SINGAPORE: Business travellers from around the world will be able to stay and conduct meetings at a dedicated facility in Singapore, without the need to serve quarantine on arrival.
The pilot short-stay facility, called Connect@Changi, opened on Thursday (Feb 18) as part of Singapore's efforts to resume international business meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hotel cum business centre is "bubble-wrapped" such that the visitors do not mingle with the community in Singapore, but can still hold face-to-face meetings with local residents at the facility.
For instance, meetings between business travellers and people from Singapore can only take place in special meeting rooms with air-tight glass panels. There are separate entrances and exits, as well as different ventilation systems, for travellers from overseas and for visitors from Singapore.
Launching the facility on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the resumption of business travel and international meetings is important for catalysing economic recovery in Singapore and the region.
"Doing so will also help to speed up the recovery of our MICE and hospitality sectors, which have been hard-hit, and preserve our role as a global business hub," he said.
In the first phase of the project, Connect@Changi is launching 150 rooms and 40 meeting rooms that can hold four to 22 attendees. It will expand in phases to reach a full potential capacity to host about 1,300 business travellers.
The project at Singapore EXPO and Max Atria is developed by a Singapore consortium led by Temasek Holdings and includes The Ascott Limited, Changi Airport Group, Sheares Healthcare Group, SingEx-Sphere Holdings and Surbana Jurong.
Mr Alan Thompson, joint head of strategic development at Temasek International, said that the facility is one way to help kickstart travel and business meetings.
"We came up with the idea to repurpose Halls 7 to 10 of the (EXPO) into a facility like this, which will ... allow business meetings to happen, that will then enable travel to happen, and gradually we will be able to get business as close to normal as we could," he said.
He added that they are prepared to be agile and design the remaining parts of the facility as the pandemic evolves.
For now, it is expected to cater to people who want to conduct small-scale meetings, including important negotiations, signing of legal contracts or to companies that wish to hold regional meetings.
One such company, Advanced MedTech Holdings, is one of the first to make a booking and plans to hold an in-person global senior leadership meeting with up to 30 executives there.
Such visitors will have a host of new safe management measures to adhere to when they arrive for their stay there, including being tested for COVID-19 every few days and having to keep to groups of five in a cohort.
"Effectively, we are monitoring them throughout their stay and therefore we can be sure that they are well during their stay here," said Mr TK Udairam, COO of Sheares Healthcare Group.
"If they are in fact infected ... they will be managed like any other patient who has COVID ... and taken to the healthcare facility."
Connect@Changi said that all foreign travellers checking in would be required to take a Polymerase Chain Reaction test on arrival at Changi Airport, as well as on days three, seven and 14 of their stay. The minimum length of stay is 24 hours, while the longest is 14 days.
They will be transferred from the airport and sent to their rooms, and have to stay in until the test result is out, which is estimated to be about six to 12 hours.
Large-scale video conferences can be held, to allow for hybrid meetings. There are also special document exchange boxes where the papers will be sanitised before being transferred to either side.
To minimise contact between the guests and staff members, there will be no housekeeping during their stays and meals will be delivered to shelves outside the rooms. They can also go to self-service coffee kiosks and vending machines for food and drinks, or order food delivery.
Hotel employees must wear masks, face shields and gloves, and for housekeeping and certain tasks, full personal protective equipment is required.
Rooms rates start from S$384 for 24 hours, inclusive of three meals, any COVID-19 tests required and airport transfers. Bookings can be made at www.connectatchangi.sg or through the Connect@Changi mobile app.