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.
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 Rate||5 Day Stay|
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.
|[email protected]||All countries except for UK and South Africa|
|Air Travel Pass (ATP)|
|Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL)|
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.