Singapore is the word on everyone’s lips this year. No longer solely resting on its dynamic MICE reputation, the Lion City seeks to delve deeper into the multi-layers of modern hospitality. Aleksandra Wood writes.
On its quest to become the face of modern hospitality, the island city-state of Singapore – a multicultural destination and a global financial centre blessed by a tropical climate – is bursting at the seams with a myriad of touristic changes and upgrades.
Singapore’s tourism industry is taking on the year with a dynamic approach. In 2019, the island is focused on preserving and promoting its effervescent heritage and culture that is boldly pronounced by its historical monuments and wondrous attractions.
“What I love most about Singapore is that its size does not determine its capabilities. Though small in size, the Lion City boasts a constellation of attractions fit for every traveller. One can start their Singapore experience by visiting the famed Marina Bay Sands, the futuristic 51.8m tall SuperTrees of Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer. These attractions should not be missed and would undeniably be an unforgettable experience for travellers,” vice president, operations – South East Asia, Hilton, Paul Hutton illustrated.
The city-state is also home to a rich tapestry of arts and culture, with an array of galleries, theatres and museums dotted all over its glorious surface.
While many a traveller flocks to Singapore’s most sought-after attractions on an annual basis, including MBS Skypark, Universal Studios Singapore and Merlion, hidden gems such as Peranakan Baba Houses, Gilman Barracks, Chijmes and the National Gallery Singapore are emerging as cultural gemstones that are not to be overlooked.
And if anyone should feel dubious about the potential of this destination, they need only grab a snack and a beverage, get comfortable and allow themselves to be immersed in the 2018 blockbuster hit ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, which adequately brings to life Singapore’s most desirable locations.
Innovation runs deep within this country’s roots, as corroborated by the success of the Singapore Tourism Board’s ‘Passion Made Possible’ campaign, launched in August 2017.
“[The campaign] portrayed dramatic representations of ‘authentic Singapore’ to tell a more complete story beyond tourism and appeal to tourists seeking more aspirational value propositions in travel,” explained general manager, Raffles Singapore, Christian Westbeld. “The campaign – launched in Singapore and 17 overseas markets through consumer activations, trade events, industry partnerships and global marketing campaigns – was internationally received as a refreshing and creative approach to destination marketing.”
Following this success, the Singapore Tourism Board is currently in the midst of creating a cutting-edge one-stop mobile app that customises experiences for each visitor. This will be complemented by smart kiosks and an online platform aggregating information on the services, events and promotions of local tourism players.
The scheme of the app presents the city-state as ‘a single, unified, mega attraction’, as opposed to a collection of individual attractions.
Recent tourism-related developments in Singapore’s industry have vastly supported the adoption of technology. Hutton of Hilton elucidated: “As a business of people serving people, we keep true to our commitment to provide exceptional experiences to all of our guests by leveraging technology to alleviate pain points, pre-empt and cater to the needs of our guests, in order to make the travel experience simplified and seamless.”
Hutton speaks of none other than the hospitality giant’s stellar Hilton Honors app, through which guests at Hilton Singapore, Conrad Centennial Singapore and Hilton Garden Inn Singapore Serangoon can now access their rooms using Digital Key.
“Digital Key and Digital Check-In, our industry leading innovative tools, give guests the ability to choose their room and view it, while also enabling them to use their smartphones as their room key,” explained Hutton.
Each step towards digital evolution calls for meticulous updates. With the prevalence of streaming apps and automation solutions, travellers expect elevated levels of customisation, along with more control over their stays.
“To cater to this, we piloted the Connected Room, which delivers a mobile-first room experience for our guests,” Hutton further noted. “From streaming their favourite media, to controlling temperature and energy usage and more, Connected Room personalises the entire hotel experience for guests, empowering them to tailor all elements of their stay from the palm of their hand.”
