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12th ITB-Asia 2019, Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Singapore

Annually held three day B2B travel trade show and convention, the 12th ITB-Asia on the theme “Bold Thoughts, Bold Moves,” was held from 16 to 18 October, 2019, at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Singapore. Organized by Messe Berlin (Singapore) Pte Ltd and supported by the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau. International exhibitors from all sectors within the travel-value chain commerce, and Asia Pacific’s leading travel companies and emerging small and medium-sized enterprises meet with top international buyers from the MICE, Leisure and Corporate Travel markets, to establish high-quality contacts and conduct business.

The Show featured educative key note addresses, and hundreds of exhibiting companies from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, covering not only the leisure market, but also MICE and corporate travel. Exhibitors from every sector of the industry, including destinations, airlines and airports, hotels and resorts, theme parks and attractions, inbound tour operators, inbound DMCs, cruise lines, spas, venues, other meeting facilities and travel technology companies. https://www.itb-asia.com


The opening ceremony was graced by four guests-of-honour:

-Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Republic of Singapore;

-Michael Müller, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany;

-Dr Christian Göke, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Messe Berlin GmbH and

-Keith Tan, Chief Executive of Singapore Tourism Board.

According to Katrina Leung, MD Messe Berlin (Singapore), ITB Asia’s organiser: “ITB Asia continues to maintain its position as the leading travel trade show in the region. Working in close collaboration with international exhibitors, travel companies and international buyers from across the MICE, leisure and corporate travel markets, we look forward to unveiling this year’s engaging and exciting programmes that will benefit all. With the expansion of the show and the launch of MICE Show Asia, we’re delighted to welcome our visitors . . .”


A 38% rise in exhibitors from Europe summing up a total of 1,300 exhibiting companies showcasing travel products, more than 1,250 buyers and accredited International Media participated this year’s show-the largest ever. To accommodate its growth, ITB Asia 2019 expanded its space with two floors of the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. More than 27,000 business appointments made at ITB Asia 2019, exceeding past years’ performances, which recorded more than 7,000 minutes of conference, about 11,000+ attendees and 25,000+ business appointments. www.itb-asia.com,

Emphasising the global reach of ITB Asia, over 110 National Tourism Organisations (NTO) and Regional Tourism Organisations (RTO) exhibited this year, including first-time appearances for NTOs from Armenia, Czech Republic, Malta, Russia and the Balkan States – Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and RTOs from Busan, Frankfurt, LA and more. Some of the exhibitors and presenters worth mentioning, in terms of hospitable interaction, booth decor, presentation and product display included: Thailand, Singapore, Russia pavilions (Kamchatka Tours); Amara Sentosa (Hotel group), Far-East Hospitality (The Outpost Hotel Sentosa); Genting Cruise Lines; Jewel Changi Airport; Wildlife Reserves Singapore; ezlink Singapore; Accommodation Kuukkeli Lapland; Finland;  Bangkok Airways, Kohinoor Continental India; Oakwood Hotels; Altara Suites, Eden Tour Armenia; Vision Travel Kazakhstan; Department of Culture-Tourism Abu Dhabi, Traveloka, to name a few.


 Conference keynoters and partners pushing boundaries of the travel industry 

Under the theme of “Bold Thoughts, Bold Moves,” key industry leaders shared innovative ideas and knowledge on practical applications to keep pace with industry changes.

Opening Day (16 October) keynote line-up included Booking.com and IBM, addressing the industry’s common challenges such as readying businesses for their next wave of growth; rethinking and reinventing distribution strategies; and how the travel industry can capitalise on the digital revolution to succeed. www.itb-asia.com/conference-programme

On Day 2 (17 October), delegates attended discussions, delivered by leading companies including Google and Wego – relating to the ever-evolving market. Pakistan is the featured country in the Muslim Destination Spotlight. The presenter highlighted the recent ease of visa and freedom of travel movement in the country. The country deserved a much better perspective than it was delivered during the talk show.

On the final Day 3 (18 October), Booking.com, OYO China, and Tujia lead the conversation on maximising opportunities to meet the needs of a new generation of Chinese travellers.

Other noteworthy sessions during the show included those led by ITB Asia’s partners in the Destination Marketing and Muslim Travel conference tracks.

Destination Marketing track featured a series of tours and activities led by iVenture Card, RezgoTourRadar and Trip Ninja. The discussion related to multi-city travel, what experiences can learn from hotel distribution and how to get the most for brands via online travel agencies (OTAs). In the Muslim Travel track, CrescentRating, in its fourth year of partnership with ITB Asia, presents “Halal In Travel Asia Summit”. Attendees of ITB Asia 2019 gain key insights from the official release of Mastercard and CrescentRating’s Muslim Women in Travel Report, and CrescentRating’s report on Gen Z Muslim Travelers.

