Singapore’s Changi Airport marked the completion of the final phases of its S$1.7 billion (£951 million) Jewel development in 2019.
A joint venture between Changi Airport Group (CAG) and CapitaLand, Jewel is a lifestyle and entertainment destination located at the gateway of Changi Airport.
An example of the airport attractions trend, the 10-storey expansion features shops, restaurants, play experiences, and accommodation. It also features the world’s biggest waterfall, HSBC Rain Vortex, a rainbow light and sound show on Jewel’s top floor, in the Canopy Park.
Other notable attractions include a giant trampoline, a hedge maze and a mirror maze, a petal garden, a topiary walk, an art sculpture that children can slide down, and grassy areas that emit mists so that children feel as if they’re playing in the clouds.
Connected to the airport’s Terminals 1, 2 and 3, Jewel has its own 130-room hotel, YOTEL AIR.
The groundbreaking lifestyle and entertainment hub has won the ‘Most Innovative Retail & Entertainment Project’ accolade at the RLI (Retail & Leisure International) Awards 2020. Blooloop caught up with Jean Hung, CEO at Jewel Changi Airport to hear about the project.
Jean Hung and Jewel Changi Airport
Jean Hung is an aviation veteran. She has more than 18 years of experience in airport management, airline development and commercial development. Hung also holds a double Bachelor’s degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Master’s degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University,
Prior to her appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Jewel Changi Airport, she was Senior Vice President of Changi Airport Group’s Landside Concessions Division, where she spearheaded the planning and development of all landside commercial activities across Changi Airport’s terminals.
Her leadership experience in managing the airport’s commercial business led to her taking on the development of Jewel, from conceptualisation to realisation.
“As the Head of Airport Operations in Terminals 2 and 3 from 2006 to 2010, I also oversaw the management of the departure, arrival and transfer flow of passengers,” she says. “During this period, I played a key role in the opening of Terminal 3, spearheading the delivery of customer service excellence and the creation of memorable passenger experiences in the terminals.
“These included the introduction of facilities such as the world’s tallest play-slide in an airport, as well as organisation of marquee events like the Changi Airport Race. This was the first-ever jetliner versus car race in Asia.”
An ambitious remodelling project
Hung’s career in the aviation sector began with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore; she subsequently worked with the Ministry of Transport.
She played an instrumental role in airline development and the promotion of air traffic rights at the national level. Hung provided expertise in her study of long-term competitive issues for the aviation industry in Singapore.
The remodelling project began in 2014. Outlining the aims and objectives of Jewel Changi Airport, Hung says:
“The site that Jewel is on was the former open-air car park in front of Terminal 1 (T1), Changi’s oldest terminal. Plans back then were to upgrade the handling capacity of T1 to meet passenger demand growth. We were also seeking to optimise land use in land-scarce Singapore. Plus, the aim was to deliver new experiences at Changi Airport with a multi-faceted commercial asset.
“When we first dreamt of and planned for the Jewel mixed-use development, our objective was to strengthen Changi Airport’s global competitiveness. And at the same time capture tourism mindshare. To do so, we needed to create something unique, push boundaries, and deliver a game-changer.
“We wanted this development to serve the needs of the various customer segments who visit Changi Airport – locals, tourists, transit passengers.”
Jewel Changi Airport wins MAPIC award
“In the early years, it took much conviction and perseverance to help others understand our vision,” says Hung. “Our greatest reward after nine years of planning, conception and construction was when the doors were finally open in April last year. We were able to see the faces of many enjoy the beauty of the development. It took so many talented minds and committed hands to make into a reality.”
Jewel Changi Airport was awarded the Special Jury Award at the 24th edition of the MAPIC Awards, held in Cannes, France, on 14 November 2019. This honours the world’s most outstanding retail real estate projects. In 2019, it saw a total of 111 entries from 33 countries across 11 categories.
We’re delighted to dedicate a special jury award to Jewel Changi Airport designed by Safdie Architects & developed by Changi Airport Group & @CapitaLand. Exceptional work ! #MAPICAwards #MAPIC pic.twitter.com/bIyTJ9pPMD
— MAPICWorld (@MAPICWorld) November 14, 2019
“Receiving the MAPIC Special Jury award was an encouragement and affirmation to us that we had delivered a captivating project where travellers from afar are attracted to visit,” says Hung. “I was fortunate to be involved in the project from Day 1. So winning the MAPIC award 10 years from it was a precious moment.
“Jewel Changi Airport is a breakthrough project, from the complexity of its design and construction to fit-out, operations and retail curation. We share this success with our partners and 280 tenants. They have worked closely with us to deliver a unique experience in Jewel.”
A unique experience
Jewel’s elements – the greenery, waterfall, mist, light and sound, play attractions, retail and F&B – coalesce to make an incredible experience.
Hung describes the process of transforming a travel hub into a retail, entertainment and relaxation destination:
“Part garden, part airport, part mall, part attraction – it is all these facets put together. Jewel is the physical manifestation of what Changi Airport has always been – much more than a transport node.”
