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Changi Airport to break passenger records in 2019 thanks to Jewel: PM Lee

Jewel is now one of the 'instantly recognisable icons' of Singapore, he says at its official opening

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and architect Moshe Safdie looking at a model of Jewel during its official opening.

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A light and sound show celebrates the official opening of Jewel Changi Airport on Oct 18.

Singapore

AN ALL-TIME high of 65.6 million travellers passed through Changi Airport in 2018, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is "confident" that the record will be broken again this year because of the new Jewel Changi Airport complex.

"Jewel has undoubtedly made Changi Airport more competitive," he said at the official opening of the S$1.7 billion development on Friday night.

The grand ceremony was attended by over 500 guests, including the chairmen of Jewel's two shareholders - Liew Mun Leong of Changi Airport Group (CAG) and Ng Kee Choe of CapitaLand - as well as Jewel's chairman Lee Seow Hiang and its chief executive officer Hung Jean.

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Among the other VIPs present were Manpower Minister and Second Home Affairs Minister Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min and Jewel's architect Moshe Safdie.

Jewel - a 135,700 square metre (sq m) retail and entertainment complex built on the site of the former Terminal 1 open-air car park - welcomed its first guests in mid-April this year, after a six-day preview that saw more than 500,000 Singapore residents throng the 10-storey development.

PM Lee noted in his speech that the number has grown to around 50 million visitors since then. Jewel currently sees up to 300,000 visitors each day.

The prime minister recalled how he had first announced Jewel in his National Day Rally speech in 2013, and he wanted Singaporeans to understand that Jewel and Changi Airport were more than just infrastructure projects.

"They represented an idea, they were a symbol. They epitomised how, in Singapore, we must dream boldly to create new possibilities for ourselves," he said.

"It was an act of faith to believe that Changi could do this, and that Singaporeans, working together, could make amazing things happen."

He recalled how, nearly a decade ago, CAG had to convince many stakeholders that the Jewel concept would work.

Some had doubts given that Singapore already had so many shopping malls, while others were concerned that CAG would be distracted from its core mission of running the airport.

"You worked hard to persuade me and my Cabinet colleagues. We met your team, who were serious and professional. You made a good pitch," said PM Lee.

"You convinced us that you had studied the options carefully, and had the passion to make this idea work. So we discussed it, decided the risk was worth taking, and took the plunge.

PM Lee added that Jewel - completed on time and within budget - has since become "one of the instantly recognisable icons" of Singapore, with many foreign leaders he has met gushing over it.

He also pointed out how The New York Times recently featured Jewel in an article describing how visiting Singapore was "a trip to the future".

"This is remarkable, because usually tourists want to leave the airport as soon as they can. But in Singapore, Changi Airport is a tourist attraction in itself. And Jewel has enhanced that reputation and appeal," he said.

He stressed that Singaporeans are proud of Jewel, "and rightly so", as it resonates with them.

"It reminds us that when we dream big and apply ourselves, nothing is impossible," said PM Lee.

On Friday, Jewel announced in a news release that close to 100 per cent of the development's nett lettable area - 53,600 sq m - has already been leased.

There are more than 280 retail and F&B outlets open for business. Fourteen new stores, such as Burger & Lobster and Apple's second Singapore outlet, have opened at Jewel since April.

A total of 35 airlines, serving nearly 80 per cent of all departing passengers at the airport, now offer an early check-in service at Jewel.