Singapore trade events rebound after COVID, Hong Kong struggles

Visitors attend the Restaurants Asia and Cafe Asia trade conventions in Singapore on November 18, 2021. REUTERS / Edgar Su

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SINGAPORE / HONG KONG, Nov. 19 (Reuters) – Singapore welcomes top executives from major global companies to a series of conferences this week, marking its gradual return to normalcy and underlining the contrast to longtime rival Hong Kong , which stays true to some of the strictest quarantine rules in the world.

The Milken Institute’s annual Asian Summit, led by billionaire Michael Milken’s think tank, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, and an event hosted by sovereign wealth fund GIC drew hundreds of executives vaccinated against COVID-19.

Participants were only allowed entry after completing swab testing and were required to wear masks and adhere to strict safety distancing measures, although they were granted relatively more freedom than the general population of the country in terms of eating together.

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The resumption of events on site in the Southeast Asia hub comes as Singapore allows travel without quarantine to at least a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Australia , Canada and the United States.

UBS on Wednesday inaugurated the Swiss bank’s largest office in Asia, an event attended by its chief executive officer and others in the city-state.

“Things move, things move but move quickly here in Singapore. And even with the kind of semi-foreclosure situation we’re in right now, if you come here you still feel the vibe,” said Ralf Hammers. , CEO of UBS.

Senior officials from Goldman Sachs, HSBC, NYSE Group, Standard Chartered, Paypal and BNP Paribas spoke at trade events in Singapore, many of whom will likely make their first trip to Singapore since authorities imposed restrictions early in the year. Last year.

The two-day Milken event and an evening hosted by GIC brought together around 550 people, including 150 foreign executives. The Bloomberg event brought together over 300 attendees, 80% of whom flew.

Rooms at the lavish 112-room Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, where an overnight stay costs at least $ 1,600 and which hosted the Bloomberg Forum, have all been sold.

Later this month, Singaporean singer JJ Lin will perform in a two-day concert that organizers say will be near full capacity of around 2,000 people per night, the Straits Times daily reported.

Over 100 exhibitors from 12 countries are participating in an ongoing food, beverage and supply chain event, with an international jewelry fair and martial arts event taking place in the coming weeks .

Despite all this, compared to Europe, Britain and the United States, Singapore still has strict COVID-19 restrictions, with meals largely limited to two people and mandatory wearing of masks in public. .

STRENGTHENED RULES IN HONG KONG

In contrast, Hong Kong has followed Beijing’s lead in maintaining strict travel restrictions to curb new COVID outbreaks, prompting warnings from international business lobby groups that the financial hub could lose talent and investment. .

“When you restrict inbound and outbound movement, when you restrict the ability for people to come and visit and engage, for people to leave to go and engage in the world, over time it has an impact. on your economic activity, “said CEO of Goldman Sachs. David Solomon said Wednesday at the Bloomberg event in Singapore.

Singapore’s daily COVID-19 cases rise to over 2,000 and the city-state still has strict restrictions on social gatherings, but with 85% of its 5.45 million people vaccinated, the government wants open up more to business.

Hong Kong has seen virtually no local coronavirus cases in recent months, but the government hopes its strict rules, including up to three weeks of hotel quarantine for visitors, will convince China to gradually open its border with the city.

“There are only a few cities where people want to come together where you have that gateway to bring global finance together and redistribute it. Hong Kong is one of them,” said BlackRock CEO Larry Fink , at Hong Kong FinTech Week earlier this month.

“I can’t wait to be physically there in Hong Kong without a 21-day quarantine, but that’s a whole different story.”

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Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; Editing by Kim Coghill

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Corina C. Butler