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SISO Update


15 Oct 2021

SISO Update

Joint Leadership Summit 2021 Recap:
Strategic pilot event of global industry leaders in Singapore marks the reopening of the ASEAN market

By Danica Tormohlen, Editor-At-Large, SISO

Four major global exhibition industry associations — including SISO, in partnership with Paris-based UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, U.K.-based Association of Event Organisers (AEO) and the Singapore Association for Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) — met face-to-face at the Joint Leadership Summit (JLS) Oct. 5-7 at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. As the first in-person event to draw global trade show and event industry leaders to Singapore since the pandemic, the meeting was truly historic. 

“The JLS is a strategic pilot event supported by the Singapore government where for the first time we are testing out a ‘free-to-roam' itinerary for international participants subject to the necessary protocols,” said Aloysius Arlando, President, SACEOS, who left the post officially last week. Protocols included stringent testing (antigen, PCR and serologytests) and tracing requirements (via app check-in's) for fully vaccinated international travelers, but key industry leaders submitted to the restrictions in order to have a seat at the table with government officials and colleagues to help move the needle — politically and economically — to help reshape the reopening of business travel and trade shows.

Supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), JLS convened regional government representatives, major global organizers and trade association leaders to discuss action plans for the safe reopening of the business events industry in the ASEAN region. SISO member companies in attendance included Emerald, Clarion Events, Informa Markets, Diversified Communications, Tarsus Group and IMEX Group.

The independent and association leaders discussed the critical need to reopen inter- and intra-regional travel routes while ensuring the health and safety of business travelers as core policy measures. The executives called on the authorities to put into place clear policy initiatives and common operating protocols across the region to be calibrated for a Covid-endemic environment.

“As we continue on our journey towards an endemic Covid-19 world, it is now time for us to bring back the core purpose of business events — driving commerce,” said Arlando. “We are delighted that regional leaders and global industry partners have come together to chart a practical roadmap towards the reopening of business events.”

JLS was more than three years in the making due to the pandemic and Covid-related restrictions. "The global leaders in attendance at the Joint Association Leadership Summit in Singapore, along with others who were not able to join, have put in a substantial effort into making this happen – this is a significant moment,” said Herve? Sedky, SISO Chair, President & CEO of Emerald.

Big picture: Covid infections in Singapore were at their peak last week with the highest daily average reported, with 3,703 infections reported on Oct. 9. One explanation: Testing has ramped up as part of the country's Covid mitigation strategy, Minister of State for Trade & Industry (MTI) and Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Alvin Tan told JLS attendees. Overall, there have been 132,205 infections and 183 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began, according to Reuters (as of Oct. 13). By comparison, in the U.S., there have been 44.6 million cases and 719,251 deaths, according to Reuters (as of Oct. 13). The good news: Singapore has administered at least 9.6 million doses of Covid vaccines so far, or about 84.8% of the country's population.

Travel then and now: Across the ASEAN region, borders largely remained closed and travel was highly restricted in 2020. Singapore reopened its borders to tourists through “Vaccinated Travel Lanes” (VTLs) in September. All vaccinated travelers are permitted to and from VTL countries on VTL designated flights. When the JLS opened last week, the VTL arrangement was only with Germany and Brunei.

Looking ahead: Two days after JLS wrapped, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the country's reopening efforts and pushed for a revised strategy of living with Covid. Starting Oct. 19, vaccinated travelers from eight countries — including the U.S., U.K, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain — will be able enter in Singapore without quarantining and only needing two Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, down from the current four. South Korea will be added to the VTL scheme beginning on Nov. 15. Read more on the new international travel efforts here

Reason to hope: The event generated news coverage by local media, including The Straits Times. Read the story here.

Asia CEO Summit to launch in October 2022
During JLS, leaders from SISO, UFI, AEO and SACEOS signed a three-year agreement to launch the Asia CEO Summit, which is hoping to attract 150 CEOs from across the globe looking to do business in the region. The inaugural event will take place Oct. 4-6, 2022, at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.

Minister Tan witnessed the signing of the agreement and met with global trade show industry leaders.

