Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Singapore Hotels to Cash In on IMF/WB Meetings

IT IS not just top hotels that will be bursting at the seams during September's World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings - budget hotels around the city centre are also hoping to cash in on the overflow.

Of the 10 budget hotels The Straits Times spoke to, eight said they plan to increase their rates by between $10 and $60 a night, while others will limit the rooms available for tour groups in order to accommodate higher-paying walk-in customers.

Most of the top-tier hotels in the city will be fully booked for the event, so the budget operators are expecting to mop up the spillover of visitors unable to find rooms elsewhere.

At the 33-room Beach Hotel in Beach Road, front office supervisor Agnes Ho said it is always fully booked for conventions.

It has already closed bookings to travel agents, who get a commission of 15 to 20 per cent of the room rate, because they anticipate getting more walk-in visitors paying $90 a night, $10 more than the usual rate.

The Hotel Windsor in MacPherson Road usually keeps about more than half of its 200 rooms free for tour groups, but plans to reduce that to about 40 per cent during the event. During peak periods, it will offer fewer discounts and bump up room rates by $10.

'When the top hotels are full, they have no choice but to downgrade,' said the hotel's spokesman.

Even budget chain Hotel 81 has confirmed it will raise its rates, though it is still watching its competitors before deciding how much to charge.

And even budget hotels have spillover during peak periods. The Summer View Hotel in Bencoolen Street directs extra visitors to other budget hotels in the area, said general manager Henry Ong. It plans to levy a $40 surcharge on tour groups during the event.

Some 11,000 rooms in 44 top and mid-tier hotels located near the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre have been block booked for World Bank and IMF delegates.

Conrad Centennial Singapore, for example, has blocked 90 per cent of its 500-plus rooms for the event.

But not all participants are after luxury. Some have chosen to stay at budget hotels like the Park View on Beach Road, a stone's throw from Suntec Singapore. The hotel's director Steven Lim expects some guests to be support staff for the event, who made bookings late last year.

Though the Singapore Tourism Board does not intervene to set or influence room rates, there appears to be little room for top-tier hotels to play with.

Mr Michael Schmitt, director of marketing at the Pan Pacific Singapore, believes that hotel occupancy levels should be 'extremely robust over the period...easily exceeding the demand for hotel accommodation compared with any other event held in Singapore over the last five years'.

The Fullerton Hotel's general manager, Mr Louis Sailer, admitted that the hotel had to turn away 'substantial business for that period because we have already been booked to capacity for some time'.

However, the top hotels say they are working hard to ensure that guests not attending the meetings will not be overlooked.

At the Pan Pacific, arrangements have already been made with expected return guests to ensure that rooms have been reserved in advance.

Conrad Centennial has highlighted the situation to guests in advance so that they know what to expect. It also recommends alternative dates and advises clients to make bookings either before or after the event.

Swissotel The Stamford has been receiving room bookings since the beginning of 2004, but general manager Aiden McAuley promises to help non-delegates by recommending hotels outside the Marina Bay area.

And Raffles the Plaza's general manager Thomas Meier said that the hotel tries its best not to turn away visitors, but refers those they cannot accommodate to the Singapore Hotel Association.

The 11,000 rooms have not been fully booked and are still available for reservations, said Mr Lee Kai Yin, STB's Programme Director for the Singapore Experience.

'Delegates and visitors will have no lack of accommodation options as Singapore has an inventory of about 36,000 rooms, ranging from top-tier to budget hotel categories,'' said Mr Lee.


Let's all frock to Singapore, where the leaders will talk about OUR money, spend OUR money. Why not? The Singapore hotels will be making profits with OUR money anyway, with or without our presence.

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