Jewel sparkles again

Changi Airport’s lessons from H1N1 and Sars help icon quickly regain appeal, ease Covid-19 infection fears

Rain Vortex, Jewel Changi Airport
A scrub robot sits in front of the Rain Vortex, a 40m-high indoor waterfall and the nucleus of Jewel Changi Airport. PHOTO: JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT
Canopy Park, Jewel Changi Airport, safe management measures
(From left) Mr Julian Hu, senior executive, guest experience; Mr Muhammad Fithri Abdul Jaffar, senior manager, retail experience; and Mr Alex Foo, manager, retail experience, walk us through Jewel Changi Airport's safe management measures at Canopy Park. PHOTO: TED CHEN
Canopy Park, Jewel Changi Airport, safe management measures
Staff disinfecting attractions at Canopy Park for guests' safety on the top floor of Jewel. PHOTO: JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT

Finance manager Kathleen David, 29, and hubby Teh Ching Kai, 32, returned to Jewel Changi Airport on Sunday night after months of staying away, joining a steady flow of visitors back to enjoy the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and getting their fix of food and fun.

“It’s been a few months since we visited Jewel, but the Rain Vortex is magnificent as ever and we felt safe. The mall was clean and not overcrowded,” she declared excitedly.

They have good reason to feel safe there amid the coronavirus pandemic. The lifestyle and retail complex has rolled out strict safety measures that include SafeEntry at entrances and exits; cleaning and sanitation of high-touch areas such as lift buttons, directories and escalator handrails; and clear signage and floor markers reminding visitors to keep a safe distance.

Safe management measures at Jewel Changi Airport, Canopy Park
A member of Jewel's cleaning staff wipes down seats with disinfectant at the Foggy Bowls attraction in Canopy Park. PHOTO: TED CHEN

The crowd is a far cry from what Jewel saw during the circuit breaker period from early April to June, when almost everything at the attraction screeched to a halt.

During the eight-week shutdown, key attractions at Jewel previously teeming with families emptied and less than a sixth of its shops and food and beverage (F&B) outlets remained open.

Behind the scenes, however, Jewel staff leapt into action.

“We had always planned for the next big pandemic,” said Mr Muhammad Fithri Abdul Jaffar, 33, Jewel’s senior manager of retail experience.

Staff were trained to operate in a pandemic before the first case of Covid-19 hit Singapore, based on Changi Airport’s past experiences with infectious diseases like the H1N1 virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

“Having crisis and business continuity plans beforehand, such as temperature screening procedures and an isolation plan for visitors who feel unwell, helped us to transition easier when the safe management measures were implemented,” he said.

Well before the Government-enforced safety requirements for businesses in May, Jewel implemented temperature screening and encouraged tenants to maintain a distance between diners at F&B outlets.

Temperature screening, Jewel Changi Airport, safe management measures
Temperature screening is carried out for visitors entering Jewel. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Safety no walk in the park

Keeping Changi Airport’s crown jewel safe and clean has by no means been easy.

Its lean team of about 60 employees, which outsources the cleaning of the premises, has had to balance strict hygiene and cleaning protocols with customer experience and the expectations of tenants from more than 280 eateries and shops.

“For tenants with a big following like Pokemon, Shake Shack and A&W, we worked with them to put floor markers and offered them spaces, like the common corridor, so that they can accommodate customers while making sure they keep a safe distance,” said Mr Fithri.

Pokemon Centre, Jewel Changi Airport
Customers keep a safe distance by following floor markers in a queue to enter the ever-popular Pokemon Centre, which is a real-life replica of the Pokemon Centre in the gaming world. PHOTO: TED CHEN

His team speaks to tenants regularly to understand their challenges and help them implement safe management measures properly.

Before Canopy Park — an indoor park the size of 11 Olympic-size swimming pools on Jewel’s top floor — reopened to the public on July 3, staff were redeployed from other tasks to manage crowds and enforce safe management measures.

High-touch surfaces and play areas like the Mirror Maze and Sky Nets were coated with a self-disinfecting agent called sdst, which can last for six months. The antimicrobial coating, made in the United States and approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, kills bacteria, viruses and fungi upon contact and remains in place even with repeated scrubbing and cleaning.

“Even the turf in play areas is coated with this antimicrobial agent because there may be kids touching it. We do frequent wipe downs of high-touch areas on top of this coating,” said Mr Alex Foo, 31, a manager in Jewel’s Retail Experience team.

Sky Nets, Canopy Park, Jewel Changi Airport
Visitors young and old bounce on the Manulife Sky Nets that span 250m with an 8m-high lookout point. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Mr Julian Hu, 30, a senior executive in Jewel’s Guest Experience team, stressed that the park now limits visitors to 25 per cent of its normal capacity.

Quick action to enhance safety and hygiene levels has paid off. Attractions at Jewel received an SG Clean certification from the Singapore Tourism Board, and the mall saw families returning during the mid-term school break in July.

Mr Teh, who visited Jewel last Sunday, said: “There was a general bustling atmosphere within the mall. We saw families with young children and couples. People didn’t need to crowd around storefronts and we felt at ease.”

Commenting on Jewel's safety measures, Mr Kelvin Tan, head of user experience, noted: “We are committed to ensuring that Jewel continues to be a safe destination for everyone with the necessary precautionary measures in place. Our guests can be assured that their health and well-being are of utmost importance to us, and we hope they can still enjoy a ‘sparkling’ time in Jewel despite the lingering concerns over Covid-19.”

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