Monday, May 7, 2012

CommunicAsia - Best Annual Events Singapore

courtesy Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Convention Centre

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Casino, Expo, etc.

CommunicAsia is Asia's biggest yearly trade show and conference for the computer, telecoms and information technology industries. It is always held in Singapore in June. If you are in the region, you might want to visit.

How big is CommunicAsia? If the previous year is any guide, CommunicAsia2013--which will run from June 18-21--should draw more than 35,000 attendees. About half the attendees come from foreign countries. If at least 20,000 people are filling up the hotels, you might want to be aware of the dates for CommunicAsia just to avoid visiting Singapore at that time.

The event has two parts. The following details are based on the  2012 event: I'll update as new information become available. The first part is the enormous trade exhibition, which is free to attend if you can show you're involved in a relevant industry. The second is the conference, consisting of panels, speakers and workshops which have several prices and packages. As in recent years, CommunicaAsia2013 will take place in the convention center of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, sometimes called simply MBS.

CommunicAsia: 1,000 Exhibitors, 5 Floors

As a journalist, I usually prefer conferences: they produce more of the stuff I can immediately write about. I became intrigued with the trade show, however, after interviewing software people last year for an article about cool, new applications for smartphones and tablets. They always go to CommunicAsia.

Some are seeking angel investors for their prototypes. Companies with fully-developed products might be seeking business customers. Some are looking for partners or to buy a product to use in their home country. Some people just want to see the latest gizmos that were unveiled recently in San Francisco or Las Vegas or Hanover. And of course it's a must-go convention for all the usual international suspects to show off their products--from Microsoft and Samsung to Nokia, SAP, 3M, Asustek and hundreds more that aren't household names. More than 1,000 exhibitors occupy five floors of the Marina Bay Sands expo center, so there's a lot to see. You can see a full list of exhibitors and product categories on the 2013 online catalog.

Eligibility and Fees

To see if you're eligible to attend the exhibition portion, fill out this form. It goes online five or six months before the show. You may be able to register on-site but I can't find any information on the subject. If approved, you also get free admission to the exhibits of EnterpriseIT and BroadcastAsia trade shows. Both will be held at Marina Bay Sands on the same day as the CommunicAsia show. ( In previous years, BroadcastAsia was at the Suntec exhibition center, way out near the airport.)

Admission fees for the various conference programs are more complicated. The sessions at the conference or "summit"  will cover such subjects as mobile marketing, mobile security, cloud computing, broadband business models and satellite business trends. You can register and pay on-site but the farther ahead you register, the cheaper it gets. At the high end, it can cost foreigners more than S$3,500 (US$2,818) for the entire three days of programs, including lunch, refreshments--and entrance to the exhibition. 

On the other end of the price spectrum, the fee for a one-day workshop on mobile marketing or mobile security can cost as little as S$350 (US$282) if booked before May 10, one month before the 2013 conference. What if you're only paying for a day or a workshop, does that include entrance to the exhibition? I don't know; you don't get instructions about the exhibition until after you have registered for the conference.

Exhibitors at the CommunicAsia, EnterpriseIT or Broadcast Asia shows are entitled to small discounts on the fees to the conference programs. The FAQs contain details about payment methods, invoicing and registration confirmation.

About Marina Bay Sands hotel, casino, convention center

So CommunicAsia, the exhibition and the conference, both take place at the multi-billion-dollar Marina Bay Sands hotel complex, whose primary owner is Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino. Designed by Moshe Safdie, MBS won at least 15 minutes of worldwide fame when the first parts opened in 2010; that was due to photos of a 150-meter infinity-edge swimming pool on the rooftop.

The complex consists of three towers with a roof that caps the towers like a huge warped surfboard, as you can see in the photo at the top. There's a "Skypark" up there with a running track and restaurant. The complex includes a casino, a thousand hotel rooms, 300 shops, supposedly two museums, and seven restaurants overseen by Mario Batali and other foreign celebrity chefs.

So what's the problem? Well, you're marooned out there. The exhibition and conference happenings end around 6 pm and around 4 pm on the final day. Do you want to spend all your free time in this self-contained "integrated resort"? Sure, there are many of the usual designer and high-end shops, but no bargains. Same for the restaurants. What if you want to see some of the city? 

As for the swimming pool, I have yet to meet anyone who knows anyone that has swam in it. Residents of Singapore tell me, however, that during the day there are plenty of gawkers; outsiders pay S$20 just to see the Skypark, pool and the view. Given that it rains in Singapore an average of 15 days a month even in the "dry" first months of the year, how swim-able is this pool 55 stories up? What about wind factors and electric storms? And, no, there isn't another swimming pool in the complex; I checked.

Hotel Alternatives in Financial District

The general assumption is that you will stay in the huge hotel on the premises, the very cushy Marina Bay Sands Hotel; with a good deal, it costs around US$300 per night but upgrades are normally common. Otherwise, the closest hotels would be in the financial district (search booking sites for "financial district") off to the left in the photo above. I think the nearest would be the Marina Bay Residence or Ascott Raffles Place. 

Nor is there much in the way of evening attractions nearby. Singapore gets much praise for its urban design but in the central city, Jane Jacobs' advice about integrating residential, recreation and commercial spaces has been frequently overlooked. The area around the Asia Civilisation Museum and across the river around Bonham Street and Raffles Place is also downright eerie on sunny weekend afternoons, by the way; there just isn't enough shopping and dining spaces in the vicinity on weekends, apparently.

In the top photo, the nearest commuter rail station, the Marina Bay MRT station, is somewhere to the left and bottom--that is, south of the financial district. Information on the hotel's website or maps will lead you to believe that it is a mere four-minute walk from the resort complex. Ha! Perhaps if you very rapidly speed-walk through construction you might reach the very edge of the complex but, recall, the complex is huge, with three widely-spaced towers. The whole complex and environs take up 20 hectares.

MRT and Shuttle Buses to Marina Bay Sands

I was the only one walking from the underground MRT station; everyone else waited at the station for a shuttle bus. There's also a free shuttle bus to and from the airport, by the way. On this day, the visitors were attending an orchid show, which I never spotted once I reached the complex, but these folks weren't staying in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. When the Bayfront MRT station opens, it will be much closer than the Marina Bay station.

In the photo at the top of this page, note the tall buildings sprouting across the reservoir from the MBS complex; perhaps that's where the real city is functioning at night. And there's a water taxi, according to the transport link below. Except it runs from the MBS only every 30 minutes. Fortunately, there are plenty of regular taxis idling in front of the resort. Singapore taxis are pricey, of course--and charge an extra S$3 on weekends. I'd choose option over staying at the Marina Bay Sands more than once.

Event: CommunicAsia 
Twitter name: @communicasia
Usual Dates:   Four days in mid-June (CommunicAsia2013: June 18-21)
Hours :   10:30 am to 6 pm
Prices:    Free to the exhibition; US$280-$3,000 for conference sessions (as of 2012)
Place:     Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Casino and Convention Centre
                10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956
Rail:       Marina Bay MRT station, Circle line (closes at midnight!)
                Map, Directions, Transport

Nearest hotels:  Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Ascott Raffles Place, Marina Bay Residence

Copyright +Susan Cunningham. No republication without permission. Contact SoutheastAsiaTraveler @

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