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March 11, 2013

Slinging For Luxury in Singapore

By Chris Boyle

2013 Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Park

2013 Singapore Grand Prix Circuit Park

Hot on the heels of W Sentosa opening last year, Singapore will welcome three new luxury properties by the end of 2014, including Sofitel’s first luxury hotel in the city state, Westin’s third visit (near the Financial District this time) and the world debut of new luxury brand Patina.

During an interview at ITB Berlin, Singapore Tourism Board Executive Director Jeannie Lim said at all levels some 2,000 new rooms are coming on board by the end of 2013. And if that’s not enough, two more hotels will be part of South Beach, a new mixed-use project on Beach Road near the famed Raffles Hotel.

Of course, these days in Singapore there are new twists at every turn. Ocean Suites at the recently opened Equarius Hotel on Sentosa have underwater views into the world’s largest aquarium with some 800 species of marine animals.  “You open the curtain and you look out at the fish, and the fish look right back at you,” Lim said. For those who prefer more traditional views, there are one, two and three-bedroom villas, but if you prefer trees to undersea, at the Angsana there are tree-top tree house suites.

The diversity of luxury accommodations from novelty to traditional is only part of the story.  With its easy air access from within the region and around the world, Singapore continues to be a major draw for conferences, conventions and meetings of all sizes. For private jets there are two options – Changi and Seletar Airports and the FBO at Changi – JetQuay – doubles as an executive meet and greet service for those arriving and departing on commercial flights on a pay per use basis.

At the very high end for events, The Singapore Yacht Show will hold its third edition April 18th-21st at Sentosa Cove while Singapore Airshow is back next February 11th-16th.  Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1 (September 20th-22nd) is particularly attractive for elite travelers as the race is city based and it has significant inventory of corporate suites for entertaining. In fact, the Financial Times wrote, “It is where the biggest companies in the region gather annually to do business.”  With different options from the Paddock Club to Sky Suites and Club Suites, elite travelers can buy individual tickets, tables or with a minimum number of tables (five to ten depending on the level) can have a dedicated room to provide private entertainment and branding.

Of course there is plenty of business conducted all year and Lim noted there are over 7,000 multinational companies and 130 world organizations that have regional headquarters in Singapore. “We get a lot of research generated in Singapore so we are strong in the area of thought leadership and specifically Asian content,” Lim said.

Last year Singapore was on the world stage for several high profile events, including Prince William and Kate’s visit (they stayed in the Elite Traveler 101 Top Suites winner Sarkissian Suite at Raffles) as well as the first YPO (Young Presidents Organization) worldwide conference held in Asia. Singapore hosts many conferences for the restaurant industry and media, as well as regular financial conferences thanks to the city state’s strong banking industry.

Entertaining elite travelers as they conference is a strong suit says Lim. Complementing the popular Night Safari at the Zoo (which can be booked for groups with gourmet dining) is a new river safari providing exclusive access to the Chinese pandas. Singapore Flyer already offers a champagne themed capsule and Lim says a whiskey tasting version is in the works.  Capsules can be rented for wine tastings or sit down gourmet dinners.

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Another new and popular venue for parties is Gardens by the Bay on 250 acres of reclaimed land in central Singapore next to the Marina Reservoir. Conservatories house plant life normally not seen including a cloud forest that simulates the cool moist climate found in tropical areas at 5,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. There’s the world’s largest man made waterfall and for entertaining there are “supertrees,” tree-like structures rising as high as 150 feet off the ground, the tallest of which has a 100-person bistro and bar atop that can be hired for events.

Cruises are also part of the strategy to attract more affluent travelers. Using Singapore as a start or end point is becoming more popular. The newly opened Marina Bay Cruise Center will host not only luxury vessels from the likes of Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal but can handle the world’s largest ships. Lim noted: “In Southeast Asia we have over 25,000 islands so we have a lot of potential.”

Upcoming tourism developments include a Sports Hub with new 55,000-seat National Stadium to open in 2014 in time for the ASEAN Games. In 2015, National Art Gallery Singapore with a focus on Asian art will open after converting old City Hall and Supreme Court.

Lim, a ten-year veteran of the tourism board was previously involved in strategic planning before coming to her current position, and one project she worked on is now starting to take shape. Set in Western Singapore, Jurong Lake is what she describes as ‘edutainment’, combining education and entertainment designed to appeal to families.

On the luxury goods side Singapore will host two fashion conferences this year– in May the Asia Fashion Exchange and in November the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and its legendary Fashion Editor Suzy Menkes will bring its annual Luxury Conference to the Capella Resort under the theme ‘S.E.A. of Luxury’. Past speakers have included the likes of Giorgio Armani, Bernard Arnault, Donatella Versace and Diane Von Furstenberg. Elite Traveler is a sponsor of the conference.

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