TREASURE island booms
Singapore has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a fishing port to become a modern, flourishing metropolis. In the past 10 years alone, the city state has transformed itself into a booming economy at the heart of Southeast Asia.
With practically no natural resources of its own, Singapore has strived hard to carve a niche for itself as a service economy, with the banking and tourism sectors forming the crux of its push ahead into modernisation.
Singapore's leaders knew from an early stage that they needed solid infrastructure, such as a world-class airport and top-class port facilities, to attract international business and businessmen to the city. In Changi Airport, it achieved that with a facility that always lands on the top of various travel organisations' rankings. Likewise, its port handles more containers than Hong Kong's and even Shanghai's.
In the past couple of years, Singapore has pushed the tourism card and its attractions got a tremendous boost with the opening of international-class serviced apartments and the integrated resorts of Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. The resorts have helped to boost visitor arrivals to the island state and the benefits have trickled down to a range of businesses and industries, particularly the serviced apartment sector.
According to Singapore Tourism Board figures, tourist receipts last year reached US$18 billion, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year. More than 13 million tourists visited Singapore, a rise of 13 per cent, with many visitors lured by the two integrated resorts.
One of the biggest names in serviced residences, Frasers Hospitality, has a strong presence in Singapore and has also benefited from the city's rise as a haven for visitors, whether they are on business, with their families as tourists or attending major events such as the annual Formula One Grand Prix.
'Most of our guests are from Fortune 500 companies, and most of our residents stay between three to six months with us,' says Joanne Ang, Frasers Hospitality group director of sales and marketing. 'As the extended stay is our core offering, the expatriate market makes up a very substantial portion of our residents' base. To meet their needs, we have facilities such as the Kids Club, branded offerings such as our Retreat, a relaxing space outfitted with massage chairs, calming teas, and the regular resident activities to cater to the needs of the children, spouses and their families.'
As they seek to stay competitive, most serviced apartment operators have properties that offer unique experiences. Treetops Executive Residences has embraced the green philosophy with 60 per cent of its landscape covered by 200 species of exotic plants. 'We have modern facilities, but also return to nature and seek the purest state of essential needs in life,' says Treetops general manager Tay Hock Soon, whose guests often stay for several years.
The average price of staying in the serviced apartments varies, but could range from S$5,000 (HK$30,400) per month. The rentals depend on areas and the type of facilities offered by the serviced apartments. The competition has heated up in the sector, which in a way has proved beneficial to the visitors. According to experts, most of the serviced apartments are situated in and around the central business district, though some are situated in the distant suburbs.
It is not just the integrated resorts that pull in expatriate visitors. An extensive transport network and plentiful taxis help to make the city an easy place to navigate for international visitors. Despite its small size, Singapore has a host of ethnic attractions, including the Hindu temple in Little India and Chinese temples spread around the city. It also has the famous night safari at Singapore Zoo.
The city is a shoppers' paradise and every area has a major mall. Orchard Road is the main shopping area.
Fusion cuisine is available in every food court, whether it be in Bugis Junction or the hawker-centre of Yishun. The menus range from Chinese chicken rice to Malay and Indian curries.
Enjoy Boat Quay and Clarke Quay before moving on to Orchard Road and the integrated resorts.
Fitness and recreation
International fitness centres have sprung up and there are plenty of local gyms, spas and yoga centres too.
Singapore hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix in 2008, staging the world's first night race under floodlights on a challenging street circuit. Universal Studios in Sentosa is another attraction, bringing Hollywood in all its glory and fantasy to Asia.
Apart from taxis and buses, local transport comprises the Mass Rapid Transport system.