Setting trends in Asia
A number of new hotels in Singapore have proved the island city-state to be a major Asian player in the field of design. With today's traveller expecting far more than just a comfortable bed for the night - instead of looking for exceptional style, world-class service, and unique wining and dining experiences - hotels and resorts are turning to cutting-edge architecture and decoration as one way to attract ever more discerning and well-travelled guests.
Russell Arthur Smith, hospitality and tourism development expert at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore, points to two particularly impressive examples.
'For iconic design, it is hard to surpass the newly opened Marina Bay Sands by architect Moshe Safdie. Its rooftop recreational deck has defined the hotel complex, as well as the Singapore skyline,' he says.
'Equally impressive is the very contemporary Resorts World Sentosa by architect Michael Graves. Here, the comprehensive design from buildings to interiors, furniture, cups and spoons is a tour de force that envelopes guests in an integrated and beguiling manner.'
On a much smaller scale, the 86-room Hotel Fort Canning in the 44-acre Fort Canning Park has also caused a buzz in the design world, for its sensitive balance of heritage and modern amenities.
Archaeological digs are showcased under glass in the hotel's lobby, including artefacts such as 14th-century Chinese ceramics to 19th-century beer bottles. Built in 1926, the building served as headquarters for the British military before being occupied by the Japanese during the second world war.
The colonial charm of the place remains intact, while contemporary additions include a spa, a glass-walled restaurant serving Southeast Asian cuisine, and two swimming pools filled with water treated through a system developed to purify drinking water for Nasa astronauts.
Smith says there are three critical aspects for successful hotel design. 'The first relates to function and making sure the hotel is efficient and can operate well. The second is concerned with reinforcing the hotel image, whether the property is branded or not, so that there is a need to project the required level of quality. The third is all about providing the desired setting for memorable guest experiences.'
The memorable experiences offered by the hotels are different yet overlapping - while Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa impress with their magnitude and offer a huge range of entertainment and dining options, Hotel Fort Canning showcases its architectural heritage and remains a boutique choice.
A key driver for filling rooms is a positive guest experience, Smith says, and this can be reinforced through a strong design agenda, one fitted to the site of the hotel and the guests the property aims to attract.