Fashion hotels for Singapore

No-frills establishments offering high-tech amenities aimed at business travellers

MILLENNIUM and Copthorne Hotels (M&C) may build up to five more “limited service” hotels in Singapore, if the one currently under construction along Mohammed Sultan Road takes off.

The London-listed hotel group’s chief executive Richard Hartman, revealing this yesterday during an interview, said more may also pop up in Asia.

“This kind of product works best when you have scale in the market. You can’t launch these things in the United States with two hotels. You’ve got to have 500 of them,” he told Today.

Limited service hotels, which have mushroomed in Western cities, typically tone down the frills to keep room rates affordable for most people.

In M&C’s case, they are marketing theirs at business travellers who do not want the frills of a four- or five-star hotel, but require high-tech amenities.

Their plans for 20 limited service hotels in India offer a peek into what could go into the as-yet-unnamed one at Mohammed Sultan Road: Facilities that are 100-per-cent wireless, modular furniture and many private business booths.

They are not budget establishments like Travelodge or Red Roof Inns in North America, said Mr Hartman, who joined M&C in May. Instead, he said, the first such hotel in Singapore will have a “high-touch, fashion” element, with room rates going for less than those of the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, one of the five hotels M&C currently owns in Singapore.

Think: The “W” Hotels brand, famous in the US for its trendy decor including waterfall entrances.

“This is limited service, but it’s a fashion statement,” said Mr Hartman. The downside of such niche hotels, however, is that they can’t take in business from conventions, he said.

Looking ahead, Mr Hartman is concerned that the Singapore’s hotel industry may see occupancy rates weakening as 8,000 more rooms are expected to be added in the next five years.

“Supply will increase in a lumpy fashion, a step change, but in my experience, demand doesn’t move like that,” said Mr Hartman. “There will be times when there will be more rooms than customers. But I hope that prices of the rooms don’t plummet again. That’s when it becomes very difficult to rebuild the yields.”

M&C, which owns over 110 hotels worldwide, is about 53-per-cent owned by Singapore-listed City Developments, which is controlled by Hong Leong Group.

Source : Today – 24 Jul 2008

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