Singapore’s latest crown Jewel wants to outdo other airports in experiences

View of Shiseido Forest Valley and HSBC Rain Vortex from the South Viewing Deck

Airports in Asia are constantly in a race to outdo one another in the area of experiences – just look to Singapore’s Changi airport, which seeks to incorporate the functional as well as experiential aspects of airport design.

Built at a cost of S$1.7 billion (US$1.3 billion), the long-awaited Jewel Changi Airport – which will officially opens its doors come Wednesday – has its sights set in enhancing the airport experience for visitors and transit passengers, on top of being a lifestyle destination for locals.

Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the 135,700m2 complex is a multifaceted indoor destination that includes attractions such as the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, lush greenery, shopping and dining concepts, as well as accommodation facilities.

Jayson Goh, managing director airport operations management, Changi Airport Group, shared: “Many airports around the world are going beyond providing an efficient service for passengers. Experience now is the (buzzword). Many airports are trying to enhance the experience for passengers, regardless of whether they are arriving, departing or visiting.

“Jewel will be a clear example of how Changi Airport is moving quickly in this area. When Terminal 4 opened last year, it had many experiential elements for passengers.”

From a tour around Jewel Changi Airport, TTG Asia observes that stores have embodied the meaning of experiential, inviting customers in to experience its brand story and spend a longer time within.

For instance, lifestyle stores such as Foot Locker opened a dedicated women’s section on its second floor, complete with sofas, magazine rack, and a pop-up nail bar. At Muji, the Japanese retail company opened an 88-seater café, inviting customers to shop, dine and linger.

“Data has told us that passengers are spending longer when transiting through airports, which is the reason why there’s a need to increase to support them and provide a comfortable, stress-free environment during their transit,” said Goh.

That is why Jewel has gone beyond duty-free shopping, napping pods and quiet rest areas for transit passengers, and is “plugging the gap” for those who have a transit time of five hours or more, as well as travellers that have to check out of their hotel room early but are only departing at night.

Goh noted: “Look at Jewel’s amenities. We have a cinema where passengers can catch a movie, or take can stroll along the Forest Valley. If you’re awake on a different timezone, there are now (a list of) things to do.”

While general operating hours of Jewel are from 10.00 to 22.00, certain tenants like Burger & Lobster and A&W remain open into the early hours of the morning.

In addition to its amenities, green elements occupy a total area of 21,000m2 within the development. Jewel’s piece de resistance is the 40m-tall HSBC Rain Vortex – the world’s tallest indoor waterfall – that is surrounded by the Shiseido Forest Valley. Play attractions include the Manulife Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides, all of which will open later in June.

Also located within the Jewel development is YotelAir Singapore Changi Airport, an airport hotel offering flexible accommodation options ranging from four hours up to overnight stays for its 130 cabins, for those that would prefer a respite from their long journeys.

“Next time these passengers need to transit through Asia and need to choose a transit airport, (all of our airport offerings may compel) them to choose Changi Airport,” he opined.

Meanwhile, airport facilities at Jewel include an early check-in facility (up to 24 hours) for flights, and paid baggage storage service. A total of 26 airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines – representing 60 per cent of departing flights at Changi – offer early check-in options for passengers.

In line with the growth of Singapore as a regional cruise centre, Jewel also houses the 150-seat Changi Lounge complete with refreshments, showers and business facilities. The lounge will also provide pre-arranged transfers for passengers with connections to cruise and ferry services, where the end-to-end service will see passengers’ luggage delivered from the arrival flight to their departing vessel.

Jean Hung, CEO of Jewel Changi Airport Development, concluded: “The vision for Jewel Changi Airport is to be a destination where ‘The World meets Singapore, and Singapore meets the World’. Jewel is more than just an airport, it’s a lifestyle destination.”

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