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Pandemic staycations: Suite life at S’pore’s best hotels

Stay-home globetrotters can relish staycations again in Singapore's world-class hotels, now that about 200 properties have re-emerged host domestic tourists.

SINGAPORE – Stay-home globetrotters can relish staycations again in Singapore’s world-class hotels, now that about 200 properties have re-emerged since July to host domestic tourists.

With safe distancing, the new staycation is a little less freewheeling. Guests book slots for breakfast and the pool, for instance, apart from living with new basics like masked-and-gloved service and constant temperature screening.

The sunny side is that stays are sweetened with dining credits, spa discounts, room upgrades, in-room dining, leisurely checkouts, teddy bears, bubbly, picnics, artisanal classes and more.

Singaporeans spent more than $34 billion on overseas travel in 2018.

“If a portion of this expenditure is channelled towards local staycations and dining experiences, it will be a great boost to our hotels’ financial health,” says Ms Margaret Heng, executive director of the Singapore Hotel Association, which is the collective voice of 160 hotel members representing 85 per cent of the gazetted room inventory here.

This largesse that hotels here seek may not be too elusive, as the staycation is a beloved ritual for many Singaporeans, who averaged 2.4 staycations in 2017.

(Related: How hotels are re-thinking their old approaches)

This is just slightly less than the three personal overseas flights Singaporeans took in a year, according to the 2018 Singapore Staycation Study released by Brand Expedia. Staycations pair well with the spirit of travel at home.

Ms Heng adds: “Beyond our world-class hotel facilities and hospitality excellence, there are many hidden gems in our cultural precincts and residential neighbourhoods that make for truly memorable moments.”

In July, the Singapore Tourism Board launched a $45 million campaign to nudge residents of Singapore to rediscover the country.

In that light, any staycationer can still be a free spirit within bounds. Create your own playtime in and beyond the hotel – and pack a can-do spirit.

Still hesitant about pandemic staycays?

Check the protocols for a safe stay, which should be displayed transparently on the hotel’s website.

(Related: The new look of the legendary Hotel Lutetia)

Meanwhile, digital travel company Booking.com has introduced a new checklist on its site for hotels to highlight health and safety measures, such as physical distancing, sanitisation and food-and-drink safety.

Mr Vikas Bhola, regional director (South Apac) of Booking.com, points out that flexibility is also significant. “When guests make a booking, flexibility is key, with potential uncertainties that could impact their staycation plans,” he says.

“Guests should take advantage of free cancellation availability and ensure they’re clear on the policies set by properties.”

Mr Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, believes in communicating staycation strictures to guests, beginning with pre-arrival documents that include suggested schedules for booking breakfast and amenities.

“The guests appreciate it,” he says, and highlights the high ratio of repeat visitors.

For instance, Mrs Gertrude Mary Looi, 92, has stayed at The Fullerton Bay Hotel more than 40 times, including a mid-March pandemic stay. She considers it her “sanctuary” and likes the personal touches.

Fullerton Bay Hotel

Waterfront view of The Fullerton Bay Hotel

The Fullerton hotels have also created a video that outlines new moves, for instance, hospital-grade disinfection and a digital concierge for contactless service.

Mr Suraj Ramasubramaniam, 36, and his wife Aishwarya Mohan, 30, booked a staycation recently at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore as a “babymoon”. Their first child is due in January.

Despite lots of safe distancing, they focus on pleasures like the bathtub, Bluetooth speaker for chill music, and hospitality. They also took a complimentary tour of the hotel, which was gazetted as the 71st national monument in 2015.

Though staycations are counter-intuitive for the travel lovers who journey four or five times annually to places like Bali and Japan, they discern “positives” in a stay-home holiday.

“You see a different side of the country,” says Mr Ramasubramaniam, a senior commercial pricing manager at GE Renewable Energy. “Both of us are suckers for history and we get flashbacks of another time here.”

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They have popped into Boat Quay many times, but usually in the evenings, and associate it with music and bars.

“This is the first time we’re experiencing it by day. We see skaters, joggers and cyclists,” he says, now viewing the quay adjacent to the hotel with fresh eyes.

Fullerton Hotel

The Fullerton Hotel amid the Singapore skyline.

 

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.