New initiatives at ITB-Asia 2019

With the fast-growing demands of the MICE and corporate travel sectors, ITB Asia 2019 launched the inaugural MICE Show Asia, a MICE-dedicated show moderated by Martin Donovan and on the panel: Nichapa Yoswee, SVP – Business, Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB); Yumiko Iwata, Convention Specialist, Chiba Convention Bureau; Ksenya Boykova, Head of External Relations & MICE; Moscow Project Office for Tourism and Hospitality Development; Deborah Elias, President, Elias Events

The visionary TCEB, represented by Nichapa Yowsee commented on TCEB success through working with thought leaders with a dynamic approach translating trends from international partners and transforming unrelatable ideas to relate. Khun Nichapa enlightened the attendees what it takes for a successful MICE destination, summarizing on what do buyers see in MICE? How essential it is for clients to participate in the WOW moments and Return on Business with a sustainable approach. Clients should be given the option of variety of Destination, Food safety reassuring business continuity. The TCEB is working with several partners to win bids that would bring 18 national conventions to Thailand between 2020-26. Other experts on the panel shared their knowledge and attendees learnt about forecasts for the global meeting and events industries in 2020, and how digital transformation is impacting the industry.

In addition to the launch of MICE Show Asia, ITB Asia 2019 also introduced the

Buyers Elite Partner Programme. Forty one partners as part of the program provided a forum to develop stronger trade ties with recommended buyers and to maximize business opportunities together.

Future Initiative   

ITB Asia has announced that it will launch Travel Tech Asia in 2020. A complement to the existing ITB Asia and MICE Show Asia, it will be part of Asia Pacific’s largest travel trade show dedicated to travel technology. New buyers in charge of purchasing travel technology will be introduced to the latest innovations, emerging trends, leading industry brands and innovative startups that are gathered at one place to create new possibilities of travel.

For more information, visit www.miceshowasia.com,  www.traveltechasia.com,

ITB-Asia Media Conference – Far East Hospitality

Arthur Kiong, CEO – Far East Hospitality addressed the Media Conference with the announcement of the launch of the Clan Hotel Singapore, slated to open around June 2020. Experiential Hospitality is the philosophy behind the Clan Hotel – rethinking a modern luxury hotel with a nostalgic story to tell the up and coming generation of travelers. “Discerning and savvy, they are willing to pay more to enjoy unique or memorable experiences. This new generation of travellers defines luxury beyond the luxury sense,” said Mr. Kiong. He added, “To meet the growing momentum of experience-driven travel, we challenged ourselves to introduce a new perspective on luxury with the Clan Hotel.

Through carefully curated touchpoints, we want to connect more travellers to unique experiences that deliver both, a deeper cultural connection and a strong sense of place – staying true to our customer-centric approach of Singapore-inspired hospitality.” www.theclanhotel.com.sg  The Clan Hotel on Facebook.

Far East Hospitality Holdings Pte Ltd (Far East Hospitality) is an International hospitality owner and operator with a diverse portfolio of 10 unique and complementary brands of hotels, serviced residences, and apartment hotels, including Outpost Sentosa Hotel, Oasia, Quincy, Rendezvous, Village, Far East Collection, Adina Apartment Hotels, Medina Serviced Apartments, Travelodge Hotels, Vibe Hotels and TFE Hotels Collection.

Far East Hospitality owns more than 10 hospitality assets and operates a combined portfolio of close to 14,000 rooms under its management across 90 hotels and services residences in seven countries: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, with more in its development pipeline.

Far East Hospitality is a 70-30 joint venture formed in 2013 between Far East Orchard Limited (a listed company under Far East Organization) and The Straits Trading Company Limited. In the same year, Far East Hospitality, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Far East Hospitality Investments (Australia) Pte Ltd, completed a 50-50 joint venture with Australia’s Toga Group to form Toga Far East Hotels (TFE Hotels).


One of the world’s most expensive countries, Singapore is a short-haul travel destination with an average length of stay about 9 nights, however visitor arrivals amounts to more than three times the total local population of 5.8 million (2019).

According to STB, the tourism sector in 2018 achieved record highs in International Visitor
Arrivals (IVA) and Tourism Receipts (TR) for the third year consecutively.
From January to December 2018, IVA increased 6.2 per cent over the same
period last year to reach 18.5 million visitors. Tourism Receipts (TR) reached
S$26.9 billion, a marginal growth of 0.5 per cent compared to the same period
last year. The increase in TR was due to growth in Sightseeing, Entertainment and
Gaming, and Other TR Components. However, this was offset by declines
in Shopping, Accommodation and Food & Beverage components.

