizations Museum is devoted to preserving the cultural heritage of Asia, especially the ancestral roots of Singaporeans in China and Southeast Asia. Guided tours are available and group visits can be arranged. Marina Bay Sands Resort Complex includes the 2,561-room Marina Bay Sands Singapore hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay Sands Skypark, an observation deck 57 levels above the heart of the city. At 8 p.m., a light show illuminates the water and several iconic landmarks.
Photo courtesy of Afur WongGroups wanting to step back in time often head to Pulau Ubin, an island off Changi district in eastern Singapore that is often considered the city’s last kampung (village). Ubin will take your group back to the 1960s, when the pace of life in the Singapore area was much slower, and people appreciated simple pleasures. The village is a great spot for a day trip: Attendees can walk or pedal on rustic roads under swaying coconut palms, check out secluded beaches and explore shady trails in overgrown rubber plantations. The island can be reached by public bumboats from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.