Interspersed among Singapore’s ubiquitous glittery glass condos and swank, mini-city-size malls are heritage areas that preserve the diversity of cultures that defines this city-state.
Along with its renowned amenities, that cultural milieu is part of Singapore’s attraction for groups, and those looking to set up a unique experience can contact the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau, a division of the Singapore Tourism Board, for help.
“Face-to-face meetings are now, more than ever, of great significance,” said Kershing Goh, regional director, Americas for the Singapore Tourism Board. “The knowledge exchange, the confluence of diverse ideas and viewpoints from people of different continents, the human interaction, such is the age-old truth of the power of meetings.
“Playing to this backdrop, Singapore’s strength as a meetings destination has never been clearer,” she added. “Ours is a microcosm of cultures that translates into a melting pot of traditions and heritage.”
The diversity is reflected in Singapore’s blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay and other heritages.
“We are truly a country that celebrates diversity and a destination that embraces delegates from all over,” Goh said. “Layer this onto the concentration of colorful experiences that Singapore offers and what you get is the perfect platform for events and meetings.”
Singapore’s three distinct heritage neighborhoods—Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, or the Arab quarter—offer intriguing allures for groups.
Chinatown, marked by hanging red lanterns and old shophouses, overflows with food hawker centers, traditional markets, and countless trinket-filled tourist stalls.
Its Chinese Heritage Centre, which recently underwent a renovation, offers an interactive experience and full history of Singapore’s Chinese population. Located in three refurbished shophouses dating to the 1950s, the center spotlights migrants’ perilous journeys to Singapore and their contributions to Singapore’s society, as well as the development of modern Chinatown. Groups can organize a private tour of the center.
Journeys Pte Ltd. offers private options for any of its Original Singapore Walks tours, including “Red Clogs Down the Five Foot Way,” which traces the lives of early Chinese immigrants, with stops at Thian Hock Keng temple, a Chinatown wet market and the Chinatown Heritage Centre.
Strolling Arab Street, attendees will find shops hawking batiks and baskets, while on Bussorah Street vendors sell Muslim-inspired crafts and restaurants focus on local cuisine. At the end of the street towers the golden-domed Sultan Mosque, dating to 1924. Colorful Haji Lane, meanwhile draws contemporary shoppers with its fashion boutiques and cafes.
Journeys can organize its “Sultans of Spice” tour for groups, which leads attendees through Kampong Glam, visiting the Sultan Mosque, traditional Muslim shops and the Jalan Kubor Cemetery, the oldest Muslim cemetery in Singapore, featuring graves of Malay royalty, among other stops.
Little India also has its own flavor, including spice stalls and sari shops. But the main draw is the plethora of restaurants representing the entire subcontinent, including a large number of eateries clustered around Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of the oldest temples in Singapore.
According to Thomas Stecher, director of client relations and innovation for Ovation Singapore, the DMC offers groups architectural tours as well as personalized guided cultural tours with a focus on Chinese, Arab, Malay, Indian and Colonial heritages.