Business trip: Singapore
The 367-room Parkroyal on Pickering is draped in layers of lush greenery. (Chris McGinnis)
Singapore is a nearly inevitable stop for anyone doing business in Southeast Asia. Executive travellers come to this tiny city-state from across the globe, attracted by opportunities in its biggest industries, including shipping, banking, trading, oil and gas, and increasingly, tourism.
Over the last few years, Singapore has successfully shed its image as “Singabore” – a bland stopover city – by adding two gigantic and hugely popular “integrated resorts”, the bureaucratic name for the government-controlled casino developments Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. These two casino resorts contribute nearly 1.5% of Singapore’s gross domestic product, and along with casinos come luxury hotels, new dining and entertainment options, and millions of new visitors.
For example, passenger arrivals at Singapore’s Changi Airport hit a record 51.2 million in 2012, up 10% from 2011, and in the city, there are at least six new hotels slated to open in 2013, including the 301-room Westin Singapore and the 134-room Sofitel So. Changi is home base for Singapore Airlines – known for its attentive service and well-appointed cabins – which hauls in visitors in droves. Singapore Airlines carried 18 million passengers in 2012, up from 16.9 million in 2011. With a nod to the budget-focussed business traveller, in 2012 Singapore Airlines launched Scoot, a low-fare subsidiary focussed on routes between Asian and Australian cities.
The island of Singapore is small – just 49km by 25km – and sits at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the southernmost point of continental Asia. Singapore’s commercial centre, known as the Central Business District (CBD), is located on the southern side of the island, but the 2010 addition of the enormous Marina Bay Sands complex (built on reclaimed land), has meant that the city centre has shifted east, with Marina Bay acting as its focus.
Commerce-focussed Singapore is well-known for being home to some of the world’s most top-notch, well-groomed business hotels. The 747-room Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, located on a sprawling 15-acre compound on the western edge of the CBD, is a legendary stop for diplomats, CEOs and celebs escaping the bustle of the city. Ask for a room in the hotel’s low-slung garden wing, which emerged from a 68-million Singapore dollar renovation last June.
For a pleasing dose of colonial-era luxury and space-age design, check into the 112-room Capella Singapore, located just south of the CBD on Sentosa Island. Architect Sir Norman Foster elegantly combined a refurbished British-era military structure surrounded by manicured green lawns with curved, metal-clad modern hotel buildings and villas that tumble down a hillside to the South China Sea. Even if you are not staying here, it is worth the cab ride from town just to see it, or to enjoy the hotel’s Cuban-themed Bob’s Bar at sunset.
Business travellers hoping for better views of the city and bay should consider the cluster of elegant hotel high-rises on the northern end of Marina Bay. There is the 790-room Pan Pacific Singapore, which emerged from a five-month renovation last September; the 608-room Ritz-Carlton, Millennia Singapore, known for its decadent club level; and the 527-room Mandarin Oriental, which has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows.
The 367-room Parkroyal on Pickering, which opened in January, is draped in layers of lush greenery that cascade from garden and pool terraces at various levels of the 16-storey building, creating a striking, contoured rice paddy-like exterior. Located between the skyscrapers of Raffles Place and the Chinatown district, the hotel’s rooms feature pickled wood panelling and floors, and sinks and tubs made with a composite of recycled stone and glass. Book an Orchid Club room for helpful extras including complimentary laundry or pressing, a hot breakfast buffet and evening cocktails in the handsome 16th-storey lounge.
It is Asia-meets-Las Vegas at the enormous, eye-catching and now iconic 2,561-room Marina Bay Sands on the eastern edge of the CBD. On top of three 55-storey hotel towers sits the famous Sands SkyPark complex, with a stunning 150m infinity pool, the uber-hot Ku De Ta restaurant and bar, and a huge observation deck. While vacationers are there to shop or gamble, business travellers will likely have meetings at the adjacent Sands Expo and Convention Center – the city’s largest, with a capacity for up to 45,000 people. Convention-goers hoping to stay at Marina Bay Sands should book early – the hotel regularly runs at 90% to 100% occupancy.