Amara moves into the big league

The Amara hotel in Singapore is undergoing not just a physical makeover but is also overhauling its image - from a four-star leisure-traveller oriented hotel to a five-star deluxe business hotel right smack in the heart of the central business district. N Gunalan reports on the new Amara.

24 August 2001

You always mostly tend to look much better after a makeover. And to top it off, it's always flattering for hoteliers to hear comments like "I can't believe it's the same hotel. It's amazing the way it looks now."

15-year-old Amara Singapore has been undergoing renovations since 1998 and will emerge with a hip new image end of this year.

"With the transformation of the hardware, our benchmarking with the competition has also changed," said Gary Lim, regional director of marketing.

"We can't compare with those in the (mid-market) Havelock Road area. We see ourselves as somewhere between the Ritz-Carlton and The Oriental."

The hotel's also changing client mix to reflect its new image and capitalise on its location in the financial hub of the city.

"Before our renovations started, we were 70 percent leisure. We're now looking for 80 percent corporate. Gradually we'll phase out the leisure market and hit 95 percent," he said.

The 380-room Amara used to be associated with the older Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar areas fringing the CBD although it is equally near the financial district.

"We're emphasising our location. We want to be seen as being in the western end of Singapore's CBD. We're also close to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, the subway) and accessibility to the airport is easy," said Lim

With the S$30 million (US$16.6 million) makeover, the Amara is also reconfiguring the classification of its rooms. It used to have three floors for the Leisure Club but has since converted them to deluxe rooms.

The executive floors - the Amara Club - are now spread over two floors.

The hotel's sixth floor has been renamed Tropical Six, complete with a spa, managed by Aspara, and a pool.

It has also introduced a new room category - business executive rooms - which are essentially rooms-cum-offices. Fold up the bed and the room can be converted into a meeting room for up to 10 people.

"This is very useful for business travellers who need to hold small meetings," said Lim. "Our rates were S$120 before but now we're charging a promotional rate of S$160. We're looking at S$178 eventually.

"We brought some people over to have a look and they guessed that we were charging a much higher rate and were surprised when they heard our rates.

"Maybe we had underpriced," he quipped.

The change into a modern, business hotel has also found its way into the F&B outlets. It has converted the second floor into what it calls the 'Signature Collection" - a collection of fine dining outlets, from Japanese to Western,

It's Wall Street café used to have a dark, pub-like ambience but now it's brighter with posters of Wall Street images on the walls and menus featuring items like blue chips and commodities.

The hotel is also unveiling a new column-free ballroom that can seat 800 and four smaller function rooms.

The man behind the design concept is the man at the helm himself - Albert Teo, the CEO of Amara Holdings, which owns the hotel.

Teo had visited the US to pick up trends which he then incorporated into his hotel here.

But the Amara is not alone in making the transformation into a business hotel in Singapore's CBD. A stone's throw away, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels is rebranding its Copthorne Harbour View and using it as a launchpad for its new hotel brand - possibly called M Hotel - later this year.

The rebranding will be done once it completes its refurbishment. With the renaming, the mainly-tourist hotel will become a business hotel to be in sync with its location in the central business district (TravelWeekly East, April 20). Several hotels in the other end of the CBD are also banding together in a joint marketing initiative. Is Lim worried?

"Standing alone gives us an edge. We have to market intelligently; it won't be a problem if the price is right," he said.

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