I’ve had the privilege of racking up a few frequent flier miles so far this year. I’ve attended opti Munich, MIDO in Milan, 100% Optical in London, and Vision Expo East in New York City, all in just the first 90 days of 2023. After spending the first three months of the year packing warm coats, knit hats, and scarves for the winter trade show season it was quite an experience packing instead for an entirely different climate, that of 90+ Fahrenheit (32+C) temperatures for an entirely new trade show, SILMO Singapore.
SILMO as most of you know, is the giant optical trade show held every September in Paris. The dates of the show often end up being the same weekend as Vision Expo West in Las Vegas which makes it very difficult to attend both. Both in 2021 and this coming fall, they will be the same weekend. Last year, they were held on successive weekends, which allowed a few days to head home and do laundry before hopping back on an airplane. In addition to the infamous Paris trade fair, SILMO has several satellite shows around the world throughout the year in places like Prague, Porto, Istanbul, and for the first time, this year in Singapore.
I was honored to be asked to attend the inaugural SILMO Singapore this year and so on Easter evening got on a plane for San Francisco where the next morning I would board a 787 for the 17-hour flight to Singapore. You read that right, there is a direct flight from San Francisco to Singapore that is up in the air for 17 straight hours. Not only that but because of time zone differences, we left on a Monday morning and landed on a Tuesday evening. We did manage to make up the time difference by flying home from Singapore to San Francisco by landing one hour before we took off after being in the air for 15 hours flying east instead of west.
Singapore is an amazing Island nation in Southeast Asia. A former British colony, Singapore is a very tiny but very prosperous nation of almost 6 million people. It has the third highest population density in the world, but you would never know it walking the streets of the city. Singapore sits a mere 85 miles (137 km) north of the equator and walking outside in the middle of the day, you could tell. While one would expect it to be warm, Southeast Asia has been suffering under a record heatwave this spring. Luckily almost everywhere I went, with the exceptions of street vendors, there was plenty of air conditioning to cool things down.
SILMO Singapore was held at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Center in downtown Singapore, April 12-14. Walking up to the conference center which sits above a popular multi-level shopping mall was a wonderful multi-media experience. Inside the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Center were some 250 vendors from around the world. A good number of the optical vendors at this year’s trade fair were from China, as this was both close and one of the first optical shows held since China relaxed their Covid travel restrictions. As SILMO is a Paris-based trade show, there was also a strong showing of French optical companies as well. Over 2,100 optical professionals visited this first SILMO Singapore. Over 50% of the visitors were from outside Singapore, with the top five countries being Malaysia, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
One of the highlights of SILMO Singapore was the SILMO Academy programming put together by the International Opticians Association. There were both continuing education classes and general interest seminars put on by some compelling speakers from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This was also the first official and in-person meeting of the International Opticians Association since before Covid so they were finally able to officially change officers as Fiona Anderson handed off the presidency of the organization to Donald Crichton BSc (Hons) FBDO, something that was supposed to happen in 2020, but a tiny virus got in the way, and the bylaws of the IOA have been such that official meetings had to be in person.
SILMO Singapore certainly wasn’t the biggest and flashiest trade show of 2023. It is however a brand new show servicing Southeast Asia. It took me 17 hours to fly there, so one can see the dedication needed by the thousands of optical professionals wishing to visit a show like Vision Expo or SILMO Paris every year. It’s a very very long journey SILMO is trying to bring their trade show experience to the region and I applaud their boldness in doing so. Like any new venture, it will take a few years for the show to build a solid reputation from both optical vendors and Southeast Asian eye care professionals, but the 2023 SILMO Singapore was a good start and a good show.
SILMO Singapore was supported by the International Opticians Association (IOA), Singapore Optometric Association (SOA), Singapore Tourism Board (STB), India Vision Institute (IVI), and Optical Dispensers Australia (ODA) among others.
For more information about SILMO Singapore visit their website silmosingapore.com