Jewel Changi Airport, the $1.7 billion investment to help secure Singapore's premier air-hub position, welcomed its first public visitors yesterday.
After the project was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech in 2013, it took four years to transform an open-air carpark into a 10-storey complex with shops, leisure attractions and facilities for travellers and visitors.
Over six days, from 1pm yesterday to 10pm on April 16, about 500,000 people who had signed up for free preview tickets are expected to visit.
When the 135,700 sq m Jewel, with more than 280 shops and restaurants, opens its doors to all from April 17, travellers will be able to access an early check-in lounge serving passengers of 26 airlines, including Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot. This covers 60 per cent of all departing flights.
Located next to Terminal 1, Jewel is connected to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 via air-conditioned travelators, and there will also be facilities for all travellers to store their luggage round the clock.
Mr Shukor Yusof, aviation analyst at Endau Analytics, said: "Jewel is an extension of Changi's constant move to stay relevant and profitable. It is a new landmark for the best airport in the world."
About a third of Changi's 65.6 million passengers last year were on transit flights, and Jewel will offer them new opportunities to dine, shop and entertain themselves, apart from attracting local visitors.
With the demand for air travel in Asia expected to grow strongly in the coming decades and competition increasing among airports, Jewel is a key part of Changi's strategy to improve the airport experience and grow traffic, said Changi Airport Group's (CAG) managing director for airport operations management, Mr Jayson Goh. He told The Straits Times: "If you are flying through Asia and looking to make a stopover, you can choose from several airports. We want to make sure Changi Airport continues to provide the capacity, attractions and amenities to cater for this growth."
Hong Kong International Airport, for example, is developing a 25ha Skycity mega integrated development, set to be completed in the coming decade.
Jewel's highlights include a 40m-tall indoor waterfall and a five-storey garden with more than 2,000 trees and palms, and over 100,000 shrubs. Shops and outlets include famous New York burger chain Shake Shack and American fast-food chain A&W.
Jewel - a joint venture between CAG and CapitaLand - will also offer play attractions from June 10, including a 50m-long suspended bridge with a glass flooring that will allow visitors to look down at the greenery below, a 250m-long bouncing net, mazes and slides.
It will also host the first Pokemon Centre outside of Japan.
Those flying through Singapore will have to exit the transit area to visit Jewel and clear immigration again before their next flight.
Jewel will also house the first Yotelair in Asia, with 130 cabins that can be booked for short daytime layovers or overnight stays.
Mr Lee Chee Koon, president and group chief executive officer of CapitaLand, said: "The combined catchment of residents and Changi Airport's growing passenger traffic makes Jewel a compelling proposition to draw international brands to Singapore and empower home-grown retailers to connect with a global audience."
Jewel was designed by a consortium led by Safdie Architects, helmed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who also came up with Marina Bay Sands.