Travel Insurance

Is [email protected] Worth the Cost for Businesses?

Singapore's unique [email protected] program allows business travellers from around the world to enter a bubble environment and have socially distanced meetings with Singaporean residents in person. But is it worth the steep cost?

With countries around the world continuing to struggle through various states of lockdown as a result of the coronavirus, companies that operate internationally have been forced to postpone or cancel in-person business trips to other jurisdictions. Singapore's [email protected] program seeks to provide a properly distanced method for enabling face-to-face interactions between local businesses and international visitors, but is the cost of the service worth the advantage? We compared [email protected] rates and benefits to explore that question.

How Does [email protected] Work?

Announced in December 2020, [email protected] is Singapore's way of helping local enterprises connect in person with international business partners without violating COVID protocols. The program allows foreign travellers to stay in a Singapore-based bubble with room and board for up to 14 days, holding meetings with local partners in conference rooms divided by glass partitions.

ProsCons
  • For most countries, the only option for business travel to Singapore
  • Fewer insurance and COVID testing/tracing requirements than Air Travel Pass (ATP) or Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL)
  • All-inclusive package of transport, lodging, and food
  • Expensive compared to standard hotels
  • Extra charge for meeting rooms
  • Guests cannot leave bubble to enter city

The S$16 hourly rate for a room at [email protected] includes 3 meals per day, round trip shuttle service to and from Changi Airport, and COVID testing on Day 3, Day 7 and Day 14 of the stay. Guests can order delivery from participating restaurants in Singapore, but cannot leave the facility to explore the city at any point.

The main selling point of the service is the option for guests to arrange face-to-face meetings with people living in Singapore, who may travel to the facility and meet guests in specially designed conference rooms. These rooms are divided down the middle by floor-to-ceiling glass partitions, which allow occupants to see and hear one another without risking infection.

How Does the Cost of [email protected] Compare to Hotels?

At an hourly rate of S$16 to S$18 and a minimum stay of 24 hours, travellers using [email protected] pay at least S$384 per day. On top of that, guests must pay extra to use the conference rooms, which are the main attraction of the entire program. Compared to standard hotels, which we found could go as low as S$59 per night, [email protected] ranks among the most expensive accommodations in Singapore.

Hourly Rate5 Day Stay
Executive KingS$16S$2,054
Executive TwinS$16S$2,054
Premier KingS$18S$2,311

It's likely that the main reason for the high cost is that [email protected] is the only way for most foreign business travellers to stay in Singapore for any length of time. As of March, only 10 countries have established either a Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) or Air Travel Pass (ATP) agreement that allows travel into the city itself.

Is [email protected] Worth It?

Overall, the excessive cost of [email protected] makes it a questionable option for travellers from countries that have access to either the Air Travel Pass (ATP) or Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) programs for short-term visits to Singapore. While both of those programs carry extra requirements such as purchasing travel insurance, those inconveniences seem worth enduring when the alternative both costs more and denies access to the city.

AvailabilityPre-departure Requirements
[email protected]All countries except for UK and South Africa
  • Apply for entry
  • Health/travel history declaration
  • Install TraceTogether app
  • Negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure
Air Travel Pass (ATP)
  • Australia
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Mainland China
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
  • Apply for entry and remain at origin for 14 consecutive days
  • Buy travel insurance with S$30,000 COVID-19 coverage
  • Health/travel history declaration
  • Install TraceTogether app
  • Negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure
Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL)
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Mainland China
  • Malaysia
  • Republic of Korea
  • Apply for entry with itinerary in Singapore
  • Buy travel insurance with S$30,000 COVID-19 coverage
  • Health/travel history declaration
  • Install TraceTogether app
  • Negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure

Even for countries that don't have any other way to travel to Singapore, the high cost of arranging in-person meetings through [email protected] should make most businesses seriously consider whether they cannot accomplish their goals through alternatives such as videoconferencing and phone calls.

Most professionals would agree that face-to-face meetings can lead to more effective, nuanced communication than phone or video calls. But for most business scenarios, the rates at [email protected] seem like a rather costly means of obtaining that benefit.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Product Manager for ValueChampion with years of experience in addressing critical questions about insurance and banking products through financial analysis. He spends his time evaluating insurance providers and policy features to understand where consumers might find the most cost-effective coverage. Chris has contributed insights to the New York Times and many other publications. Prior to joining ValueChampion, Chris worked as a product manager at ValuePenguin analysing banking and insurance products in the US.

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