Raffles Hotel Singapore- the landmark destination in Asia´s gateway city
Globalization is a phenomenon that produced a different type of city, named the global city, and in every each one of them there is an icon hotel; a place where the whole city is proud of and uses as their extended living room, a building that they show off to visitors as a symbol of their success and sophistication. So in New York they have the Plaza, in London the Dorchester, in Paris the Crillon and in Singapore they have Raffles, a property that has history, elegance and savoir faire that only time can get.
At Raffles Singapore one can understand that true hotel icons sometimes blend their own history with the city they belong becoming therefore one single entity.
Painted in a snow-white color, very much in deep contrast with its colorful surroundings, Raffles Singapore is a hotel that has its roots deepened in its main building, a large and proportional 3 story tall edifice in Victorian style with a beautiful verandah. From the entrance, just a few meters away off Beach Road, the guests could feel that this place is different from everything else in Singapore, almost from another time- a colonial time, and once one enters the property this feeling is just emphasized by the amazing décor of the airy lobby and by the manners of its staff. Do not be mistaken, this is not the place for new, loud and fast crowds, quite the opposite; this is heaven for old money and all their slow movements and lower voices.
The main building itself is lightened by a sky ceiling that makes the white and beige marble floor glow with tropical sunlight and it is based in a decoration that relies heavily in early 19th century furniture, tapestry and art works with many pieces with great historic value like the big clock at the main door. Its layout is simple and elegant with a wood staircase working as its main vertical feature. Also, in the ground floor it is possible to find the lounge area, the lobby, the stylish Writer´s bar where guests can taste the world famous Singapore Sling invented at Raffles Hotel by its bartender 100 years ago and Tiffin Room where their breakfast and afternoon tea is served everyday around 3p.m to a stylish-pastel color dressed crowd of society ladies, tourists and wannabes.
Moreover, just around the bar there is the hidden Raffles Grill where CEOs, heads of state, royalty and celebrities have their lunch under beautiful chandeliers while looking a tropical garden. Indeed, the entire hotel is nestling in a lush and well maintained tropical garden, giving to Raffles Singapore an aura of an oasis of tranquility, beauty and luxury shopping in the middle of Singapore´s CBD.
With around 40 boutiques, art galleries, antiques shops located around a courtyard featuring a gazebo/bar, the Raffles Arcade competes head to head with all luxury shopping destinations in Singapore, however with a truly intimate feeling, like a hidden secret that only guests and locals know. It is almost like a private mall for Raffles ‘guests. In fact, many luxury brands send direct mail to a few premium guests inviting them for a drink at their shops in a strategy that clearly boost sales.
The hotel has 103 rooms divided in 5 different categories named: Courtyard, Palm Court, Personality, Grand Hotel and Presidential, all of them with a clearly goal to caters for the famous, wealthy and powerful or all of them at once in a concept of rarefy luxury that is very much démodé nowadays. However, still has its own audience over there.
My stay at Raffles Singapore was at the beautiful John Wayne Personality Suite on the Palm Court,, it was a big and well decorated room divided in 3 different spaces to know: lounge area with a large sofa, coffee table and desk, the bedroom itself with an extra-large king bed and finally the bathroom which was more like a salle de bain than a bathroom per se since as big enough to have a party over there. The room featured all the amenities that one luxury leisure traveler may need. However, it felt a bit odd to find out a TV from the 90´s in a high luxury hotel. Honestly, it was a room conceived for contemplating the garden and reading at the verandah, not so much for working and keeping yourself updated with the latest news. In fact, this is the spirit of Raffles, a place for relaxing and finding peace without having to abdicate comfort and luxury lifestyle.
As a plus the room came with a on duty butler, a key to direct access the shopping arcade, a welcome Singapore Sling and a box of chocolate direct from Raffles Gift Shop. All very kind and tasteful and with that amazing beginning I started digging in the hotel´s history, corners and hidden spots.There are 9 different eating places, Long Bar and Bar & Billiard Room are by far the most iconic ones. Regarding the amenities they are all there too: a spa, pool, pool bar, fitness studio, business center, the garden and finally the ballrooms for private gatherings. Nevertheless, they need renovation works.
The last extensive renovation was made in the 90´s and although it is almost imperceptive in the main building, once one starts navigating the hotel moreover using the facilities, like I did at the fitness studio and pool, it is clear that Raffles Singapore cannot postpone renovations any longer. Such renovations have to be made carefully and with deep respect to the hotel´s history, just as it was done at Belmond´s Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro for instance.
This property faced the same dilemma: how to renovate without killing the hotel soul? And I believe that these works will help Raffles hold its reputation as Singapore´s leading luxury hotel and at the same time will keep the Raffles name as a symbol of true sophistication. Indeed, it is very unusual that the flagship hotel of a whole chain, the one that they took the name is left outdated. In addition, it would help to attract once again a more young, well-educated and stylish individuals who clearly are not present at Raffles Singapore right now simply because its clientele and atmosphere is now way above mature age. That mix of young and mature from different backgrounds but all with a passion for luxury and beauty that makes a place alive year after year.
As recently pointed out at an article in Le Monde by journalist Nicole Vulser: luxury brands, and Raffles is now a powerful brand, cannot afford leaving forever based on its past and storytelling marketing strategies. They have to move forward and keep themselves connected to the present and always looking to the future to stay relevant in an every changing world economy. Innovation is key!
Having said all that, it is mandatory to recognize that Raffles Singapore is the envy of landmark hotels in Southeast Asia and it is all based in its history, the beauty inside this property and the level of service provided by the excellent staff. It is indeed the destination for luxury travelers around the globe, heads of state and royalty. Once at Raffles Singapore and you will be spoiled for life with a kind of beauty and refinement that is very difficult to match. Simply an icon!
Watch a video preview of a suite at RAFFLES Singapore here.
Murilo Vidal in Singapore