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Travel & Holiday

Hotel stays for families

More establishments are wooing guests by making the kids feel right at home
The Straits Times - September 4, 2011
By: Karen Tee
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Hotel stays for families Among the child-friendly activities families can enjoy at the Rasa Sentosa Resort is spending a few hours in this indoor playground. -- PHOTO: SHANGRI-LA RASA SENTOSA RESORT

You do not have to go away to get that holiday feeling. Hotels in Singapore are offering child-friendly features to entice families to book 'staycations' with them on weekends and during school holidays.

It is more than just the roll-out cot, which most hotels will provide for a fee. The extras - from child-sized bathrobes to full-scale programmes that pack in a day of fun for children - make going to Sentosa or Orchard Road feel like a true vacation.

The hospitality industry can smell the growing opportunity as more families in Asia take regular holidays together.

Says Mr Antoine Chahwan, regional vice-president and general manager of Four Seasons Hotel Singapore: 'Travel is no longer a luxury but a norm as working parents try to create bonding opportunities with their children.'

Staycations do not come cheap - two nights could easily set a family back by more than $1,000 - but they are hassle- free, and going to a resort on Sentosa does feel like getting away from it all.

Ms Silvia Ho, a 34-year-old housewife, spent a few nights with her two children, aged two and four, at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort in June while her husband was abroad. They had so much fun, they want to do it again. 'I didn't want to deal with the logistics of going overseas on my own with two children, so I took them to Sentosa,' she says.

She chose Rasa Sentosa for its child-friendly features, such as its spacious rooms with a sofa bed and breakfast buffet with child-appropriate food.

Her children loved the resort, too. 'The pool was the main draw for them as it has features such as slides and water jets.'

The resort completed an $80-million renovation at the start of this year to enhance its child-friendly facilities and services to cash in on the island's growing cachet as a family destination. About 40 per cent of its guests are families.

Another Sentosa hotel, Festive Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa which opened in 2009, was designed specially with families in mind. Apartments have a separate room for parents and loft beds for the children, says Mr Robin Goh, assistant director of communications at the resort.

The rest of the resort also has child- friendly attractions, such as a pool-playground with swings and water jets which hotel guests can use. The positioning has worked as families make up as much as 70 per cent of guests at the four Resorts World Sentosa hotels.

Hotels in the city are also rolling out the red carpet for junior guests.

At The Regent Singapore, young ones get a welcome snack such as a brownie shaped like an iPod or fruit sushi.

Staff at Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore go the extra mile to make children feel at home. Once, the team decorated a girl's room with pink balloons and sent her a princess cake for her birthday, says Ms Cheryl Ng, public relations director of the hotel.

It makes sense for business hotels to woo families as well.

Says Associate Professor Jochen Wirtz from the department of marketing at the National University of Singapore's Business School: 'Targeting different segments of travellers allows hotels to run at a higher capacity. Business travellers typically need rooms during the week, whereas families are on leisure trips during holidays and over weekends.'

In general, he adds, families tend to spend more than individual leisure travellers: 'They need bigger rooms, and breakfasts and dinners are great for family time.'

Starting children young also builds loyalty. Mr Jeff Rednour, The Regent Singapore's hotel manager, says it has adult guests who have been staying at the hotel since they were children.

Certainly, a great staycation experience could see guests going back.

Ms Ho says of her Rasa Sentosa stay: 'My older boy keeps asking me when we will go back to the swimming pool.'

They are likely to do it again, she says, adding: 'The kids have formed an attachment to the resort.'

Red carpet for kids

The Regent Singapore (from $510 for an executive suite)

Features: Upon request, rooms will be baby-proofed with electric socket covers, toilet-lid locks and door closure bumpers. Children from two to 14 get a welcome snack, such as a brownie shaped like an iPod. They can borrow for free an Xbox or PlayStation game console and board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble.

Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore (from $350 a night for a room on weekends)

Features: Interconnecting hotel rooms are designed with a common foyer that makes a great play area for kids while their parents can enjoy some privacy. Children aged five and above get their own child-sized bathrobes and bedroom slippers.

Shangri-la Rasa Sentosa Resort (from $400 a night for a family room)

Features: There is a three-storey tree-house slide which winds down into a pool of colourful balls, a covered children's pool and a play area with slides and water jets. Children may also take part in various activities for free. Up to 10 programmes are on offer daily, including sandcastle building and treasure hunts.

Marina Bay Sands (from $399 a night)

Features: The infinity pool on the 57th-floor SkyPark is a big draw for everyone and there is also a children's pool. Hotel guests enjoy discounts at the ArtScience Museum, where there are free children's activities.

Festive Hotel (from $280 for a deluxe room)

Features: Apartments come with a room for parents and a separate room with a loft and sofa beds for kids.

Festive Hotel has its own children's pool and wet play area, and the sand pool at Hard Rock Hotel is also open to them. Hard Rock Hotel has a Kids Club where there are programmes all day for children, including art and craft sessions and storytelling time.

Of course, Universal Studios theme park, which is a sure hit with kids, is just a short walk away.



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