For decades, Singapore cemented its place as a premier stopover city in Asia with luxury hotels, gorgeous gardens, cheap food and an incredibly friendly culture and way of life. Obviously, the shopping and hospitality is world class too, but business is what drives this city.
Despite being closed to most visitors since the early days of the pandemic, at one point even to transiting passengers, the city state is reopening to travelers from all over the world with an emphasis on business, but it’s hardly an invitation to explore the city.
In fact, it may leave many prospective visitors feeling like things might not actually be so bad via online conferencing, after all.
Singapore has found a way to welcome business travelers, or those traveling on official or high value journeys from all over the world. Yes, the good news is that starting next month, visitors will be welcomed from all over the world, not just regional neighbors.
Plans for a quarantine free travel bubble with Hong Kong recently burst, amid rising infection rates in Hong Kong. This would’ve created an open travel corridor where visitors would have full access to each city, provided testing guidelines were followed.
It would be hard to call this new measure “tourism”, but a happy medium to allow business to continue flowing, it is indeed. Singapore created a dedicated bubble facility for all prospective travelers coming on short stays, where they will remain for the duration of their trip.
That’s the catch though – even though visitors from all over are welcome to come and conduct business and other meetings, you can’t leave the conference style facility and all visitors will be tested multiple times on arrival, as well as days 3, 5, 7 and 11.
You’re also expected to leave within 14 days. No browsing shops along Orchard Road, or Haji Lane, or enjoying a tipple at Atlas, Native or any of the other fabulous bars in the city this time. And perhaps most sadly, no Hawker Stall culinary delights.
Singapore’s dedicated Connect@Changi operation will be somewhat like a Disney World for visitors, with 670 guest rooms, and over 100 meeting rooms. Singapore is a key medical tourism destination, as well as a banking hub, so the emphasis is not on bringing back tourism, but allowing official document signings, medical consults and other key business to flow.
If rollout of vaccines remains on track, and the trial program is deemed a success, Singapore plans to reopen later in the year for broader, leisure tourism. Hopefully, without a bubble restriction of any kind.
Life In The Singapore Bubble
Meal options will be delivered via pre-installed shelves, according to Bloomberg, and air tight vending machines will distribute other options. Don’t knock vending machine food in Asia until you’ve tried it – Japan has done so successfully for decades.
If you want to interface with a local from Singapore, as opposed to another ‘fly in’ colleague, you’ll only be able to do so behind a floor to ceiling glass wall, like at an upscale prison for white collar criminals, rather than San Quentin.
“Guests can meet their local counterparts or other guests from the region safely in specially designed meeting rooms outfitted with air-tight glass panels, reducing the risk of transmission,”Temasek Holdings, an investor in the Connect@Changi Project.
Somewhat oddly, the groups behind the Connect@Changi project openly call the facility a living laboratory, where things like wastewater from the hotel rooms will be analyzed to detect early warning signs of covid-19. Many positives including state of the art testing and care facilities paint many positives, but it’s all a bit eyebrow raising.
While it may not sound ideal, the concept has already gained huge support from businesses and organizations looking to conduct secure events, including the World Economic Forum.
A bubble facility mostly geared for business travelers isn’t what many travelers craving a good chicken rice, laksa and Singapore Sling were hoping for, but as vaccine rollout continues, better news for general travelers shouldn’t be far behind.