Concurrently, other hospitality entities within Singapore are finding ways to extend their digital influence beyond their premises, as explicated by chief experience officer, Royal Plaza on Scotts, Patrick Fiat, who claims travellers trying to tap on free WiFi at every unreliable hotspot will be a thing of the past for the property.
“Royal Plaza on Scotts tops guests’ expectations by enhancing their travel experience beyond the hotel room, with the introduction of free unlimited data on pocket WiFi devices.
“Partnering with Yogifi by Passpod, we are one of the first hotels in Singapore to launch the game-changing benefit, with pocket WiFi devices that store enough power to last up to 15 hours per charge,” he added.
The powerhouse connects up to five devices at 4G LTE high speed for the first 500MB every day. Mobile data remains accessible after the first 500MB of free high-speed data, so guests are never left stranded without an Internet connection.
“It is not a luxury to stay connected but a necessity to do so. Having pocket WiFi devices with unlimited data at our guests’ fingertips takes off some stress from travelling and that’s what Royal Plaza on Scotts’ hospitality is about,” Fiat noted.
Plenty of room has been made for advancements outside of technology, namely Singapore’s infrastructure. At ITB Asia 2018, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Chee Hong Tat, announced plans for major development projects for Sentosa, the adjacent Pulau Brani and the waterfront areas along Tanjong Pagar, thus ultimately reshaping the entire island to allow for new attractions and investments. The area will altogether be branded as the Southern Gateway of Asia and will provide novel opportunities to enhance tourism in Singapore.
In addition to this, Orchard Road, Singapore’s famed shopping district, is to undergo a reinvention of its own. Regional general manager – Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, The Ascott Limited, Ervin Yeo elaborated: “There are plans underway to enhance Orchard Road as an integrated lifestyle and leisure precinct that offers authentic and immersive experiences. The latest addition to the precinct is Design Orchard, an incubation space that seeks to house over 60 local designers and emerging talents.
“The development aims to transform Singapore’s retail landscape and help local designers go global,” he added.
This project would give the area a new lease of life and encourage footfall from business travellers, thereby reinforcing Singapore as a top tier MICE destination.
This year will also see the reopening of Raffles Singapore, an iconic landmark dating back to 1887 that represents one of the few remaining 19th century hotels in the world.
The property is currently wrapping up the remainder of its extensive restoration project and is anticipated to open mid-year.
“Raffles Singapore continues to be a legend in the global luxury hotel sphere. The main responsibility and challenge in undertaking a restoration of this national icon is to deliver a result that shows the hotel’s graceful evolution over time to suit and adapt to today’s travellers, while still maintaining the property’s original charm and unique ambience,” Raffles Singapore’s Westbeld told TTG.
FEEL IT TO BELIEVE IT
In recent years, consumer preference has considerably shifted from mass tourism to experiential travel – a touristic phenomenon that currently leads the trends. In a bid to form a profound connection with a destination’s history, culture and natives, more and more travellers are seeking unprecedented journeys.
Hutton revealed: “We have introduced Hilton Honors Experiences – an auction platform that provides curated, money-can’t-buy experiences for our guests. Through special access to sporting events and sold-out concerts, as well as curated cultural experiences, our loyal guests can look forward to creating incredible memories of their travel experiences.”
Meanwhile, Singapore’s worldwide reputation for its delectable cuisine has paved the way for a brand-new trend, which Raffles Singapore is eager to tap into, according to Westbeld: “Experiential dining is a key travel trend in Singapore, with gastronomical experiences being increasingly elevated in Singapore to entice visitors.”
He continued: “Many high-profile culinary festivals and Michelin-star chefs have recently arrived at our shores, raising the bar for culinary experiences. Singapore’s burgeoning identity as a culinary destination is an opportunity to enhance our F&B strategy.”
The new year is set to bring an influx of travellers gravitating towards unique experiences centred on personal fulfilment, coupled with expectations of seamless journeys facilitated by cutting-edge and easily accessible technology. Singapore is evidently equipped to provide all this and more.