Think of Singapore and the city’s iconic attractions such as Gardens
by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands often come to mind. But what about the
quintessential hotel experience that is distinctively and uniquely
That is one question that hospitality stalwart Arthur Kiong has been
trying to answer through his extensive hospitality career across
different corners of the world.
We provide comfort without excess. We provide the aesthetics without being ostentatious. We are personally attentive, but we are not pretentious.
Since taking helm of Far East Hospitality as CEO in 2012, Kiong has
made it his mission to build a Singapore-inspired hospitality product,
one that is neither grandiose or superficial, but something that will
touch people’s hearts and make them remember what Singapore is truly all
‘Not me too or me better, but me only’
Yet, for too long, the Singapore hospitality sector has had an
identity crisis, and perhaps even an inferiority complex, the
hospitality chief states.
Singapore emulated the Western hotel chains during the 1970s and
1980s, copying ideas from successful tourism cities such as Tokyo, New
York, Paris and Hong Kong. Orchard Road, for instance, was the product
of this “me too” era, says Kiong.
Then came the 1990s and 2000s – dubbed the “me better” generation by
Kiong – during which Singapore sought to surpass its global counterparts
by doing everything better. This era is characterised by mega projects
like the Singapore Flyer and two integrated resorts.
Yet, Singapore hasn’t quite transcended beyond these two phases,
which are neither sustainable nor desirable in the long run for the
hospitality sector. What the country now needs is to develop its own
identity and brand in hospitality – in what Kiong terms the “me only”
Located on Cross Street, The Clan Hotel pays tribute to Singapore's Chinese clan heritage
“For me personally, we Singaporeans must create something that is
ours. The hotel company must reflect us, so let's not be ashamed of who
we are,” he adds.
What then is the Singapore style of hospitality? Kiong says, “We
provide comfort without excess. We provide the aesthetics without being
ostentatious. We are personally attentive, but we are not pretentious.”
Singapore’s own brand of hospitality should be celebrated. “It's time
for us to go into the third cycle of tourism, where Singapore creates
things that are not ‘me too, me better, but me only’.”
There’s nothing average about being mid-tier
Kiong believes Far East Hospitality shows the way forward of a Singapore hospitality management company.
have a different way of running our hotels, but it is our model that
makes it Singaporean-inspired hospitality. Our calling card is that we
are in the mid-tier market because the Asian traveller is generally a
Instead of segmenting the market into the usual categories of budget,
economy, luxury and so on, the seasoned hotelier believes modern
travellers should be defined by their psychographic profiles. “The
mid-tier market is not homogenous, and there are different types of
For this reason, Far East Hospitality has created a portfolio of
mid-tier hospitality brands to address the different lifestyle segments.
For the wellness-conscious customer, the Oasia hotel is kitted out to
provide a holistic wellness experience throughout their stay. For the
nonconformists, Quincy offers flexibility and creativity in terms of its
amenities and services; whereas the traditionalists will find a good
fit with the Rendezvous hotel experience. The Village brand, on the
other hand, is dedicated to value-sensitive customers, enabling them to
“stretch their every dollar”.
One CEO's quest to build Singapore's unique brand of hospitality
And nowhere exemplifies Far East Hospitality’s wide-ranging mid-tier
business concept than its portfolio of properties on Sentosa, where the
hospitality group has adopted its own approaches towards guest retention
from other hotels.
Existing hotels on Sentosa were all largely focused on attracting the
five-star segment. But the arrival of Far East Hospitality's hotels on
the island changed that, opening up a hitherto untapped mid-tier market.
come to take a niche and create our own customers. We’ve got 800 rooms,
but our hotels will not be all things to all people,” Kiong remarks.
Village Hotel Sentosa, with 606 rooms priced in the S$200-$300 range,
is targeted at value-sensitive families. Next door, the 193-room
Outpost Hotel Sentosa is an upscale accommodation that caters to young
couples with a taste for adventure, whereas the 40-key Barracks Hotel
Sentosa appeals to an older, more established clientele above 50 years
old. The 191-key Oasia Resort Sentosa, which opened in September 2021,
is conceived for the wellness-conscious guest.
of trying to keep guests within the hotel premises, Kiong says Far East
Hospitality's properties encourage them to venture outside. “If
everyone keeps their own customers in the hotel, the Sentosa ecosystem
cannot survive. What we do is we find reasons to get customers out of
our hotels, and hence the facilities within our hotels are very limited.
“You can’t build a hotel and want to keep everything within your hotel, and yet do nothing for the precinct.”
The importance of finding one’s clan
If the Sentosa hotels exemplify Far East Hospitality’s mid-tier
hospitality concept, then it is in one of its newest properties, The
Clan Hotel, that Kiong firmly believes provides the answers to what makes
hotel must activate and bring value to a precinct,” says Kiong. When
that happens, competition is no longer between hotels but between
precincts, and the spectrum of activities becomes more diverse and
innovative than would have been possible if it were just one hotel
competing with another hotel.
The Clan Hotel, by combining storytelling, theatre, and hospitality, conveys the tales of how Chinese Clans contributed a significant role in building world-class cities such as Singapore, says Kiong.
The Clan Hotel does precisely that, paying tribute to Singapore’s
clan heritage that characterises its Telok Ayer neighbourhood. At this
luxury downtown hotel, guests are immersed in the precinct experience
through their stay at The Clan, whether it’s being greeted by a tea
master who serves Nanyang tea and shares the story of the particular
blend’s unique origins and flavours, or enjoying signature local eats
from the neighbourhood – Outram Park char kway teow perhaps – in the comfort of their room.
“The Clan is the quintessential Singapore story, because the
experience conveys the tales of how Chinese clans contributed a
significant role in building world-class cities such as Singapore,” says
Kiong. “And this is where you get a Singapore-inspired hospitality
experience that no other hotel in the world offers.”
Which brand then does Kiong identify with the most?
That is a tough question, the hotel chief admits, akin to picking his
favourite child as each brand resonates with him in a different way.
But one brand, owing to its more challenging origins as a blank slate,
“The Clan Hotel.” Of course, it has to be.