As visitor arrival outpace room supply in Singapore, holidays in the country is more expensive than its neighboring countries.

According to reviews that the work force in the hospitality industry has a robotic characteristic, this may be the result due to high occupancy and possibly a stressed out work force in the industry. However, the hotels I experienced during my recent visit, including the Outpost Hotel Sentosa and the Amara Sentosa, had all the elements of warm and friendly hospitality. Some of the more expensive and talk about abode like the Mandarin Oriental, first hand noting, disappointingly out dated and unfriendly, inhospitable PR attitude.

Efficient public transport comprising of MRT, LRT, busses, monorail allows economy travel at ease and comfort. The EZ Link Tourist Pass (www.ezlink.com.sg) further eases travel on the said mode of public transport. Among the top attractions: Street Art (murals and colorful windows) not to miss Haji Lane, Tikka Center Little India and China Town. Gardens by the Bay, the Merlion by the Marina Bay, Jurong Bird Park, the Night Safari and Sentosa Island.


 Singapore is the ASEAN’s hub of cruising. Genting Cruise Lines, which claims to have introduced MICE on Cruise, is the operator of Dream Cruises, Star Cruises and Crystal Cruises that offers from week-end to six nights cruise itineraries, with Port of Calls including some of the World Heritage Sites like Penang, Melaka, Palawan, and sailing to popular destinations like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines.

Dream Cruise embark from Marina South Pier. The one year old Genting Dream is a beautiful mega cruise ship (335 meters long, 39.7 meters wide) that carry about 3300 passengers with about 1700 crew on board.

The cruise sails reaching a speed more than 23 knots scheduled to Port of Calls (POC): Penang (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), Langkawi Island (Malaysia), Port Klang (KL, Malaysia) and return to Singapore on Day 6.

Genting Cruise has an arrangement with the Port Authority in Malaysia and so (most) visitors (check details) can disembark without a visa and make own arrangement to discover the t own. Taking the shore excursion at the POC destinations is perhaps one of the must-do on a Cruise holiday. Each POC on this cruise is a world class destination and though, a day tour is not enough, it’s certainly a good experience for a first timer to be acquainted with destinations like Penang, Phuket, Langkawi Island and KL.

The next day, I disembark to explore Penang on my own. A stroll along Jalan Kapitan Keling is a glimpse into Penang’s rich heritage etched on buildings, including the former State masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang’s oldest Guan Ying temple, Malaysia’s oldest Anglican Church. This road merges into Jalan Lebun Cannon, a heritage enclave lined with vibrant red brick shop houses and traditional Peranakan houses.

Malaysian Batik is the best buy in town. There is a good collection at Souvenir Shop (Ms.Tang 012-4053376 / Fb:owldepotpg) opposite Rayyan’s Gourmet Restaurant, Lebun Cannon. Sam’s Batik House is another Batik / Indian garment Shop at 183-185 Penang Road (samsbatikhouse@msn.com).

While cruising at sea, activities on board includes entertainment shows at the Zodiac Theater, Cinema at Deck 6 and Zodiac theater, Chinese acrobatic performance and Ball Room dancing performance at Bar360.

Morning exercise including Tai Chi and other fun activities by the Main Pool – the area is fitted with Jacuzzi pools.

Activity not-to-miss – the exciting water slide. Climb the Ship’s highest point to immerse into the tube and slide down in great speed. Make sure you have your arms folded on to the chest. I note kids, including adults, immersed into this fun activity so much so, they can be unstoppable! For adventure loving souls, there are rope Course, Zipline or Wall Climbing. On Deck 6, there is a Karaoke private room, but you need to book this on payment.


The Outpost Hotel Sentosa (Managed by Far East Hospitality)

Launching of three hotels on Sentosa Island this year (2019) by Far East Hospitality has eased, to some extent, the acute shortage of room supply. The Outpost Hotel, Village Hotel and The Barracks Hotel at Sentosa, located within walking distance to each other, just a few minutes’ walk away from Imbiah monorail station and Palawan Beach.

The Outpost Hotel stands with its exterior designed in deep contrast of black and white. Welcome drink follows efficient checking in to one of the luxury 193-keys comfort zone. The host invite the guest to select 5 items for the complimentary Mini Bar in the room.

