Singapore’s business travel bubble zone plan delayed

Singapore’s business travel bubble zone plan delayed

The glass dome of the Apple Marina Bay Sands (left), a new Apple Store opened in September 2020 in a landmark location, is seen in Singapore on Feb 4, 2021. (AFP photo)
The glass dome of the Apple Marina Bay Sands (left), a new Apple Store opened in September 2020 in a landmark location, is seen in Singapore on Feb 4, 2021. (AFP photo)

Singapore’s efforts to open its borders are stalling, with a plan to allow business travellers to avoid quarantine and stay in a dedicated facility near the airport still not materialising.

The Connect@Singapore pilot programme for businesspeople and so-called high-economic value travellers was due to get going in January, yet the tourism board hasn’t selected operators for the facilities where the visitors would stay, the Business Times reported Monday.

The tourism and service sectors are crucial cogs in Singapore’s economy. The island-state has been trying to reopen borders by establishing green lanes and special travel arrangements with countries where the virus is largely under control, such as New Zealand and Australia. Singapore has recorded almost 60,000 Covid-19 cases in total and 29 deaths.

The delay of the bubble plan -- where visitors could enter without quarantine for 14 days provided they stay in a facility near Changi Airport and undergo regular testing -- follows the postponement of the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering, which Singapore was due to host in May. A planned corridor with Hong Kong was also shelved in November after a jump in coronavirus cases in that city.

The start date for applications for the business travel plan “will be broadly aligned with the estimated operational start date of the first Connect@Singapore facility,” the Business Times quoted the Ministry of Trade and Industry as saying.

One facility at Singapore Expo has been named as a possible operator for the pilot, developed by a consortium led by Temasek Holdings Pte, which said it remains on track to open in the first quarter, according to the report. It will initially have 670 guestrooms and 170 meeting rooms.

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