“We are on the road to an endemic world, but we aren't there yet. We are still dealing with Covid,” said Tan. “We are very focused on reopening, but on the road to an endemic world there are always bumps. There's been a lot of different movements over the last 18 months. Sometimes you get happy too soon, and sometimes you may get too sad too soon. I don't think that's helpful. What we are trying to do is look at the long game. Sometimes we've had to tap the breaks on the reopening.”

The uncertainty that comes from “tapping the breaks” can be particularly challenging for the events industry. “The major difficulty that we had in the U.K. was the lack of clarity on the roadmap and what that means, when things will change and what the changes will be based upon,” said IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer. “We are all planners, and planners are the best in the business to ensure the production of safe events. That's why we are pushing through with key MICE events, to pave the way for the resumption of MICE activities in Singapore, for the region and the world.” 

In the Asia-Pacific region, the MICE industry generated nearly $230 billion in revenue in 2017 and is expected to reach more than $440 billion by 2025, according to market research company Allied Market Research.

“This is a strategic sector. We want to continue to be a major player in the region,” said Tan.

"We have always recognized the importance of the Asia event market, and how we need a forum to bring together global leaders in the industry, to share and exchange ideas about opportunities in the ASEAN market,” said Hervé Sedky, SISO Chair, President & CEO of Emerald. “AEO, SISO, and UFI all run annual CEO summits, and these are key meeting and these are key meeting places for us as an industry, and a fixture in all of our calendars – but we were missing a critical gathering in Asia."

David Audrain, CEO of SISO, added: “I am delighted to be back in Singapore, and we appreciate the efforts of SACEOS and STB to host us. From the start more than two years ago, we saw Singapore as an excellent host and location for this type of event. We look forward to bringing back a larger delegation of SISO members to the new Asia CEO Summit.”

What's next: The Asia CEO Summit will be held in Singapore for the next three editions from 2022 to 2024. In addition, STB signed a deal with dmg events and Enterprise Singapore to anchor Gastech 2023 in Singapore.

Gamescon Asia, organized by Kolnmesse, will be held Oct. 14-17 as a hybrid event at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Bloomberg New Economy Forum will be held in-person Nov. 16-19. As the Singapore Tourism Board progressively resumes larger business events, the agency is testing new protocols and innovative solutions with industry partners.



Businesses rely on events. Mary Larkin, UFI Immediate Past President and President of Diversified Communications USA said: “Most critically, what was abundantly clear from this week's dialogue is that our customers need events. Businesses, especially SMEs, rely on events. The economy is bolstered by events. There are no other channels where businesses are able to accomplish so much, so quickly, and we have seen time and again in regions where events are restarting that business is recovering faster and innovation is pushing forward.” Taking responsibility for reopening economies. “We need to continue to take our responsibility seriously around reopening the economy for small businesses,” said Sedky. “The majority of our customers are small businesses — the vast majority in the U.S., north of 80%. It's difficult for them to get back to business without the work that we do every single day, and that's why I'm here.”

Reconnecting face to face. Carina Bauer, AEO Chair, and CEO of IMEX Group said: “Reconnecting face to face with the colleagues from across the world during the AEO/SISO/SACEOS/UFI Joint Association Leadership Summit, over the last few days has provided strong evidence to support, and a real reminder of, the power of face-to-face events. Many leaders had not met, or indeed travelled, since February 2020, and we are grateful to SACEOS and STB for enabling this leadership summit to take place.”

Demand to come together. Doug Emslie, CEO, Tarsus Group, said: “Dubai has put in place protocols, which are more stringent than what we're seeing in the West around testing and mask wearing. It's actually business friendly, and they recognize and have a risk management follow-up in terms of the people coming through. The impact on business is transformational because you can see that the country is open. My company will run the first major air show in the world, the Dubai Air Show, in six weeks. It will not be as big as the 2019 event. In actuality, it's going to be bigger. That is because there is a huge pent-up demand for companies to come back together.”


