Short-term business travellers from all parts of the globe will now be able to stay and have in-person meetings at a dedicated facility at the Singapore Expo without having to first quarantine themselves.
This is possible with the launch of the first phase of Connect@ Changi yesterday, in a move to resume international business meetings in Singapore amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who launched Connect@Changi, noted that while many businesses have shifted to virtual meetings amid the pandemic, these cannot fully replace face-to-face interactions.
"For some, physical meetings are still important for securing and closing business deals, and making important decisions," he said. "Face-to-face interactions are important for growing relationships, strengthening partnerships and exploring new business opportunities."
The new facility, with 150 rooms in the first phase, has been billed as the first of its kind in the world. It has 40 meeting rooms of different sizes - the smallest can take four people and the largest, 22.
The current capacity was built within 14 weeks. When fully operational later this year, it will be able to host up to 1,300 business travellers at any one time.
The facility's opening marks the start of the Connect@Singapore scheme that will open Singapore's borders to business, official and high-economic-value travellers.
Under the scheme, travellers can meet in Singapore at designated facilities, but have to remain within the facilities throughout their stay. They also have to regularly take Covid-19 tests in lieu of quarantine.
Room rates at the four-star Connect@Changi facility start at $384, which is inclusive of three meals, mini-bar, toiletries, Wi-Fi, two-way airport transfer as well as the Covid-19 tests required during the course of the stay.
Those who opt to stay there will be transported from the airport to Hall 7 at the Singapore Expo directly after taking a Covid-19 test.
Those who test negative can then have meetings with safe distancing measures in place.
Travellers who want to meet Singapore residents will be able to do so in meeting rooms divided by airtight glass partitions. The travellers and their local counterparts can talk through speakers equipped in their respective halves of the rooms.
During the travellers' stay, meals and requested amenities will be placed on shelves outside their rooms to reduce physical interaction between them and the staff.
Singapore was a popular destination for business meetings prior to Covid-19, and companies are turning to the Republic to safely resume such meetings, said Mr Heng.
The Connect@Singapore scheme was started to meet these business needs, he added.
Mr Heng hoped it would continue to pilot new ways of doing things to provide a safe and good experience for customers.
The project is being developed by a local consortium led by Temasek, and includes The Ascott Limited, Changi Airport Group, Sheares Healthcare Group, SingEx-Sphere Holdings and Surbana Jurong.
Temasek International's joint head of strategic development Alan Thompson said the consortium is confident there will be demand for Connect@Changi, based on the number of inquiries it has received so far and its analysis of pre-Covid-19 business travel data.
The consortium is in talks with several parties and expects to receive its first guests next month, he said.
One confirmed client is Advanced MedTech Holdings, a global medical technology firm headquartered in Singapore. It plans to hold an in-person global senior leadership meeting at the facility in the next three to six months.
Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that the Connect@Changi facility has 50 rooms in the first phase. This is incorrect. The facility currently has 150 rooms. We are sorry for the error.
SEE THE BIG STORY