SINGAPORE: Jewel Changi Airport has become one of Singapore's "instantly recognisable icons" since it opened a few months ago, helping to bolster the reputation and competitiveness of the airport, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Oct 18).
It has also enhanced the appeal of Changi Airport as a tourist destination in itself, he said, noting that foreign leaders he has spoken have "gushed" over the S$1.7 billion complex.
"Last year 65 million travellers used the airport, including those on transit," he noted.
"I am confident that with Jewel, this year Changi will break that record," Mr Lee said at the official opening of Jewel on Friday, which also marked the 10th anniversary of Changi Airport Group.
Noting that Jewel had seen more than 50 million visitors since April - when the 135,700 sqm entertainment and retail complex first opened its doors to the public - Mr Lee said that Singaporeans are "rightly" proud of Jewel.
"It resonates with Singaporeans, because it reminds us that when we dream big and apply ourselves, nothing is impossible."
Changi Airport is special to Singaporeans, he said, describing its development as a reflection of the country's journey from third-world to first-world status.
"Who would have imagined that when we decided to shift our airport from Paya Lebar to Changi, that one day we would make it the best airport in the world," he said.
Mr Lee shared that in 2013, he was deciding whether or not to include plans for Jewel and other upcoming plans for Changi Airport in his National Day Rally speech that year.
Focus groups were not enthusiastic about it, he recalled, adding that some people felt that ending the speech with such infrastructure plans were too cold and impersonal.
Mr Lee eventually decided to carry on with the announcement, he said, adding he wanted people here to understand that Jewel and Changi Airport were not just about infrastructure.
"Instead they represented an idea; they were a symbol. They epitomised how in Singapore, we must dream boldly to create new possibilities for ourselves," he said.
"It was an act of faith to believe that Changi could do this, and that Singaporeans, working together, could make amazing things happen," he added, noting that in the end, Jewel was the only thing people remembered from his speech that year.
A new light-and-sound show was also unveiled at the 40m-tall HSBC Rain Vortex, set to a new song titled As I Believe by Mandopop star JJ Lin, who performed it live on Friday.
In addition, a walking tour of Jewel was launched in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Airlines, which aims to give transit passengers a taste of what Singapore has to offer. Transit passengers will need the relevant visas and a layover of at least five-and-a-half hours.
In a media release, Jewel noted that almost all of its 53,600 sq m of leasable space has been taken up.