Singapore opens bubble for business travellers at Changi Airport

Singapore opens bubble for business travellers at Changi Airport
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(Feb 18): Singapore has started taking applications for a program that will allow people to enter the island for business and official purposes without having to quarantine for 14 days. The catch? They’ll have to stay in a bubble-like facility near Changi Airport, and can’t leave.

The first visitors under the so-called [email protected] program are expected to arrive next month, Alan Thompson, joint head of strategic development at Temasek International, said Thursday. Temasek Holdings Pte, Singapore’s state investment firm, is supporting the initiative.

“The economy was hurting, the aviation industry was hurting, the food and beverage and hospitality industry was hurting — we needed something to kickstart the economy,” Thompson said. The purpose-built facility will “allow business meetings to happen that will then enable travel to happen and gradually we will be able to get business as close to normal” under these kind of circumstances.

Singapore’s small and open economy is largely dependent upon the tourism and service sectors for growth. To that end, it’s been trying to reopen its borders by establishing green lanes and special travel arrangements with countries where the virus is also contained, like New Zealand and Vietnam. But second and third waves in various places combined with the protracted vaccine rollouts mean widespread travel is still likely months away.

Regardless, authorities are keen to position Singapore, which has done a good job of containing Covid, as a prime spot for meetings, events, conferences and exhibitions. [email protected] will be among options available when Singapore hosts the World Economic Forum later this year, Thompson said.

The facility will initially have 150 guestrooms and 40 meeting rooms, rising to 660 and 170, respectively, when the first phase is completed in May. One of the companies that plan to use [email protected] is Advanced MedTech Holdings Pte, Thompson said. When fully operational, it will have capacity to host around 1,300 business travellers.

Visitors will undergo testing upon arrival and throughout their stays and must observe all safety measures. They will be able to conduct meetings with local guests and other segregated travel lane groups at the facility. Meetings with locals will need to conducted behind floor-to-ceiling dividers.

The arrangement is primarily aimed at official and multinational business meetings, as well as medical consultations, private banking transactions and document signings or legal consultations. Its target audience is mainly short-term visitors who don’t intend to stay longer than a few days.