One of Singapore’s most recognisable hotels has emerged from an almost two-year makeover – but from the outside, the Swissotel looks little different to when the circular I.M. Pei-designed tower opened in 1986.
Then known as The Westin, it soared above the Raffles City block and was, for a time, the world's tallest hotel.
Dressed in Pei’s modernist geometric style, it still catches the eye. And, due in part to an unmatched location, the Swissotel The Stamford – to give the hotel its full name, and differentiate it from the nearby Hotel Swissôtel Merchant Court at Clarke Quay – retains its place on the Singapore shortlist of many business travellers.
Location, location, location
The Swissotel stands above City Hall MRT station, a bustling junction for the city’s two metro backbones (the green East-West line and the red North-South line) and a short stroll from the Circle line’s Esplanade station.
It’s perched atop the Raffles City Convention Centre, and adjacent to the Suntec Convention Centre which is home to scores of conferences and trade shows.
A short taxi or Grab ride delivers you to the peaceful greens of Fort Canning Park; the bars, restaurants and nightlife of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay; the commercial and financial towers around Raffles Place; the colour and authenticity of Chinatown; and the downtown shopping of Orchard Road.
The inside story
That said, today’s Swissotel The Stamford is the next best thing to an all-new hotel compared to the Swissotel I often visited on so many trips to the Red Dot.
“The whole building was pretty much been pulled back to its bare bones and redeveloped,” recounts Marcus Hanna, who serves as General Manager of both the Swissotel and the neighbouring Fairmont. “Guests that haven't stayed with us for a while are quite amazed by the difference in what the hotel looks like now compared to what it was previously.”
The bottom-to-top transformation not only modernised all of the 1,200-odd rooms and suites, it gave them a decidedly Asian feel while while still embracing the brand’s Swiss design roots.
That’s perhaps not as much of a stretch as it sounds, which you consider that both aesthetics embrace natural materials and a clean, uncluttered form.
There’s definitely more of a sense of being in Singapore, in Asia. The vibe is more local than generic.
“It's always important to have some local flavour, and I think our designer have done that very well,” Hanna tells Executive Traveller. “We also did get a few Swiss brand elements in there, little accents and touches like the red crosses for hanging your towels.”
The Swissotel’s lobby has also been opened up, allowing plenty of room for guests to come and go and circulate.
Immediately noticeable is bank of ten automated iMac-based check-in stations on the ground floor, reducing the need for weary guests to stand in line when they've not long ago stepped off their flight.
“Being a 1,250 room hotel, eight percent of the time we’d have a queue to check in or check out, but since we've implemented the automated check out and check in, that queue has vanished,” Hanna says.
The system was developed in Singapore by Accor in partnership with a Dubai-based technology company, with funding assistance from the Singaporean government, which is always keen to boost the city-state’s efficiency.
“One of the biggest challenges in Singapore is manpower, “ Hanna explains. “It's very hard to find Singaporeans for many operational roles in the hotel industry, and the government is very tech-savvy, very much believes in transformation (to reduce reliance on manpower) and definitely supports you in that area.”
Another transformation took place 65 storeys up, with an entire floor now given over to the hotel’s new executive lounge – which used to be on level 60 – and fitness centre.
The new lounge is more than five times larger and incorporates three meeting rooms plus a seperate Crest lounge exclusively for guests in the 13 spacious suites.
Needless to say, the expansive floorplan and panoramic 360 degree views across the city are a delightful way to start the day at breakfast or finish in the evening with cocktails.
And while Singapore serves up a riot of places to eat and drink – the locals are, after all, among the world’s most enthusiastic foodies – the Swissotel’s new outlets are a convenient option for guests.
The range from the Stamford Brasserie on the lobby level, the Clove buffet restaurant and the intimate Michelin starred JAAN restaurant; Skai is a contemporary grill, complemented by the Skai Bar cocktail bar, both on level 70; and one floor up, the pulsating Bar Rouge nightclub.
A refresh for the Fairmont
Following the Swissotel The Stamford’s magnificent make-over, Accor’s renovation plan – believed to cost several hundred million dollars – continues at the south tower of the neighbouring Fairmont hotel, which is being redone in its own unique and distinctly residential style.
Lighter carpets and woods have moved to a darker, richer and calmer palette, “It’s totally different to what it was,” Hanna says of the design’s “homely residential feel.”
“In some of the rooms we have a ‘floating bed’ to capitalise on the views. We've also made sure that if you're working at your desk there’s still a view instead of you looking at a wall.”
The updating of both properties also has an eye towards the environment, as driven by Accor’s Planet 21 sustainable development initiative.
“We are putting filtered water taps with still, sparkling and hot water in the (Fairmont) rooms, as part of the mini-bar – we won't have any plastic bottles in those rooms, as we are trying to eradicate as much plastic as we can.”
“In the Swissotel bathrooms there are no small amenities in plastic bottles anymore, we've gone to pump bottles, and that's also to ensure that we're doing our part for the environment.”
David Flynn stayed as a guest of Swissotel The Stamford