There was an air of tranquillity at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa island on Wednesday, the sort of atmosphere guests might expect at one of the city state’s most luxurious – and expensive – hotels.
When a This Week in Asia reporter visited on Wednesday afternoon there were few signs that the colonial-themed resort was in the final stages of preparation for hosting one of the world’s most anticipated events of the year – Tuesday’s landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Some drilling and painting works were taking place near the lobby and some hotel staff were – ever so discreetly – stationed at the driveway to check people had valid reservations (including those heading to the hotel’s popular Cuban-inspired Bob’s Bar).
WATCH: The story of Sentosa
Only the gaggle of television journalists taking turns to film, under the watchful eye of hotel security guards, at the foot of the hotel’s long driveway gave a hint of the media circus to come.
The hotel is fully booked from June 10 to June 14, but on Wednesday there were few signs of occupants in its dense gardens, which house some 5,000 trees.
Designed by the acclaimed British architect Norman Foster, the hotel harks back to Singapore’s colonial past with the main building’s white paint, terracotta roof and colonnades.
Two buildings within the resort are restored bungalows built in the 1800s to accommodate British naval officers.
The hotel’s ballroom is well known among locals for its circular shape and skylight dome.
A wedding banquet here costs S$2,222 (US$1,660) per table of 10, making it one of the most expensive places to get married in Singapore after the St Regis Hotel and the Ritz Carlton.
Within the premises is the stand-alone Colonial Manor – out of bounds to visitors and most of the hotel’s occupants. It has views of Sentosa’s southern vistas overlooking the busy Singapore Strait through which some US$3.4 trillion of goods pass annually. Speculation has it that it is the manor where Trump and Kim will meet.
Elsewhere on the 4.7 sq km Sentosa island, which houses the Resorts World Sentosa casino resort and the popular Universal Studios theme park, there were few signs the upcoming summit was causing any disruption.
Sentosa staff stationed at its monorail stations told This Week in Asia that while they were always on the lookout for signs of security threats, they had not been told of any enhanced measures since the announcement that the Capella Hotel would host the summit.
Visitors continued to throng Sentosa, its sheltered beaches filled with young children and their parents enjoying the month-long midyear school holidays that began on May 26.
And it was business as usual at VivoCity, the mall on mainland Singapore from where visitors can enter Sentosa either via the Sentosa Express monorail, or across a 710-metre causeway by bus or by foot.
Earlier on Wednesday, Singapore police said they would significantly enhance security measures around Sentosa island but stopped short of saying access would be totally cut off for anyone not involved in the summit.
Trump, Kim and their delegations are likely to enter Sentosa by car via the causeway.
The roughly 10km journey from the diplomatic district of Tanglin, where the two leaders are expected to stay, and the Capella Hotel should take about 20 minutes with no traffic.
Security experts say the Capella Hotel’s seclusion will help safeguard the two leaders from threats.
Julian Taylor, an Asia-focused crisis management expert, said disruptions to the daily lives of Singaporeans would probably be kept to a minimum.
“The Central Business District will not be affected by any motorcades and the respective security arrangements,” said Taylor, of the consultancy Aon.
Another plus point of using the colonial-themed resort, owned by local property firm Pontiac Land, was that it would showcase Singapore’s efforts in incorporating its heritage in new buildings, Taylor said.