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World’s first quarantine-free international bubble facility

A specially-built bubble accommodation facility to allow the resumption of international business meetings has opened in Singapore. Connect@Changi, a pilot short-stay facility, has been built to capitalise on the progressive reopening of the country's borders and spur business and economic activities, while safeguarding the local community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connect@Changi has launched with 150 premium guestrooms and 40 meeting rooms that can accommodate a range of meeting sizes, from four to 22 people. This will expand to around 660 guest rooms and 170 meeting rooms when the initial phase of the project is completed in May. When fully completed later this year, the facility will have the potential capacity to host some 1,300 business travellers at any one time, principal partner Temasek said.

Singapore, whose economy contracted by 5.4 per cent in 2020 in the Asian nation's worst recession since independence in 1965, is desperate to support safe business exchanges between international business travellers and residents.

Connect@Changi was built inside Halls 7–10 of the Singapore EXPO & Max Atria convention centre, using prefabricated room pods stacked to two levels, with separate pods for meeting rooms and a gym. The self-service rooms are made airtight by floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Entrances, exits and air-conditioning units are kept separate, while air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems were designed for safe airflow.

One of two courtyards that are enclosed at the specially made bubble hotel Connect@Changi. Photo: Connect@Changi

The facility is five minutes from Changi Airport and is offering an integrated ‘test-stay-work-meet’ experience for inbound business travellers. Executives landing at Changi Airport can meet their Singapore-based counterparts or hold regional meetings in person at Connect@Changi while enjoying a comfortable stay with an array of safe management measures in place.

To ensure the health and safety of guests and employees, all foreign travellers checking into Connect@Changi will be required to go through a rigorous COVID-19 testing regimen throughout their stay. This includes a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival at Changi Airport on days three, seven and 14 of their stay, as well as prior to departing the facility, depending on the requirements of the destination country.

Registration and check-in can be done via the Connect@Changi mobile app before arrival at the facility to minimise contact with front desk staff. Singapore-based visitors are not required to undergo testing when accessing the facility, as foreign travellers and local visitors have completely separate entrances, exits and ventilation systems.

All guestrooms are 19 square metres, with high-speed wireless internet access for all business and entertainment needs, and access to recreational areas in two enclosed courtyards designed with park-like settings. Rooms start at US$290 a night, which is inclusive of three meals, complimentary minibar, toiletries, wi-fi, two-way airport transfers as well as COVID-19 tests required during the course of the stay.

Additionally, Connect@Changi is using self-service meeting rooms to minimise contact between guests and frontline staff. Meals are delivered to pre-installed shelves located outside guestrooms. Guests can also opt for additional food and beverage options such as self-serve coffee from Starbucks kiosks and order meals from Changi Eats, Changi Airport’s food delivery service.

A premier king room at the bubble hotel Connect@Changi. Photo: Connect@Changi

Advanced MedTech Holdings, a global medical technology company with a core focus in urology devices and services, will be one of the first to conduct business activities at Connect@Changi. The Singapore-headquartered firm plans to hold its first in-person global senior leadership meeting of up to 30 business executives at the facility – its first since the coronavirus pandemic began early last year.

"In-person meetings allow us to connect tangibly and renew our bonds for a globally diverse team. The smiles on each other’s faces, the passion in our demeanours, the steely determination etched in our eyes, even the energy emanating from our physical presence – all these are hard to experience over virtual meetings. We are looking forward to our physical meetings at Connect@Changi," said Lee Weikang, Senior Director of Business Development at Advanced MedTech.

The accommodation facility is a venture of Temasek with partners The Ascott Limited, Changi Airport Group, Sheares Healthcare Group, SingEx-Sphere Holdings and Surbana Jurong. Temasek calls it a "living laboratory".

"The pandemic is an ever-evolving situation and being able to adapt and respond quickly to changes is key in this new normal," the company said.

"As such, Connect@Changi is also designated as a living laboratory. The innovative protocols and testing measures in place here are being constantly refined to ensure the safety of both guests and facility staff.

"Strategies found useful here may then be deployed in other initiatives across Singapore to support national efforts in progressively opening the economy up in a safe and controlled manner."

The four-person meeting room at the bubble hotel Connect@Changi. Photo: Connect@Changi
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