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A home abroad
Business travellers to Singapore are increasingly spoilt for choice, especially in accommodation options. In just October and November alone, four new hotels have popped up: the Sofitel Singapore City Centre at Tanjong Pagar, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay, Courtyard Marriott Singapore Novena, and Andaz Singapore in Kampong Glam.
Pure coincidence? Not to Mark Winterton, general manager at InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay. "Singapore is a hub for tourism in Southeast Asia, with an ever-increasing number of visitor arrivals," he says.
There was a 4.4 per cent increase in the first four months of 2017 in comparison to 2016, and the demand from the domestic market for staycations is also strong. "So it doesn't come as a surprise to see a few hotels opening at the same time," says Mr Winterton.
On top of that, each hotel is part of its respective hospitality group with an established clientele, so a majority of guests are expected to be members of their loyalty programmes. But that isn't stopping them from pulling out all the stops to woo the business traveller in their own ways.
5 FRASER STREET
The life of a business traveller who is constantly on the go, is pretty much the same regardless of where he is. Fly into a city, head straight to the hotel, take a cab to the office or a meeting, back to the hotel for the night, and a dash to the airport to catch the next flight.
Despite being in different cities, the traveller often has no time to explore the city itself. The new Andaz Singapore hopes to change that, when it takes in guests officially from Nov 15.
"Our guests can still experience elements of Singapore, and the Bugis/Haji Lane neighbourhood where the hotel is, even without having to leave the property," says Andreas Stalder, senior vice president of food and beverage operations and product development for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which owns the Andaz brand.
Each Andaz hotel varies in looks, but incorporates elements of the surroundings. The Singapore property - its first in Southeast Asia - is no different.
Famed interior designer Andre Fu, founder of AFSO, was inspired by the shophouses in the Bugis area and Singapore's multi-cultural society when designing the hotel.
"It is not possible to recreate Singapore's culture into the hotel, but there was a lot of inspiration from it," says Mr Fu.
The Andaz Singapore experience begins on the 25th floor, where Mr Fu has created seven very modern 'shophouses' - five of which are restaurants and the other two are bars. Each of them are placed along the perimeter of this floor, with a courtyard in the centre.
Two interactive desks in this courtyard are the check-in counters, but guests can also choose to do their check-in at any of the shophouses.
One of the charms of exploring shophouses is walking through the back alleys, which again, were an inspiration for Mr Fu. Guests pass through alleys when walking from one shophouse to another in the hotel. "Just like how you would discover something unexpected in a traditional alleyway, I wanted to recreate that same feeling in the hotel," he says.
Mr Fu conceived the 342 guestrooms as contemporary bungalows and threw in local elements. For example, the doorbell is housed in a bespoke postbox, much like those seen outside a shophouse.
The doors separating the bathroom from the sleeping area resemble shophouse doors, and the design of the wall lamps have silhouettes of the street lights in Singapore.
Even the toiletries by French perfumer Christophe Laudamiel were specially scented using local ingredients, such as Indian jasmine and cloves, with orchids and ginger lilies, and are exclusive to the hotel.
For colours, Mr Fu selected colours again inspired by Singapore, such as warm russet, paprika, aubergine and mustard, frequently found in Indian and Malay handicrafts.
In the atrium area where the rooms are, guests will be drawn to a 26m tall hanging sculpture by Brazilian artist Andre Mendes. Titled The World Traveller, eagle-eyed guests will spot some of Singapore's icons such as the Merlion, the Supertrees and a junk in the sculpture.
Since food is a big deal in Singapore, special attention was made to the food offerings in the hotel, down to local snacks in the minibar.
For guests who have no time to dine outside of the hotel, they can sample what Singapore has to offer. The hotel worked with local brands and offers guests breads from Tiong Bahru
Bakery, cold pressed juices from Juice Junkie, and an Andaz Pale Ale from RedDot BrewHouse.
And unlike other hotel restaurants, these five each specialise in one food preparation method.
For example, Smoke & Pepper serves international barbecued specialities prepared on an open-fire grill. The Green Oven, named after the large green, vintage-style oven in the centre of the open kitchen serves classic international favourites such as braised lamb shanks and mussels.
"Each of our restaurants are not super big, but they provide quality food," says Mr Stalder.
Instead of the typical patisserie, the hotel serves different flavoured pandan chiffon cakes, such as chocolate, bandung and pineapple. "Our pastry chef came up with the flavours for the national cake of Singapore. We knew we didn't want to offer macarons," says Mr Stalder. The cakes are packaged in pretty boxes, and make good souvenirs for the business guests.
Mr Stalder says that even though the corporate traveller may stay only a night or two, "Andaz is not about gimmicks, but giving guests a strong sense of place."
SOFITEL SINGAPORE CITY CENTRE, 9 WALLICH STREET
Frequent travellers know that the symptoms of jet lag are very real. Studies have shown that it takes one full day to recover for every hour of time difference, and that exercise can help to alleviate jet lag. When exercising, it's best to do it at the same time as you do at home.
Business travellers who stay at the recently opened Sofitel Singapore City Centre may have higher chances of beating jet lag.
