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Singapore has reopened for staycations: first five hotels approved to take guests

Four of these hotels are on Sentosa, plus a serviced apartment property in the city

It’s been three months since hotels have shuttered their doors to guests – both local and foreign – so it’s pretty exciting that hotels are starting host guests who are staying for leisure again.

After all, most hotels in Singapore have been procured by the government earlier in the year for returning Singaporeans and residents to serve their ‘stay-home notices’ (SHN), or isolation, to contain the possible spread of Covid-19.

Hotel Jen Tanglin is serving as an SHN hotel (credit: Hotel Jen)

Since 3 Jul, STB has opened applications for hotels who wish to accept staycation guests once more. While approvals officially was going take up to two weeks, but it seems like they are working pretty quickly given that the first batch of five hotels is now announced. This page will be updated as and when new hotels are added to the list.

As of 9 Jul, the approved hotels include:

  • lyf Funan Singapore
  • W Singapore Sentosa Cove
  • Crockfords Tower (Resorts World Sentosa)
  • Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa
  • ONE15 Marina Club
Sofitel Sentosa is definitely moving very fast

At the time of writing, all hotels listed above are accepting reservations as early as today, except for lyf Funan and Crockfords Tower. lyf Funan will start accepting guests from 13 Jul, Monday, while Crockfords Tower is still not accepting reservations yet.

Crockfords Tower still not accepting reservations yet

So what will the post COVID-19 staycation experience be like?

STB has laid out a fairly extensive set of requirements for hotels to comply before applying to take in leisure guests once again. Here are some of the more significant ones that you should take note of:

1. Staggered check-in and check-out timings. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Most hotels have a standard check-in and out timing of 3pm and 12pm respectively, so hopefully this move will encourage hotels to rethink this policy. Hopefully this will also see the return of 24-hour staycations that some hotels have previously offered, where guests can check-in at a particular time and check-out at the same time, 24 hours later.

2. No more than five people in the same room at any point in time, unless they are all from the same household. This means no more frivilous birthday parties, drinking sessions or any other gatherings you may fathom.

3. Mini-bar items should be provided upon request only. Now this is a tricky one. This is usually good for those overpriced minibars, so that the fridge can be used for other purposes, but in hotels that provide complimentary mini-bar items, it remains to be seen how this will be managed. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean a cut back on comps.

4. No more buffets. With many hotels offering free breakfasts either as part of the room rate or for elite members, this change is likely to affect guests the most.

No more hotel buffet breakfast for now

Given that most hotels will unlikely move to an a la carte breakfast model given the high costs and manpower requirements, hotels can potentially move two ways: first, they can man every buffet counter, so guests don’t handle any utensils; or secondly, they may offer a pre-plated/pre-trayed breakfast set that customers can just grab, similar to what some airline lounges are moving towards.

Given that hotel restaurants are also given capacity limits, the larger hotels may utilise a combination of the above, in other to cater for potentially large crowds during breakfast.

This will be a forgotten sight in hotel lounges – for now

This will also mean that hotel executive lounge offers will almost certainly be affected, with offerings almost certainly changing. As Milelion pointed out, at higher end hotels this is likely going to shift towards some sort of table service, while at lower end hotels this could mean a reduction in quality and spread.

5. Expect to book slots at hotel gyms, pools. Hotel recreational facilities are subjected to the same restrictions as their public and commercial counterparts, so that means that most hotel pools and gyms will only be able to take a modest number of guests at any one point in time given their small size. Gyms, for instance, will be limited to one person per 10 sqm, so it’s likely that these facilities will be oversubscribed.

Hotel pools will never be crowded again

Similar to what’s happening at most commercial facilities now, guests should expect hotels to provide a booking system where reservations must be made for specific timeslots to use the hotel facilities.

Spa facilities will also have similar restrictions to commercial operators, such as:

  • Refraining from serving food and beverages to customers and removing shared items like newspapers and magazines
  • Assigning one therapist to follow-through on all treatments with the same customer, where practicable
  • Changing all clothing, towels and bedding after every use
  • Using single-use massage oil, creams and beauty products
  • Allowing sufficient time to clean the premises during operating hours

While this specifically doesn’t provide any guidance on spa facilities such as jacuzzis and steam rooms, it’s likely that those facilities within hotels will remain closed, given that it’s hard to ensure safe distancing within those facilities.

5. Extensive cleaning regime after every stay, including deep cleaning of room carpets, sanitisation of every item after every use. At first glance, this may seem like a good thing given that it gives guests a peace of mind, knowing that every item in the room has been disinfected. However, what this means is a significant cost increase for the hotels, which will almost mean that this cost may be passed on to customers in one form or another. My guess is that a cleaning surcharge may be imposed at some point in time, unless this requirement goes away.

Which other hotels are likely to join this list?

It’s hard to tell for now, although some of the hotels outside of the city who are not serving as government isolation facilities are preparing and applying to take in leisure guests at the time of writing.

Speaking to some hotel insiders, it seems like most of the bigger hotels, particularly those within the city and are currently used for isolation purposes by the government, will be unlikely to jump on this staycation bandwagon anytime soon.

This is because most of these hotels are wholly ‘booked out’ by the government for at least the next two months, and that means guaranteed income even if it’s at a much lower rate. By blocking out part of the rooms for leisure customers, most hotels risk losing a guaranteed revenue – even if it’s low on a per room basis – for a domestic leisure demand that they can’t predict.

Final thoughts

While the number of hotels approved for staycations is fairly small and uninteresting now, it’s a good sign that this list has started. What this signals is that STB is equally keen for hotels to start operating again, in a move towards normalcy.

As far as guest experience is concerned, it will be naive to expect that it’s gonna be the same old experience when you head off to a hotel post-coronavirus, as the world continues to grapple with containing the virus. Some of the changes that the hotels are expected to make will definitely be inconvenient (why must I book a time to go to the pool?), but there are some upside to this, such as enhanced cleanliness of the rooms.

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