Non-flight services take off at Changi Airport

Above: Retail sales associate Jeryck Tan explaining to a customer how to use a Wi-Fi router at the Changi Recommends outlet in Terminal 1. The rental of such routers is a popular service that began in 2015. Left: There are eight Changi Recommends out
There are eight Changi Recommends outlets across all three terminals to serve arriving and departing passengers. More than 100 merchants in about 30 destinations are on board, offering a plethora of services and products.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Above: Retail sales associate Jeryck Tan explaining to a customer how to use a Wi-Fi router at the Changi Recommends outlet in Terminal 1. The rental of such routers is a popular service that began in 2015. Left: There are eight Changi Recommends out
Retail sales associate Jeryck Tan explaining to a customer how to use a Wi-Fi router at the Changi Recommends outlet in Terminal 1. The rental of such routers is a popular service that began in 2015. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

From 1 store in 2012, Changi Recommends initiative has grown to 8 outlets offering Wi-Fi routers, tours and more

From renting out Wi-Fi routers to selling city tours and rail passes, Changi Airport is doing a thriving business giving travellers what they want.

It started in 2012 with one store in Terminal 2 selling tickets and vouchers to places of interest, restaurants and shops in Singapore - as part of a tie-up with just 15 merchants.

Since then, the Changi Recommends initiative has grown to eight stores across all three terminals, and now serves both arriving and departing passengers.

More than 100 merchants in about 30 destinations, such as Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Britain, are on board - offering a plethora of services and products, including airport transfers.

Many of the services, which can be booked in advance online, are offered at discounted prices.

For example, an adult entry pass to Warner Bros Movie World in Gold Coast, Australia, costs $79, instead of the usual $90 if bought at the door. And a ticket to Tokyo Disneyland can be purchased at $93, $9 off the usual price.

Changi Travel Services - a Changi Airport Group subsidiary which runs the Changi Recommends services - receives an undisclosed cut from tickets and packages sold.

Changi Travel Services general manager Ng Yansheng stressed, however, that the priority is to meet the needs of passengers.

"We are, hence, focused on service quality and the growth of our services for now," he said, adding that the inventory will be expanded in the coming months to include attractions in Europe and the United States.

Apart from tickets to places of interest, a popular service is the rental of Wi-Fi routers, which started in 2015, Mr Ng said.

These devices allow users to get data access without incurring overseas roaming charges or having to buy a new SIM card.

"For as low as $5 a day - charges vary according to destination - these can be used in Asean, North Asia, Europe and North America. In the coming months, we are looking at expanding our coverage to include India and the Middle East," Mr Ng said.

With airports increasingly competing for travellers and vying to become key transit hubs, it is important for Changi to think out of the box, industry experts said.

Mr Ramanathan Mohandas, head of the diploma programme in aviation management at Republic Polytechnic, said: "Airports are no longer just for people to board planes. Travellers expect more - good shopping, good dining and, these days, good services.

"By providing such value-added services, Changi clearly hopes to delight passengers so that they want to come back."

It is important, though, for the airport to work with reputable partners and merchants, especially those based overseas, so that transactions can be processed smoothly, he added.

Marketing executive Alice Tan, 45, said: "The rental of Wi-Fi routers is a great service. The device can be used for several gadgets, which is really convenient. I don't like the hassle of using pre-paid SIM cards."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Non-flight services take off at Changi Airport'. Print Edition | Subscribe