Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – which has shut global borders and imposed severe restrictions on even essential business travel – many international business meetings have had to take place over Zoom for much of the past year. Gone are the days of booking a business hotel, hopping on a flight and zipping into and out of a city for a quick face-to-face to seal the deal, before making it back home in time for the weekend. Hotspots for incoming business travel such as Singapore have also seen this aspect of their economy dry up overnight.
That is until now. In what is being touted as a first-in-the-world initiative, Singapore’s has piloted Connect@Changi: a dedicated facility where short-term business travellers from all over the world can stay and conduct in-person meetings without having to serve a quarantine period.
Located at Singapore Expo, the facility was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on 18 February and is currently in its first phase of opening. It is fitted out with 150 “hotel” guest rooms, as well as 40 meeting rooms of different sizes (each can fit between four to 22 individuals at a time). The site will continue to expand in phases, and will be able to accommodate 1,300 travellers at its peak capacity.
International business travellers will be able to fly into Changi Airport and will be transported to the facility after taking a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Once it’s confirmed that they have tested negative for Covid-19, they will then be able to make use of the facility. Travellers will also be subject to regular Covid-19 testing and temperature checks during their stay, and will not be allowed to leave the facility.
In order to ensure that there is no contact between international arrivals and the local community, the entire facility has been “bubble-wrapped” – areas that Singapore residents can access are kept entirely separate, complete with a different ventilation system. Some meeting rooms also have air-tight, floor-to-ceiling glass panels, and safe-distancing measures will have to be observed within the facility at all times.
Guest room rates start from S$384 based on a minimum stay of 24 hours. Meeting rooms can be booked on an hourly basis for between S$20 (four-person room) to S$200 (22-person room). Bookings are now open and can be made via the Connect @ Changi website.
Connect @ Changi is a group initiative spearheaded by Singapore’s Temasek, with support from Changi Airport Group, The Ascott Limited, Sheares Healthcare Group, SingEx-Sphere Holdings and Surbana Jurong. The facility expects to receive its first guests in March.
“Without such a facility, travel options are essentially binary – either stay at home due to travel restrictions, or fly overseas and endure long periods in quarantine,” says said Robin Hu, Head of International Policy & Governance, Temasek and Chairman, SingEx-Sphere Holdings. “After close to four months of intense, round-the-clock construction and collaboration… we are now ready to offer business travellers the option of resuming in-person meetings in a safe and contained manner, and do our part to catalyse economic recovery for Singapore and across the region.”