by Natalie Joy Lee | August 27, 2019
nlmcacoverviewWD2708 A
MCAC 2019's 50 invited international delegates having fun planting a durian tree in Singapore's State of Fun, Sentosa

International meetings professionals from North America, Europe and Asia gathered in Singapore on Aug 20-21 for Northstar Travel Group's invitation-only M&C Asia Connections (MCAC) event, connecting some of the world's top meetings planners with Asia's elite MICE providers.

The group of 50 invited buyers, who arrived on Aug 19, spent a leisurely afternoon settling into the Lion City before checking in for the night across three premier hotels: Regent Singapore (under the InterContinental Hotels Group), Orchard Hotel and Grand Copthorne Waterfront - both under the Millennium Hotels & Resorts umbrella.

During the event proper, these planners, who were sourcing programmes in Asia, touched base with exhibitors representing Asian MICE destinations, convention & visitors bureau, convention centres, DMCs and meetings hotels through a series of one-to-one appointments, in-depth expert education sessions and a host of unique experiential networking activities.

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 B
Planners sourcing programmes in Asia included Prof Vugar Mammadov from Azerbaijan and 15 other countries 

World Association of Medical Law's Prof Vugar Mammadov from Azerbaijan was especially impressed with the warm welcome by hotel host Grand Copthorne Waterfront and SingExpress Travel - the event's official destination management company (DMC).

"I already had a positive image of Singapore since my senior members held a congress here in the 90s. [Encouraged by] their good memories, I'm here to reconnect local links and with the professional and meetings community for 2024's world medical law congress."

Francis Cheong of Aavii Worldwide Sdn Bhd, Malaysia agreed, indicating that MCAC is in fact one of the few events he's accepted as an invited buyer and how engagement was really high, with plenty of personal and direct engagement in the room. "I had never thought of Singapore as a MICE destination and this has helped change that. I'm thinking of having a few events come to Singapore."

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 C
Meeting of minds over a series of one-to-one pre-made appointments, held at Orchard Hotel's refurbished ballroom.

Exhibitors were similarly thrilled with what MCAC had brought to the table.

"In Italy, we know the classic hotel chains and destinations, but going into a city like Singapore, it's a chance to see a different side of the market. It's a very vibrant city with a lot of attractions that gives us possibilities to offer to our clients - both city and beach areas such as Sentosa Island, which I didn't know about before and found amazing," said Ana Stein, project manager for UNIVERS srl.

Echoing the same sentiments, meetings broker Sarah Buchbinder from Meetings Made Easy in New Jersey shared how she'd "some clients specifically interested in Singapore as well as some other Asian destinations, and you really can't really sell it unless you see it up close," the first-timer to Singapore adding "I love the way Northstar puts their hosted-buyer programs together".

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 D
Hosted by Asia Ability, a unique team-building experience highlighted Singapore's diverse communities and challenged attendees to be skilled negotiators

Speaking of their winning proposal for this global meet, SingExpress Travel's general manager Kathryn Low said her DMC matched their understanding of buyers' demographics and business profiles with what's new in Singapore, made possible via connections with key partners including SDC. "More importantly, the Northstar team created a good foundation that made our DMC role effective."

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 E
Northstar Travel Group saluted the stars of APAC's meetings industry at M&C Asia Stella Awards on 20 August, held in conjunction with M&C Asia Connections 2019.

More than just a marketplace, other highlights of the event included a prestigious gala luncheon at 1-Group's Monti - a floating glass dome overlooking the scenic Marina Bay waterfront - celebrating Asia's most influential travel suppliers via the M&C Asia Stella Awards. Saluting the stars of APAC's meetings industry, a total of 25 awards were handed out.

Participants were also offered insights from a panel featuring leading event planners titled "Brave New World of Meetings". Moderated by Northstar Meetings Group's vice president/content director Loren Edelstein, the trio of ECG London CEO Les Sinclair, Singapore-based DMC World Express's Darren Tan, and US-based associations management company Metacred CEO J. David Rozsa, discussed destination marketing, and finding opportunities in a volatile world.