Along with the key card, guests are provided with a monorail pass, for convenient transfer from Vivo City to Imbiah station, near by the Hotel.

Most of the rooms afford a pleasant view overlooking the pool and the South China Sea in the distant horizon. Fitted with modern trimmings, the room comprises of fine amenities, including Large flat screen TV, gourmet tea and Espresso coffee machine, bath products with a concept of well being. The Hotel has taken a step ahead in being environmental friendly and does not have bottled drinking water in the room – instead, the tap water is filtered making it “premium quality” drinking water. With more than one pool, the adults only Pamukkale Pool can be more relaxing with no children splashing around. The upcoming rooftop restaurant currently only serves Buffet Breakfast but it will soon open for lunch and dinner time in early 2020.

Amara Sanctuary, Sentosa

A holiday retreat on a resort Island in a sanctuary abound tropical forest seems as if an out of Singapore experience, away from the hustle and bustle of the man made concrete jungle.

A ride on mono rail from Singapore’s Vivo City at Harbor Front, I got off at Imbiah Station by the Sentosa Merlion. Traveling light, it takes a few minute walk to the grounds of Amara Sanctuary Sentosa, intimately set in colonial style heritage building – meticulously transformed into a modern five star Resort.

Soon on arrival at the spacious lobby of Amara Sanctuary, I am proficiently checked-in to my suite with direct pool access – the infinity pool abound lush vegetation, located in the Larkhill terrace block. The 140 rooms at this 5-Star sanctuary comes into a variety category of mansion, villas, suites and deluxe room, each inspired with glimpses of Singapore’s history during the colonial eon and trimmed with modern fittings with room and bath amenities to cater maximum comfort to relax and rejuvenate. A buggy is available for guest’s convenience to move around the sanctuary at ease.

A first-hand experience at the Resort’s All-Day Dining – Shutter Restaurant is a journey down the lane to innovative dining concept based on authentic Singapore’s local delights including Laksa Singapura (fish cakes, dried bean curd, king prawns in thick coconut broth); the unique and irresistible Chempedak Crème Brulee (Jack Fruit, French custard, caramelized sugar), as well as modern innovative and healthy recipes like Vegan Burger and regional and  international favorites like Matcha Lava Cake (Azuki beans, matcha powder, a scoop of ice-cream served with gooseberry and strawberry). Buffet Breakfast has a full variety of a 5-Star value package.

Some of the top attractions are located just a stone throw away from the resort including Palawan Beach, roller coaster ride, Merlion Sentosa Sound and Light Show at Imbiah and the Universal Studios (Singapore).

On the day of departure, the Resort is busy with a large wedding reception. A stand alone building, including function rooms and a Grand Ballroom with a luxurious Reception area, offers fully serviced MICE and banquet facility.


Haji Lane, Arab Street, Clark Quay and Little India are among the popular dining options for gourmands. The multi-cultured country is blessed with regional flavors with international favorites – some tried and tasted as listed:

1001 Of Arabia

Syrian Chef Hesham Seyam (Director) offers appetizing culinary options including Syrian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Turkish and gluten free vegan food. A combo plate efficiently prepared and served with a generous portion of: Chicken & lamb kebab with rice. Finishing off with refreshing qehwa (tea) concluded a fine evening in nice atmosphere at Arab District (Baghdad Street), before retiring for the day. Fb: Arabian 1001.

Sultan Turkish Restaurant

Adorned with fancy Moroccan chandelier, this traditional Turkish (halal) Café-Restaurant founded by Faheem Hurzuk of Arab origin, present the menu with a passion for authentic Turkish food also comprises of Middle-east and Singaporean cuisines. The signature dish, recommended by the Chef: Mr. Cemal:”Incik” – tried and tasted to endorse “the most tender baked lamb shank in Singapore”, and the delightful Turkish dessert: Kunafe (similar to Indian suttar firni) served with 2 scoop of ice-cream. Efficient service-got served within 10 minutes. Located in Arab district at Bussorah Street Fb Sultan Turkish Restaurant.

Bar-B-Q Tonight

Located in the corner of Robert’s Lane (Across the road near Mohammad Shamsuddin Dept. Store) the Pakistani Restaurant offers authentic Pakistani-Indian food, specialty like Lamb kebab. Typical dishes like Haleem and Nihari can be cooked on order and served with variety of naan (bread). Founded by Sardar Abdul Rahim, the restaurant has been serving eaters since 1988. bbqtonightglobal@gmail.com

First-hand Reporting: Saifuddin Ismailji – Founder: e-Travelers Club travel update

(Accredited Media for ITB-Asia 2019)

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