Singapore: The big news at Singapore’s Changi Airport this week was not that debt-laden Jet Airways suspended flights to Singapore indefinitely; it is the upcoming grand opening of the latest development at the airport, “Jewel”.
Jewel Changi Airport welcomed its first visitors on April 11 as it opened its doors to the public for a preview of its wide range of offerings. More than 500,000 people, which is 10 per cent of residents in Singapore, registered for the preview to get a tour of the exciting new development ahead of April 17 when it will open to the general public and passengers.
The massive dome-shaped complex which covers some 135,700 square metres has a roof which is made up of 9,600 pieces of glass was built on the site of the old Terminal 1 carpark. Costing some S$1.7 billion (USD 1.3 billion), it is designed by world-renowned Israeli-Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie. Mr Safdie also designed the iconic Marina Bay Sands triple tower structure, a fixture on Singapore’s cityscape which all visitors to Singapore make it a point to photograph.
Construction of Jewel began with ground-breaking in December 2014 and it has taken about four and a half years to complete. It is jointly developed by the Changi Airport Group (CAG) which owns 51 per cent of the development and CapitaLand Mall Asia which holds the remaining stake.
The Jewel building is integrated into Terminal 1 and connected to Terminal 2 and 3 via walkways, and travellators with a light rail system connecting Terminals 2 and 3 via Terminal 1.
The centrepiece of Jewel is the 40 metre Rain Vortex which is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. It is a spectacular sight with water falling through the roof at a velocity of 10,000 gallons per minute. There is also a light-and-sound show running between 8.30pm and 12.30am daily.
Another distinct feature of this building is the greenery. Within the indoor garden Forest Valley, there are over 120 species of plants including ferns and orchids. There are also curated plants and two olive trees from Spain which are each more than 100 years old. Canopy Park which is at the top level of the garden features more gardens and leisure facilities.
Within the 10-storey building (with 5 levels underground), are more than 280 shops and food and beverage (F&B) outlets, with 95 per cent of lease space reportedly already taken up.
Fast-growing and popular high-end fast food burger joint Shake Shack is opening its first restaurant in Southeast Asia in Jewel Changi Airport. Also here is the first Pokemon Centre outside of Japan where shoppers have thousands of merchandise to choose from. London casual eatery Burger and Lobster is among the many restaurants in the mall.
About 50 per cent of its tenant mix consists of brands that originate from Singapore, with a dedicated retail cluster of homegrown brands designed to allow visitors to Singapore to bring home Singapore-made souvenirs, foodstuff, and other items.
There is also an eleven-screen cineplex featuring the latest IMAX Laser cinema hall.
For those catching a flight, there are early check-in counters and kiosks provided, as well as baggage storage services. There is also a 130-room hotel will be based within Jewel and will be operated by international hotel brand, YOTEL. The hotel rents rooms out for durations as short as 4 hours to cater for transit passengers. There will be dedicated facilities for fly-cruise and fly-ferry passengers.
In a media release, Jewel Changi Airport Development CEO Hung Jean said: “The vision for Jewel Changi Airport is to be a destination where ‘The World meets Singapore, and Singapore meets the World’.“
“The unique proposition of world-class shopping and dining, seamlessly integrated with lush greenery, fulfills the needs of increasingly discerning travellers for a meaningful and experiential journey, even for brief layovers.”
Hung added at a media briefing that the airport expects about 40 to 50 million visitors annually, and that Jewel is not just targeted at locals but also transit passengers who have a more than five-hour layover in Singapore.
Transit passengers make up about a third of total passengers using Changi Airport.
The vision for Jewel is to be a distinctive world-class lifestyle destination that will be a game changer for Changi Airport to keep it ahead of its rivals amidst intensifying global competition.
Tourist arrivals to Singapore have been steadily climbing. In 2018, about 18.5 million tourists arrived in Singapore compared with 15 million 5 years ago. This is an increase of over 23 percent with a compounded annual growth rate of about 4.5 percent.
During the same period, Indian tourists coming to Singapore has grown at an explosive rate of almost 50 percent. Arrivals in 2014 were about 943,000 and in 2018 it was more than 1.4 million. Indians form the third largest group of tourist coming to Singapore up from fifth position 5 years ago. Only China with 3.4 million and Indonesia with 3 million nationals visiting Singapore in 2018 are ahead of India.