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Singapore hotels don't kid around when it comes to family vacations
WHEN it comes to family vacations, the kids are often the boss - and Singapore hotels are pulling out all the stops to woo them, realising that kids could well be the make or break factor for many potential guests.
Vincent Ong, the vice-president of marketing of Club Med's East and South Asia and Pacific, said: "Children do actually hold a very influential role in driving their families' decisions about where to go and what to do. Research has shown that parents don't actually feel like they are on a vacation unless the well-being of their children are taken care of."
And so, hotels and resorts are splurging to add kids-centric attractions that range from kids-themed rooms and pool zones, "camping" areas to scavenger hunts, sandcastle-building and special children's brunches.
The target audience are not just Singapore staycationers but visitors from all over the world.
Chee Hok Yean, president (Asia-Pacific) at consultancy HVS, said: "There's a lot of commotion, not just in Singapore but worldwide, that people are travelling more with families."
Among hotel operators that are fully onboard the trend is Far East Hospitality, which this month launched family-focused Village Hotel Sentosa, the first and largest of its three new hotels on the island (the five-star Outpost Hotel and luxury heritage hotel The Barracks are set to open later this year).
The hotel adds 606 rooms to the island's mid-tier accommodation options, including family rooms, each with two en-suite bathrooms.
A myriad of perks await children at the hotel including four themed pool zones, balloon sculpture giveaways, scavenger hunts at Imbiah Hill and sandcastle-building at Palawan Beach.
And in recognition of who's the boss, Hotel Sentosa has a Village Important Kids Treatment (VIK) to give children a chance to "take charge" and check in on behalf of the family at a special counter upon arrival.
Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality, said the company saw an increasing need to accommodate family travellers in the mid-tier market, citing a report by GlobalData that predicts an increase of 25 per cent in family travel by 2022, largely driven by the booming Chinese market.
One way hotels are keeping kids engaged is by making play a priority.
In February, Shangri La Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa launched Nestopia, an open-air play space.
Located on Siloso Beach, Nestopia features 17 play sections with netted obstacle courses connecting three giant nests and two of the longest slides in Sentosa.
Shangri-La Hotel also launched Buds by Shangri-La in January 2018, an interactive playspace that spans over 1,872 square metres in total - 572 sq m indoors and 1,300 sq m outdoors.
It features specially curated areas such as a giant pirate ship offering challenging climbs and slides, and a water play zone with splash pads.
Over on the mainland, the Ritz-Carlton Millenia is working on a new Ritz Kids Play Land experience on level one of the hotel, equipped with toys, games and craft activities.
Luxury brands have launched themed family packages and child-inclusive events in recent months as part of a larger scheme of offerings for kids.
All these investments do boost the bottomline because not only do they draw family vacationers, they are a relatively easy and cost-effective way to get extended occupancy from their business guests, who typically stay in hotels on weekdays.
Ms Chee said: "In the past people would think, (there was) no need to provide for kids because that's not the target market. Yes, that's not the target market from Monday to Thursday, but come the weekend?"
Another motivation for such offerings is hotels view child inclusivity as a means of building long-term relationships with clients.
Kurt Otto Wehinger, general manager of Pan Pacific Singapore, said: "The delighted young guests of today may be our loyal guests of tomorrow. Once you are able to meet the needs of these guests (young and old), you can turn them into loyal customers who will keep returning."
Pan Pacific Singapore launched its Great Fun-mily Escapade Package in February, which includes themed-rooms, a children's play tent and children amenities packed into a mini-sized luggage.
A Kid's dessert corner was also introduced following the revamp of the hotel's Sunday champagne brunch menu at their restaurant, Edge, featuring a display of sweet treats, a cotton candy machine, "Pierrot Gourmand" gummy display and a spiral chocolate fountain.
The Ritz-Carlton also debuted its second family-oriented room package in February, Game Night room package, inspired by the hotel's new bespoke Monopoly game.
They are looking to incorporate elements of the hotel's bespoke Monopoly game into the new Ritz Kids Play Land experience.
Fullerton Hotel introduced its Family Glamping Package in November last year, for families to enjoy a starry night in the comfort of a Loft Suite or Esplanade Room, complete with take-home sleeping bags for the kids.
Fullerton also offers a child-friendly Sunday Brunch at Town Restaurant in The Fullerton Hotel Singapore or La Brasserie at The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore complete with a Kids Activity Room.
Children under six dine free and can enjoy balloon sculpting, bookmark crafting and movie screenings under supervised care.
Fullerton is looking to offer storytelling sessions at Heritage Gallery, the first session scheduled for May 19 with Roger Jenkins, Singapore Literature Prize winner and director of Federation of Asian Storytellers.
The fuss over families has been met with some words of caution from those in the industry.
Mr Wehinger said catering to families requires attention to detail as children develop in different stages and "what works for a two-year-old is far different from what works for a 10-year-old".
The general consensus is how far hotels should go for families depends largely on demand and target audience.
Far East's Mr Kiong said while there are several market gaps in the industry, hotels that try to be "all things to everyone will be unsustainable".
Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, said: "There is no one-size-fits-all policy. It really comes down to the individual hotel - its positioning, the demographic of its guests etc. My advice is to look within and above all, listen to your guests."