SG govt to breathe new life into national pride Changi Airport after COVID decimated travel

Minister for Transport, S Iswaran, said he has “every confidence” that it will grow Changi Airport and “bring it into a new phase of life” as a safe and sustainable global aviation hub. In a Facebook post, Iswaran detailed the launch of Changi Airport on 1 July 1981 and how the airport has grown to handle nearly 70 million passengers in 2019.

“Today, we stand in the thick of Changi Airport's biggest crisis ever. COVID-19 has decimated global aviation and set us back decades,” he said. However, Iswaran said Singaporeans should take heart and that the Changi spirit is resolute.

Since its founding, Changi Airport has been ranked the best airport by Skytrax for eight consecutive years including 2020. Adding on to Changi Airport’s charm is Jewel Changi Airport which was launched in April 2019. Since then, Jewel is known or its rain vortex, which is also touted as the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. In October 2019, six months after its launch, Jewel recorded a footfall of about 50 million from both local and foreign visitors. That same month, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even said Jewel has become “one of the instantly recognisable icons of Singapore”.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, led to a dip in travel and impacted the aviation and retail industries, among many others. Jewel, for example, reopened in mid-June this year after being closed to the public since 13 May after COVID-19 cases were detected. During February and March last year, Changi Airport saw a 33% and 71% dip in passenger traffic respectively compared to 2019, with concession revenue dropping 58% year-on-year for both months. The company ended FY2019/20 with a marginally lower net operating revenue of SG$2.6 billion on the back of 62.9 million passenger movements for the year.

To cope with the pandemic and attract consumers to spend with it, Changi Airport absorbed taxes for more than 5,000 products last April. These included brands across beauty, electronics, fashion and lifestyle products. It also offered Changi Rewards members to earn points while they shop and clock double the points last April and May.

Months later in August, Changi Airport launched a food delivery service named Changi Eats to offer consumers with its food offerings including Burger and Lobster, Paradise Dynasty, and Lady M. The service also includes close to 30 other F&B outlets across Changi Airport and Jewel. James Fong, VP of landside concessions at Changi Airport Group, said Changi Eats was launched in the middle of the pandemic and transformed its F&B business model. It also gave the company an opportunity to do more to support local SMEs, he said.

To rally Singaporeans and travellers and spread positivity, Changi Airport Group launched a year-end campaign last December titled "A New Year, Renewed Resolutions". This initiative aimed to bring hope of better days ahead and spread the uplifting sentiment of being able to experience the joy of travel again. Following a challenging year, the Group wanted to encourage consumers to look ahead and embrace 2021 with hope and fervour. 

It also celebrated the everyday individuals who work behind the scenes of the many tourism attractions across Singapore in a film titled "While You Were Home". The film honours the resilience and perseverance of the many workers in the tourism community who take care of the attractions, and are ready for the day when they can welcome visitors again.

Separately, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said earlier this week that he hopes for leisure travel to be a viable option before year-end. He told The Straits Times that once a place’s COVID-19 infection rate dips and vaccination rates increase, and there are only about two or three infections per 100,000, Singapore “should start monitoring those countries seriously”. According to The Straits Times, places such as the US, certain parts of the European Union and Hong Kong, where vaccination rates are increasing, are likely places for leisure travel.

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