Singapore’s first shipping container hotel springs up in one-north

Two years ago, Mr Seah Liang Chiang thought of building his own tiny house in Johor. On Friday (Jan 17), that DIY weekend retreat project turned into a business.

Mr Seah has launched Singapore’s first hotel made using shipping containers.

For S$150 to S$200 a night – depending on whether it is peak or off-season – up to four guests can stay in one of two cabins in one-north.

Mr Seah said he based the price off what other hotels around the area were charging.

Each 300 sq ft air-conditioned room has two queen-size beds, a study table, living and dining space, kitchen and bathroom.

The cabins are standalone, with none of the typical hotel facilities such as a swimming pool or a lobby available.

Instead, guests will have access to a 24-hour customer service hotline manned by Mr Seah or his wife. The rooms will also be cleaned after each stay.

During check-in, the couple will either meet the customers personally or give them the digital access code, said Mr Seah.

Mr Seah invested about S$200,000 into the venture, which he calls Shipping Container Hotel.

He spent a year to put it together, which included designing and retrofitting the cabins, bought from a container supplier in Tuas.

He plans for it to be a pop-up hotel, which he will shift to a different location every two to three years, allowing guests to explore various parts of Singapore.

Millennials are his target consumers, a group he said “are more adventurous and looking for an experience, not just an accommodation”. He also thinks business travellers who work with the start-ups in the area might be interested to stay in the hotel.

“Many Singaporeans will check into a hotel in Sentosa or in the city over the weekend as a weekend retreat. To me, that’s passé. I want Singaporeans to have a unique staycation.

“Imagine a staycation in a nature reserve, park, on the beach, or on Serangoon Island or Lazarus Island,” Mr Seah said, adding that he was interested in places off the grid that traditional hotels would not be allowed to operate in.

Mr Seah had reached out to the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Pro-Enterprise Panel, which helped him to work with Government agencies to find an appropriate testbed site.

The JTC Launchpad at one-north was offered and he leased it until end-2020, with the option of extending it for another year.

“I want to show that Singapore is not only about Orchard Road, Chinatown, Sentosa and the Marina Bay Sands,” said Mr Seah.

The Launchpad is situated in Singapore’s technology hub, where the many start-ups and Timbre+ food centre create a vibrant atmosphere.

As part of the panel’s First Mover Framework, Mr Seah did not have to submit a tender for the plot where the hotel now sits. The framework allows entrepreneurs with unique business proposals to either get access to a public good or service more quickly, or use it at a lower rate.

“(The) PEP’s role is to serve as a connector between the business owner and the rest of the government agencies because there can be many agencies involved. If you leave it to the business owner, they may not know how to navigate,” said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat at the official launch of the hotel.

“We help them to talk to the various Government agencies and if there are rules that may need to be changed, things that we need to facilitate, we will do so.”

Around 10 Government agencies were involved in this project, Mr Seah said, including the Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Agency.

Mr Seah, who occasionally stays at his prototype holiday home in Johor, said the two-room setup is “just the start”.

“We would like to see if Singaporeans and tourists alike will take to the idea of living in a shipping container in unique places in Singapore,” he said.

“Eventually, we hope to have around 50 hotels all over Singapore.”

Guests can start making reservations on from Saturday.

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