Bold business changes and partnerships have been instrumental in the survival of Singapore’s boutique hotels throughout the travel crisis, allowing them to ride out the storm and be ready to welcome again international travellers now.
According to Hotel Mono and The Warehouse Hotel, their decisive pivot to rely on commercial long-term tenancy had helped to keep business going when international travel was cut off.
Glenn Quah, general manager of the 46-key Hotel Mono told TTG Asia that the hotel relied heavily on commercial long-term tenancy with companies that needed to house many of their key personnel who were unable to cross borders for the first year of the pandemic.
The Warehouse Hotel also sought out long-stay corporate businesses with its regular clients to stay afloat, according to general manager, Tarun Kalra.
Like many businesses, the biggest challenge for Hotel Mono came from the manpower front. Few staff were keen to work on the frontline as they would have to come in contact with many guests.
Quah added: “A positive case (infection) among the staff would have crippled the front desk. At the same time, many of our foreign staff had not seen their families for long periods of time and were starting to feel really homesick.”
In response, hotel ensured that safety measures were in place and constantly monitored the mental and emotional well-being of its staff.
The Warehouse Hotel, on the other hand, found having to adapt to the frequent changes in safe management regulations tough. To counter that, the 37-key boutique heritage hotel made sure to exercise flexibility towards its guests who have booked their staycation and weddings.
As the battle for business shifted to local residents, boutique hotels crafted novel staycation offerings and played up their unique prepositions.
It was challenging for Hotel G Singapore, which positions itself as a boutique hotel, to remain top of mind for new and existing guests alike, according to general manager Michelle Lee.
She explained: “To maintain brand awareness and compete for a piece of the staycation pie, we collaborated with local partners and our F&B outlets to create innovative staycation packages. That has allowed us to navigate through these unprecedented times.”
Enter workcation package, Hustle & Grind, which allows a day-use of one of its rooms from 07.00 to 19.00 complete with all the necessities and modern comforts such as high speed Wi-Fi, smart TVs with mirroring function, and F&B perks including French wine and set lunches.
In August 2021, to celebrate Singapore’s 56th National Day, Hotel G Singapore collaborated with local brands to create its Slay, Stay & Play staycation. The package included an upgraded night’s stay, an F&B component, and complimentary goodies from homegrown names.
The Warehouse Hotel, which prides itself on its design-centric and local heritage and culture, partnered with In Good Company, a local clothing label, to design a custom robe that guests could buy and enjoy a discount voucher for use at In Good Company. The hotel’s staycation packages comprised F&B vouchers as well as locally curated gifts like paperweights, hip flasks and specially-designed playing cards that guests may use during their stay.
As Singapore started to ease social restrictions in 2021, allowing private groups of five to congregate, Hotel Mono moved into family getaways. The property is one of the few in Singapore with family rooms that can accommodate up to five guests at a time.
The Warehouse Hotel went after couples in love, dangling packages that were built for intimate weddings and solemnisations for 20 guests – in line with Covid regulations then on celebratory events. Kalra recalled that the packages were a hit with many couples that were looking to tie the knot in 2020 and 2021. The hotel collaborated with local floral design studio, Floral Kokoro, to offer customised floral arrangements along with curated lunch and dinner set menus from Po restaurant.
To overcome dine-in restrictions, The Warehouse Hotel’s Po restaurant and Lobby Bar worked with partners such as Grab, Oddle and Chope to make its menu and locally-inspired bottled cocktails available island-wide. Bundle sets containing signature dishes and guests’ favourites were priced appropriately to encourage online orders, while a contactless curbside pick-up was also offered as an option.
As international travel picks up along with heightened competition, boutique hotel players emphasised the importance of committing to high cleanliness standards, adapting to evolving situation and guests’ needs, as well as staying true to their distinctive personalities and amplifying that differentiation to customers.