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 F
Attendees at the Stella Awards event also gleaned from a panel discussion on destination marketing, and finding opportunities in a volatile world. 


Lavish networking opportunities

There was also an unique team-building experience at The Alkaff Mansion, a historic 20th-century colonial bungalow, where attendees travelled back 200 years and took on roles as trading parties in intense negotiations.

Delegates continued mingling at daily networking opportunities over lavish cocktail sessions at venues such as InterContinental Singapore's retro-luxe bar Idlewild and Orchard Hotel Singapore's Bar Intermezzo, as well as a unique dinner by the river at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 G
Grand Copthorne Waterfront laid out a stunning spread of local delights served at live stations overlooking the Singapore River, closing with a fun percussions item.

The group was also taken to site inspections at other leading hotels and resorts including Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Orchard Hotel Singapore and The Outpost Hotel, The Village Hotel, The Capella, Resorts World Sentosa, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore and InterContinental Singapore.

Ms Buchbinder, whose company specialises in incentives, said, "We're looking for a country that's easy to fly to and feel comfortable in, and I think Singapore is that; corporate but with lots of activities."

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 H
Kickstarting their day with a refreshing yoga session, before touring Sentosa for post-FAM activities 

On top of a specially-curated city tour highlighting Singapore's development, transformation and sustainability, the planners switched out of their business outfits to explore Singapore's fun side at Sentosa, one of the city's key attractions with a myriad activities appealing to all ages.

After a tour around Village Hotel Sentosa and The Outpost Hotel Sentosa - new properties under the Far East Hospitality brand - delegates had a taste of Singapore's diverse food offerings at Resorts World Sentosa's Malaysian Food Street.

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 I
Toasting to an incredible day at Dusk Restaurant & Bar 

The evening ended with a scenic cable car ride from Sentosa towards dinner venue, Dusk Restaurant & Bar. The space, which can take up to 150 people at both the main restaurant and upper deck, allows gorgeous panoramic views of Singapore with its vantage point atop Faber Peak.


Unique venues add to memorable experiences


On the penultimate day of their stay in Singapore, delegates split into two tracks - "socialiser" and "adventurer" - for the full Sentosa experience. They had a whale of a time on Segway rides, zipping along race tracks at Skyline Luge Sentosa, defying gravity at AJ Hackett's bungy jump and giant swing, and cooling down to plantation iced teas at Ola Beach Club.

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 J
Swopping business suits out for sunblock and tons of fun exploring Sentosa's customised teambuilding activities


Right in time for sunset, everyone boarded a chartered cocktail cruise on Eagle Wings, a 68-footer luxury sailing catamaran sailing off from One ̊15 Marina, then returning for an indulgent feast at The Revelry Hall at Village Sentosa.

Sarae Gdovin, senior project manager at MDGROUP, Pennsylvania, was full of praise for Singapore, saying: "Singapore is somewhere I've always wanted to experience. I'd definitely recommend it as a destination having experienced it on this trip."

"It was so much fun," concurred Kimberly Dierks, senior programme manager for Brightspot Incentives & Events. "I'd made wonderful connections, working with different people from different countries and organisations."

nlmcacoverviewWD2708 K
Sailing out on the final day, enjoying Singapore's beauty and clinking glasses to the new friendships made

A Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) spokesperson couldn't agree more, adding that "bringing in these buyers to experience the destination for themselves is something that no marketing collateral can replicate," and that this post-FAM event has already brought over 10 potential leads of buyers considering Sentosa as an incentives option.

The impact was exactly what Northstar Travel Group's vice president Irene Chua wanted. She said: "Northstar has a consistent track record of 80 successful events in 13 countries annually. MCAC 2019 comes at an opportune time, considering the vast, burgeoning opportunities in the region.

"We are looking to ride that momentum to even greater heights and forge better, more lasting connections between our participants."