Singapore throws ‘Hail Mary’ pass with dedicated airport ‘bubble’ for business travellers

An artist's rendering of the Connect@Changi facility.

Use this oneThe government of Singapore said Tuesday (15 December) that it plans to create a dedicated facility at Changi Airport to allow international business travellers to interact with their Singapore counterparts, albeit in a sealed environment that will also require multiple COVID-19 tests. The move appears to be a sort of desperate attempt – a Hail Mary pass – to restart international business travel. It’s likely also that the costs to stay at the site and the benefits might easily be countered by the world’s new reliance on virtual meetings using Zoom, Skype and other online platforms.

People who stay at the facility will meet behind plexiglass for face-to-face meetings. (PHOTO: Connect@Changi)

The so-called “travel lane” was announced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and is an additional effort by Singapore to reopen its borders however it can because the country relies on international trade and tourists for its lifeblood. The news was announced after the country’s prime minister announced that the city-state will enter its “Phase 3” of the country’s efforts to control the spread of the pandemic and which will loosen slightly restrictions on the city’s residents.

The new facility, which is under construction near Changi Airport, will start accepting applications next month. People from all countries can apply but must adhere to the travel lane’s strict health and testing protocols. For the duration of their up to 14-day stay, visitors will be housed in a “bubble” within a dedicated facility, undergo testing upon arrival and on days three, five, seven and 11, and must observe all prevailing safe management measures. They will be able to conduct meetings with local visitors and with other segregated travel lane groups at the facility, however if they’re meeting with locals, travellers will need to remain behind floor-to-ceiling dividers.

Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek Holdings said the facility will be called  Connect@Changi and will include input from The Ascott and Sheares Healthcare Group, and will be located at the Singapore EXPO, about a five-minute drive from the airport. Connect@Changi will have more than 670 guest rooms and almost 170 meeting rooms that each can accommodate from four to 22 attendees. When fully constructed in mid-2021, the facility will include more than 1,300 guest rooms and about 340 meeting rooms. Meals will be delivered to pre-installed shelves outside guest rooms, and guests can also opt for additional food and beverage options via vending machines.

The news of the new facility comes after the World Economic Forum announced it would hold its next meeting in Singapore. “We’re now in discussions with the World Economic Forum on logistical arrangements,” Chan said, adding that he didn’t think the Changi facility would be sufficient in terms of the number of meeting rooms required for such a large event.

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