Davos in the tropics: World Economic Forum opts for Singapore

World Economic Forum to hold its next annual meeting in Singapore in May rather than coronavirus-hit Switzerland.

Organisers of the next World Economic Forum annual meeting have chosen Singapore because of its relatively low number of COVID-19 cases [File: Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg]

The World Economic Forum will hold its 2021 annual meeting in Singapore instead of its traditional home of Switzerland, which is battling a rising number of coronavirus infections.

The high-profile gathering, which attracts leaders across government, finance and economics, will be held in the Asian financial hub May 13-16 and return to Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in 2022, the World Economic Forum said. The meeting will also include a virtual component to allow greater participation, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Singapore was chosen because it has a relatively low rate of Covid-19 cases, and has recently started experimenting with modified versions of large-scale conference. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum had said it would move the location of its 2021 meeting within Switzerland to the resort of Bürgenstock.

Switzerland is fighting a surge in infections and had about 54,000 new cases in the last two weeks, almost as many as Singapore has reported since the outbreak began.

“The Special Annual Meeting 2021 will be a place for leaders from business, government and civil society to meet in person for the first time since the start of the global pandemic,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

In years past, the WEF’s annual meeting has attracted political leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as a parade of billionaires, executives and celebrities to debate global challenges.

Singapore’s Re-opening

Singapore brought the virus under control with strict measures, such as implementing a partial lockdown for two months, requiring mask wearing and limiting social gatherings. That’s allowed the economy to gradually re-open since mid-June, with daily cases in the community dwindling to low single digits or even zero, while most new cases are imported.

“Despite the ongoing pandemic, we are confident that Singapore will be able to continue maintaining public health and safety while supporting the WEF’s mission to effect positive change through collaboration and engagement,” Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s minister for trade and industry, said in a statement.

Singapore has been pushing forward with re-opening its meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions sector, known as MICE. The city-state since Oct. 1 has accepted applications for conventions that could host as many as 250 people, with certain restrictions.

Its pandemic-era approach to large-scale business meetings got a test run during Singapore International Energy Week in October. Attendees at the conference, held at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the city’s center, were required to take a rapid Covid-19 test, with results within 30 minutes, and download a contact-tracing app.

Source: Bloomberg