Like most other hotels, the Sofitel has a 24 hour gym. But the hotel makes it even easier for the weary traveller to exercise. In all its 223 rooms, there is a one-of-a-kind In-Room Fitness Kit, which comes with a yoga mat, foam roller, resistance bands and instruction videos for those who don't wish to leave their rooms to work out.
In addition, guests staying in the luxury premier rooms have complimentary access to the sprawling 31,000 sq ft Virgin Active Fitness Club located next to the hotel's pool area. At the club, they can take anti-gravity yoga classes, try out equipment such as the Krankcyle, that works the upper body and the Skillmill, which resembles a modified treadmill. After a workout, guests can recharge in a regenerating sleep pod or in the Himalayan Salt inhalation room.
"The essence of well-being is very much an emphasis here at Sofitel as we recognise the need of our corporate guests to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle as they are always on the move," says Freddy See, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.
The guest rooms have floor to ceiling windows, complimentary minibars serviced by the hotel's own droid butler, Sophie the Robot, Smart TVs and large soaking tubs with separate rain showers.
The hotel also provides guests an epicurean journey that showcases Singapore's traditional flavours and Sofitel's undeniable French pedigree. Rather than do an East-West fusion, its restaurant Racines, the French word for roots, features traditional French classics alongside refined local Chinese delicacies prepared by two different brigades of chefs. For example, one ingredient, such as frog's legs is available two ways - French style which is pan-fried with pink garlic, or Chinese style with spicy Szechuan salt.
Mr See adds that aside from providing "unparalleled convenience with our location in the heart of the central business district, Sofitel Singapore City Centre is also focused on curating experiences that are tailor-made specifically to every business travellers' needs."
COURTYARD AT MARRIOTT SINGAPORE NOVENA
99 IRRAWADDY ROAD
Touch wood, but if a guest staying at the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott suddenly needs medical attention, doctors are just a lift away.
After all, the 250-room hotel is centrally located on the threshold of Health City Novena, which has both private and medical institutions. The hotel itself occupies the 22nd to 33rd floor of Royal Square at Novena, a mixed-use building that houses retail, offices and medical suites.
Its general manager Peter Khong expects the hotel to not only cater to medical tourists, but also to corporate customers especially Marriott Rewards members. "And also to the bleisure traveller," he adds.
With a direct connection to Novena MRT Station, the hotel is also ideal for business travellers who prefer to stay slightly away from the CBD area, but yet not too far away.
The rooms are what bleisure travellers expect: spacious with panoramic views of the city, plush bedding, choice of pillows, and a WiFi connection that doesn't require tapping in a password.Rooms have superb soundproofing too, that even the church bells from Novena Church next door cannot be heard.
The hotel also has two handicap-friendly rooms, and nine elder-friendly ones, which are spacious enough for a hospital bed to be wheeled in, and suited for the less mobile.
Mr Khong says that the common areas are smartly designed, with plenty of quiet corners for executive guests who want to have a casual meeting, to communal tables and outdoor patios to encourage socializing and networking.
He is also especially proud of the food that the hotel is offering. "Healthy options which are good for the jet-lagged traveller," he says.
For example, the lobby lounge offers fresh, cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices and smoothies for guests to grab and go.
If business travellers need something stronger to chill out with after work, there is Urbana, on level 33, which is the highest rooftop bar in the Novena area.
At its SKY22 restaurant, the focus is also on healthier meals, with its Build-Your-Own-Bowl concept, which lets diners select a salad, grain or noodle base, topped with vegetables and a protein.
Those who want something heartier have the option of local food given a slight twist, such as the Nasi Ulam Wild Rice Salad with charred octopus.
As the new kid on the block, Mr Khong is making it a point to get to know his neighbours, especially the doctors in the same building.
"I hope for the doctors to naturally recommend their patients to stay with us," he says.
INTERCONTINENTAL SINGAPORE ROBERTSON QUAY
1 NANSON ROAD
Unless they look out the windows, guests staying at the newly opened InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay, may mistakenly think they are at home, albeit, a very stylish one. That's because the design of the 225-room hotel, done by award-winning from SCDA Architects is very much inspired by private residences.
There are plenty of residential-inspired elements in the rooms and the public areas. For example, Quayside Lounge has clustered seating, similar to a living room, with a custom-made cocktail cabinet to evoke the feeling of being served a drink from a familiar home bar.
Little touches in the public spaces include the use of candles, coffee table books and curated floral arrangements, adding to the homely feel of the spaces.
The choice of colours is also incidental, such as earthy tones in the rooms. In place of a conventional study desk, a specially designed coffee table does the job. And guests can really feel at home when they make themselves a drink from the DIY cocktail kit in their rooms.
General manager Mark Winterton says, "The hotel seeks to seamlessly establish itself as part of a holistic dining and lifestyle destination, offering stylish riverside living at the upscale neighbourhood of Robertson Quay."
The hotel's dining options go beyond the typical hotel offerings to include the famed Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener and Ishi, a sushi joint.
Mr Winterton says both InterContinentals, the first being in Bugis, offer the same luxury positioning. Whereas the Bugis one is in the arts and cultural precinct, the Robertson Quay has a more upscale neighbourhood feel, while being on the fringe of the CBD. "Guests may enjoy exploring the city while staying at the different precincts, depending on their interest and purpose of visit."