News analysis

Jewel lets Changi test new boundaries to draw travellers

From an airport to a shopping mall, and now a playground within a five-storey garden, Changi will stop at nothing to lure travellers.

When its next big attraction, Jewel, opens in early 2019, it will showcase thrilling play equipment like sky nets and four different types of slides - features never seen before at other airports.

Cynics will ask if Changi is deviating from its main role. But in an increasingly competitive landscape, an airport has to test new boundaries.

It is no longer enough for it to just be a place for people to get onto a plane or to wave someone off.

This thinking is perhaps what prompted the Government to set up Changi Airport Group in 2009 - a corporate entity that would run the airport, under the regulatory eye of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

As a statutory board, it would have been impossible for Changi to justify spending $1.7 billion of taxpayers' monies on a lifestyle and retail hub, which will also feature a 40m-high indoor waterfall and about 300 shops and food and beverage outlets.

Jewel Changi Airport (Jewel) is a joint venture between Changi Airport Group and CapitaLand Mall Asia, with the airport holding a majority 51 per cent stake.

The Rain Vortex, which will transform into a light-and-sound show, is one of the features at Jewel, which opens in early 2019. PHOTO: JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT DEVELOPMENT


Changi is not alone in pushing the limits. Hong Kong is planning to develop a 25ha waterfront plot beside the Hong Kong International Airport into a lifestyle, family and entertainment centre. The first phase of Skycity is slated for completion between 2022 and 2025, giving Changi's Jewel the first-mover advantage.

Changi, which handled a record 58.7 million passengers last year - 30 per cent of which was transit traffic - hopes that Jewel will attract more tourists and other visitors to Singapore, as well as convince travellers to stop here on their way to other destinations.

With a growing number of long-haul travellers opting for low-cost flights which typically involve separate bookings for different legs and, in some cases, a layover of several hours, Jewel could convince them to fly through Singapore instead of other airports.

Jewel Changi Airport's Topiary Walk, where animal-shaped topiaries will add an element of surprise for visitors. PHOTO: JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT DEVELOPMENT

In the end, anything that makes Changi more attractive for travellers is a plus for the airport and the larger aviation sector, which accounts for about 6 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product. The key for Changi, even as it expands its retail and leisure offerings, is to ensure the highest service standards for travellers - which means prompt and efficient check-in, immigration and boarding processes. All these must be done with an eye on passenger and other user fees to ensure that Changi does not become less competitive than rival airports.

Travellers aside, Jewel will provide another opportunity to create new bonds and memories for Singaporeans. After all, many of them see the airport as a source of national pride which holds a special place in their hearts.

Canopy Park attractions


A 250m-long bouncing net, which at its highest point will be suspended 8m, or three storeys, above ground. A second walking net that is 50m long and 25m high will let visitors peek through the voids.


Two mazes, covering an area of more than 500 sq m. The first will be Singapore's largest hedge maze, with hedges standing at 1.8m high. The second, a mirror maze, will create illusions to challenge and confuse visitors.


Four integrated slides - two tube slides and two sliding surfaces - of varying heights will provide children and the young-at-heart with hours of fun going down the slides.


Four gentle concave bowls with depths of between 30cm and 65cm, designed for young children to jump in. Mist will be released to create an illusion of playing among clouds.


A bridge, suspended 23m above ground, and with a length of 50m. It will have glass flooring at the centre section. Mist will be emitted to create the illusion of walking among clouds. The bridge will offer the best vantage point to view the Rain Vortex display - a 40m-high indoor waterfall.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2017, with the headline 'Jewel lets Changi test new boundaries to draw travellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe