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Quarantine-free ‘bubble’ facility for business travellers opens at Singapore Expo, with first guests expected in March

SINGAPORE — A facility that will house business travellers arriving in Singapore on a quarantine-free bubble plan was launched on Thursday (Feb 18) and its first guests are expected to arrive next month.

Quarantine-free ‘bubble’ facility for business travellers opens at Singapore Expo, with first guests expected in March

The Connect@Changi facility at Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre opened its first wing of 150 guest rooms and 40 meeting rooms that are specially built to allow foreign travellers to meet their Singapore-based counterparts safely.

  • The first facility for a quarantine-free bubble plan for business travellers opened on Feb 18
  • Housed at the Singapore Expo, it will allow international travellers to have meetings here with their counterparts in Singapore
  • Room prices begin at S$384 a night, inclusive of meals and Covid-19 tests

 

SINGAPORE — A facility that will house business travellers arriving in Singapore on a quarantine-free bubble plan was launched on Thursday (Feb 18) and its first guests are expected to arrive next month.

The Connect@Changi facility at the Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre opened its first wing of 150 guest rooms and 40 meeting rooms that were specially built to allow foreign travellers to meet their Singapore-based counterparts safely.

Located five minutes’ drive from Changi Airport, the facility will have separate entrances, exits and ventilation systems for travellers and Singapore-based visitors.

They will also be separated in the meeting rooms with airtight glass panels that run from the floor to the ceiling.

It was developed by a consortium here led by state investment firm Temasek Holdings that includes serviced apartment provider The Ascott Limited, Changi Airport Group, Sheares Healthcare Group, Singapore Expo's operator SingEx-Sphere Holdings and urban infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong. 

Mr Robin Hu, Temasek’s head of international policy and governance and chairman of SingEx-Sphere Holdings, said: “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.”

It is the first facility set up under a pilot travel scheme launched by the authorities in December last year for selected business, official and “high economic value” travellers from all countries to stay in Singapore for up to two weeks.

Travellers under the Connect@Singapore arrangement must present a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before they leave their home country and take another PCR test on arrival in Singapore.

They must remain at the facility throughout their stay, where they will be regularly tested and must stay within a group of five people during meetings.

Singapore-based visitors to the facility will not need to be tested.

A view of the reception area of the Connect@Changi facility. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

The bubble plan was due to have started in January, but was delayed because the Singapore Tourism Board had not yet selected operators for the facilities where the travellers would stay, The Business Times reported last week

Mr Alan Thompson, joint head of the strategic department at Temasek International, the management and investment arm of Temasek Holdings, said that the consortium has received a “comfortable” number of enquiries expressing demand for the facility, but did not specify how many bookings have been made so far.

One of the first companies that will be using the facility is Advanced MedTech Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings that is headquartered in Singapore.

The medical technology company plans to hold a meeting of up to 30 executives from its offices around the world — its first senior leadership meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year.

Mr Thompson did not reveal the cost of the project when asked at a press conference.

At the launch event later, Mr Hu said that Temasek and the consortium members had taken it upon themselves to strengthen Singapore’s “national resilience” through this project that would kickstart the hospitality industry here.

“This programme isn’t guided by commercial objectives,” he said, adding that members had formed the consortium within two days and completed construction of the first wing within 14 weeks.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was guest-of-honour at the launch ceremony, said that it is collaborative projects like this that will help Singapore emerge stronger from the pandemic.

“We are in an unprecedented situation in uncharted waters. There is no standard playbook on how such physical meetings could resume safely,” he said.

“Until you try, you don’t know what you cannot do, and more importantly, you don’t know what you can do.”

Mr Heng called on Connect@Changi to “serve as a living lab” and pilot new ways of doing things that Singapore can scale up to hasten the economic recovery.

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‘FOUR-STAR ACCOMMODATION’

Room rates at Connect@Changi begin at S$384 a night, inclusive of three meals, access to a mini-bar, toiletries, Wi-Fi, two-way airport transfers and any Covid-19 tests required during the course of the stay.

To minimise contact between guests and the facility’s employees, meals will be delivered to shelves outside the rooms and meeting rooms can be booked by the guests through a mobile application without interacting with staff members.

Meals will be delivered to shelves outside the rooms at the Connect@Changi facility. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

Staff members will have to adhere to strict protocols such as having to wear full personal protective equipment when cleaning and sanitising the rooms. Guest rooms will be cleaned just before a traveller arrives and after he leaves.

The facility, which has previously been described by its developers as equivalent to a four-star accommodation, also boasts a gym, two indoor courtyards and duty-free shopping service on iShopChangi.com for their guests.

Meeting rooms are available in various sizes with the largest being able to house up to 11 travellers and 11 Singapore-based visitors. They are priced at an hourly rate of between S$20 and S$200.

These rooms will be able to support meetings for senior officials, multinational corporations, business negotiations, document signing, legal consultation and for private banking purposes.

The consortium expects to have about 660 guest rooms and 170 meeting rooms available when the first phase of the project is completed in May.

Depending on the demand for the rooms, the facility could be expanded further to accommodate up to 1,300 guests at a time.

Related topics

Connect@Changi business travel Singapore EXPO Covid-19 coronavirus

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