SINGAPORE - I was thrilled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement of plans to build a sprawling multi-storey complex at Changi Airport, codenamed Jewel ("Changi expansion sign of faith in Singapore's future", Monday; and "Jewel at Changi will offer travellers stunning welcome", Tuesday).
This is a bold and decisive move, for which the Government and the airport authorities must be applauded.
Changi has constantly taken steps to augment its position as South-east Asia's premier air hub, and Jewel will certainly go a long way towards sharpening its appeal.
Jewel presents a golden opportunity to showcase Singapore's culture and way of life to foreign travellers, especially those whose experience of Singapore would otherwise be limited to a few hours spent in the airport while waiting to catch a connecting flight.
Changi Airport Group could consider setting aside parts of the complex to support home-grown fashion labels and independent bookstores that actively promote the works of Singaporean authors.
The atrium of the complex could be tapped as a stage for local dance and theatre groups to put on performances so as to heighten interest in and garner support for the arts in Singapore.
A mini-museum could also be set up to take visitors through a brief history of Singapore.
Through these, Jewel could evolve to become a microcosm of Singapore and thus stretch far beyond being a mere shopping complex in an airport.
Jewel will succeed if it manages to not only give travellers on a stopover (who constitute a sizeable number of all passengers at Changi) a distinctive flavour of Singapore in a few short hours, but also entice them to venture out of the airport on their next visit to discover what lies beyond.
Kenneth Cheng Jing Wen
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