Many design and marketing teams have spend countless hours (and dollars) on research and development in an attempt to nail down exactly what today`s customer really wants. But new prototypes in the 4-star area are so few and far between that the M Singapore is worthy of close examination.
The hotel, owned by Hong Leong Holdings, started life in 1985 as the tourist-class Harbour View Dai-Ichi and was renamed the Copthorne Harbour View Hotel in 1995.
Work began in earnest in October 1999 on the S$30 million (US$16 million) makeover, which included complete re-plumbing and re-wiring of the entire hotel.
Step into the hotel today and - thanks to its minimalist decor - the contemporary and spacious design of the lobby makes you realise that this is, indeed, a totally new kind of Millennium & Copthorne (M&C) hotel.
You are reminded of a modern boutique hotel - except for the fact that it has 416 guestrooms.
Check-in is a civilised sit-down affair, normally reserved for the club floors in most hotels, and the minimum category of rooms is deluxe”.
All rooms and suites have either harbour or city views, and a large workspace environment with a large desk and leather chair, easily accessible table-top modem and power points, broadband access, separate bath and shower, flat-screen colour TV and a laptop safe with built-in power for charging a laptop while it is in storage. Rooms use lightwood finishing and feature soft colours for a relaxing and comfortable ambience, and chandeliers and lampshades have made way for simple and adjustable wall and down lights.
A large digital clock is wall-mounted, while hotel guides, stationery, collaterals and magazines are tucked away on a shelf within the wall units, rather than on the work desk, which only contains a leather writing mat.
Cordless phones and voice-messaging are standard. The 68 executive-club rooms, located on the 26th - 29th floors, feature Bose hi-fi stereo systems and added amenities. Guests have access to a modern executive-club lounge, which has an adjoining meeting room with complimentary use for up to three hours.
The 10 Executive Suites are generous in size and include a 42-inch plasma TV, 12-speaker hi-fi system and a Sony DVD/VCD/CD multiplayer.
Suite bathrooms feature a large whirlpool bathtub with aromatherapy candles and amenities, a body massage shower jet and a glass panel that separate them from the bedrooms. At the flick of a remote switch, the glass panel turns transparent, making the suites all the more inviting and homely.
Room service continues the practical theme. Food is delivered in a specially designed, thermal-insulated tray that is covered with an airtight seal to ensure the meal stays warm when it gets to guests. They can conveniently place the tray on their laps while relaxing on the leather lounge chair watching TV, or on a coffee table that can be rolled out from under one of the cabinets.
The property is also one of the first business hotels in Singapore to adopt a wireless network, which allows guests to use their laptops without having to plug into an electrical port.
An Inter-Touch wireless base station is installed in the lobby, where there are also five CISCO Aironet 350 series wireless LAN adaptors. This means that web surfing and internet access is possible anywhere in the lobby, restaurants and meeting rooms. Guests can obtain wireless LAN-cards upon check-in to enable their computers to use this facility during their stay.
The business centre is well equipped and is complete with a small meeting room and secretarial service [there are also 44 fully furnished serviced offices within the hotel]. There are also eight conference and meeting rooms, including a boardroom that can accommodate up to 500 people. A stylish banquet suite has also just been completed, with the same stress on modernity and functionality.
GM Chee T. Ng says many guests tend to spend a good deal of time in their rooms working. “Everything that you find in an M Hotel room is designed to either facilitate our guests?Eproductivity when they need to work, or to provide them with a relaxed and comfortable environment in which to rejuvenate,” he added. “Even our public areas and lounges are geared for enabling productivity.
Even though we have the right product to support this, we continue to work equally hard to ensure that our staff understand and fulfil the often-unrelenting demands of business travellers. It`s a hand-in-glove approach to our promise fulfilment.”
He says the postponement of the original plans to launch the M Hotel in October last year was simply due to concerns about its readiness to fulfil the new brand`s promise.
“And then, of course, September 11 hit us. But the delay was primarily due to the pending completion of the Banquet Suite and the new Restaurant J and Bar,” he says.
Before being introduced to the market, the product was tested by Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong, which owns M&C, and several executives. Kwek had this to say: “After that experience, I began to question why people still want to pay S$250-$400 (US$136-$218) a night at a top-end luxury hotel when you can get a hotel that gives you everything you really need for a fraction of the price.”
Will this mean more M`s?
For now, there is only one and its bottomline results - as with everything - will be the deciding factor on its future expansion.