Need to Know: Current state and predictions for the ASEAN market 
During a session titled ASEAN: Turning potential into performance KPMG Partner Paul Kent offered insight into the economic analysis and data projections for the ASEAN market, which includes Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. Here are six data points worth noting:

  1. ASEAN is the world's 5th largest economy with GDP of $3.2 trillion in 2019.
  2. ASEAN's middle class is expected to more than double and reach 334 million (51% of the population) by 2030.
  3. Among the total population, 70% are projected to live in urban areas by 2050, up from 49% in 2019.
  4. ASEAN has the world's third largest labor force, ahead of the U.S. and U.K.
  5. The International Air Travel Association (IATA) projects passenger travel in the Asia Pacific to grow 4.5% year-over-year from 2021 to 2039 and recovery to 2019 levels in 2023.
  6. ASEAN's real GDP growth rate averaged 5.7% from 2000 to 2019, and the IMF forecasts the average growth rate of the ASEAN-5 to be 5.1% from 2021 to 2023 in spite of Covid challenges.



ECA's advocacy work on behalf of the industry continues to gain traction in Washington, DC. Here is the latest from Capitol Hill.

International travel
Earlier today, the White House announced it will lift Covid-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international visitors beginning on November 8. A good overview of the initial details can be found here. The new date and rules also apply to the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico, according to NPR.

In addition, all vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will be accepted by the U.S. when considering whether an international traveler is considered “fully vaccinated.” This includes: Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca (including Covishield), Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Hospitality & Commerce Job Recovery Act (HCJRA) update
ECA continues to work with NV Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto to get the HCJRA's “convention and trade show” tax credit into forthcoming budget reconciliation legislation when it is considered by the Senate. While Congressional leaders publicly say votes on the reconciliation bill will take place this month, a more realistic timeline is somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In addition, Congressional efforts are coalescing around a post-reconciliation effort to provide additional grant funding for hard-hit industries (similar to the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund). ECA is currently working with several lawmakers on draft legislation that would propose to create a dedicated pool of funding for the industry. We look forward to updating the SISO community on further developments in the weeks ahead.

Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA)
In the near future, NY Rep. Carolyn Maloney is preparing to file her revised PRIA legislation in the House of Representatives. Her bill would help restore communicable disease coverage to event cancelation insurance by requiring all insurers to make available parametric insurance that would cover some fixed costs and payroll expenses for covered public health emergencies. ECA is currently reviewing the bill and will be actively engaged on this important issue going forward.


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Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay strong. Stay connected.



  • “Without a doubt the most valuable three days of the year for networking, learning, and meeting colleagues.”
    Tony Calanca, Calanca & Associates LLC
  • “Two of the best acquisitions Access Intelligence had executed came directly from contacts and discussions held at the SISO CEO Summit. Beyond that important networking for transactions, I learn best practices from the best in the industry. The ROI for membership is immeasurable.”
    Don Pazour, CEO, Access Intelligence
  • “The impact of SISO is so much bigger than its size. It feels more like a global council of important tribes than a traditional trade association.”
    David Adler, CEO & Founder, Bizbash Media
  • “Our industry thrives on the personal relationships that face-to-face builds, and the CEO Summit is the ultimate place to build YOUR network!”
    Tom Mitchell, President, Messe Dusseldorf North America
  • “As busy, independent, for-profit organizer, SISO keeps our company connected to all the key players working in this industry and allows great relationships and ongoing learning of best practices from the best in the business. All invaluable assets to help move our business forward."
    Howard Hauben, CEO, H2 Events
  • “The SISO membership represents the entire for-profit tradeshow community and the annual SISO conferences are must-attend events for their educational and networking value.”
    Joel A. Davis, Founder & CEO, JD Events
  • Being a member of SISO has allowed me to navigate the dynamic landscape of our industry in the most effective way possible. Personally, it’s been a journey of continuous learning, networking, and collaboration that fosters deep relationships with industry leaders. Professionally, the insights I’ve gained, the resources I have accessed, and the collaborative initiatives and advocacy work have helped to take my organization to new heights. SISO, to me, is an indispensable asset for my career and business.
    Liz Irving, President, Clarion Events