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#DidYouKnow that the Mirror Maze at Canopy Park comes with vines at the top that allows natural light to filter into the maze? This creates a magical atmosphere and transforms our Mirror Maze into a great backdrop for photos. Not forgetting the 1-metre floral centrepiece within the maze that is sure to impress! #JewelChangiAirport #PlayAtJewel
“Changi Airport was among the pioneers to create gardens in airports. It had play attractions throughout its terminals (including the world’s tallest indoor slide in an airport). Jewel provided the opportunity to bring all these together in one space, on a larger scale.
“The lush greenery, natural light and rushing water of the HSBC Rain Vortex produce a high concentration of negative ions. This is great for one’s general wellbeing, especially for passengers arriving on long flights.”
Quality retail and attractions
“On the retail front, our tenant list was also carefully curated. For instance, we have first-in-Southeast Asia brands like Shake Shack, Pokémon Centre, and Läderach,” says Hung.
“Local brands with a stamp of Singapore’s heritage also feature in Jewel Changi Airport. “They include the likes of retail brands like Naiise Iconic, Supermama, as well as F&B brands such as Bengawan Solo, Violet Oon, and Tiger Street Lab (the first-of-its-kind in the world).
“The current brand repertoire stands true to what Jewel aims to bring out – ‘Where Singapore meets the World, and the World meets Singapore’.”
“For the play attractions at Canopy Park, bringing the outdoors indoors was another key consideration in our planning. We wanted to ensure that Jewel Changi Airport could be enjoyed under all weather conditions. So that no visitor would be disappointed when they come to visit.
“After much research, it was apparent that the best attractions in the world were those set in natural environments. Attractions which encompass the universal and timeless elements of play, like running, climbing, sliding, hiding, and exploring. Such elements last through the tide of time and can be enjoyed by all ages. That is why we chose this selection of mazes, nets and slides at Canopy Park.”
Catering to a wide range of people
The beauty of a mixed-use development like Jewel Changi Airport, Hung says, lies in the fact it caters to different audience segments. From families to shopaholics and foodies. It provides a multi-faceted experience for all visitors.
The Jewel Changi Airport project effectively reimagines the airport experience. Explaining the concept behind it, Hung says:
“Airports are gateways to each country/city, and often are the first and last place which leaves an impression on visitors.”
“Jewel’s design was intended to reflect Singapore’s reputation as a ‘garden in a city’. Each airport has a different set of considerations when designing the airport experience. For instance, its geographical location, passenger/visitor mix, and local culture.
“The airport experience has traditionally been one that has various pain points along the journey. But it is in the airport operator’s interest to reduce the stress of travelling and let their passengers enjoy the journey.”
Jewel makes Changi Airport a destination
The airport’s transformation goes beyond making the process of travelling enjoyable. It effectively turns the airport itself into a destination. To an extent, Jewel Changi Airport reflects the shift in perspective of the experience economy, as people focus, literally and metaphorically, on process as well as outcome; journey as well as destination.
Hung says: “Right from the beginning, Jewel was conceptualised for our customers, both international travellers and locals. We needed to remain relevant to the growing region, and to the changing world. This requires constant reinvention and innovation.
“Customers today are more discerning, widely travelled and make decisions to maximise their experience. For passengers on transit, they can take their pick from a variety of transit hubs. The layover journey is often an uncomfortable one.
“With Jewel Changi Airport, transit passengers have a plethora of options to entertain themselves with. There is even a free Jewel walking tour. Here, participants are introduced to Jewel’s iconic highlights and can also sample local delicacies.”
A special place
“For locals, Singapore is a small city-state. The airport is close by for most Singaporeans, compared to other airports around the world,” says Hung.
“Many Singaporeans share a collective memory of growing up with Changi Airport. Students study at the airport and families spend their weekends there, even when they are not travelling. The airport holds a special place in their hearts. Beyond just the hardware of Jewel, we hope that the ‘heartware’ of Jewel provides enduring memories to last a lifetime.”
Travel is a core piece of the experience economy. Commenting on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Hung says:
“A recent IATA survey shared consumer attitudes toward air travel. About half are ready to return to travel within a few months of the pandemic subsiding. The survey also shared passengers’ top concerns toward travel, measures that contribute to the feeling of safety as well as the willingness to adopt these measures.
“Domestic travel is recovering in certain markets. This is a positive sign for the industry. As a mall and attractions operator, it is our job to instil confidence in our visitors. And to reassure them with all the precautionary measures in place.”
Looking to the future
In conclusion, Hung says:
“Our priority at Jewel Changi Airport is to work with our partners to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for our local visitors in the near term.
“With the current travel restrictions on foreign visitors, our marketing efforts have focused on reaching out to residents. We are maintaining high standards of cleaning, for the safety and well-being of all our guests and staff.”
“We have also continued to keep an active mindshare with our foreign guests via our social media channels. So, we can readily reach out and welcome them back as soon as the situation allows for it.
“We will continue to refresh Jewel’s offerings. We want every guest, whether a first-time or repeat visitor, to be constantly surprised and delighted. As we like to say to our guests at Jewel, ‘Have a sparkling time!’