Singapore is reopening its borders to business travelers… kinda sorta. I’m sure this concept will become fairly popular, but to me this is just the saddest version of business travel that there ever was, and it also raises some questions about how long Singapore plans to keep its borders closed.
In this post:
Connect@Changi brings back “safe” business travel
Singapore’s borders have been closed for nearly a year now due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. The country is a business hub, though, and has just introduced a concept intended to bring back business travel in some form.
Connect@Changi is a new facility at Singapore EXPO that allows people from around the world to have face-to-face business meetings with residents of Singapore, minus the risk. Think of it as a Singaporean business travel bubble.
The facility opened this week, and initially features 150 guest rooms and 40 meeting rooms, with the rooms being able to accommodate anywhere from four to 22 people.
How does the Connect@Changi concept work?
- Business travelers from around the world can apply for the SafeTravel Pass under the Connect@Singapore scheme, so that they can conduct in-person business meetings with companies in Singapore
- When the foreigner lands at Changi Airport, they will be driven directly to the Connect@Changi facility, and won’t be allowed to leave until they return to the airport
- Travelers will need a pre-travel negative COVID-19 test, then they’ll need another COVID-19 test upon arrival (and will have to stay in their room until the results are in), and then depending on the length of stay will have to get tested again on days three, seven, and 14
- Foreign business travelers will be completely isolated, and will have three meals a day delivered to their rooms, though there are some amenities, like gym pods (which only one person can use at a time)
- Then travelers can conduct in-person business meetings with locals in conference rooms, though there are air-tight glass panels separating people on both sides; there are different entrances and exits, different ventilation systems, and if documents have to be signed they will be sanitized before being transferred between sides
Connect@Changi public areas
Connect@Changi guest room
Connect@Changi meeting rooms
Connect@Changi meeting rooms
For those wondering, rates for this seem to start at ~410 SGD (~309 USD) per night, and that includes three meals per day, roundtrip airport transfers, a minibar, and much more.
Singapore thinks this is “the new normal”
I’m kind of at a loss of words about this whole concept, and I don’t even know what to make of it:
- On the one hand, isn’t this the point at which we just accept that video conferencing is the way to go, because it’s not like you can even network or enjoy a meal with someone?
- At the same time, for cultures and businesses where in-person relationship building has been important, I could see this being used to some degree, even if I don’t personally see merit to it
- The whole concept just seems so ridiculous to me, since you’re basically traveling to a bubble that’s not much different than what’s possible with high-tech video conferencing
The other thing I find interesting here is that this is only the start of this concept for Singapore. This facility will continue to expand, and by the end of 2021 Singapore hopes that this facility will be able to host 1,300 travelers at a time.
In other words, Singapore doesn’t view this as a temporary solution. In a promotional video about the facility, it’s stated that “Singapore is paving the way forward for business executives all around the world to meet again,” and that this is “designed for the new normal.”
While I never expected Singapore to be among the first countries to reopen its borders, I can’t help but wonder what exactly the country’s plan is? Keep in mind that to even access this “business bubble” you need to get tested before travel, get tested upon arrival, and get tested again on your third day. And that doesn’t even get you access to the country beyond this facility.
Obviously vaccine rollout differs significantly around the world. Here in the US, many of us are hopeful that life can mostly start to return to normal this summer (with some adjustments, of course). Personally I think that’s realistic. But when you see a country opening these business travel bubble hotel rooms in late 2021 and calling this “the new normal,” you can’t help but wonder…
Connect@Changi is a new business travel facility in Singapore that allows people to conduct in-person business meetings. The issue is that in reality it’s somewhere between an in-person meeting and a virtual meeting, in the sense that you’ll only be able to interact with others through an air-tight glass shield in a board room.
What I find much more interesting is that Singapore doesn’t even view this as a temporary solution, but rather as a new normal for conducting business.
What do you make of the Connect@Changi concept, and of Singapore’s view that this is the new normal?
(Tip of the hat to Curtis)