by Terence Baker | October 01, 2005

The Old Parliament

The Old Parliament
accommodates meetings
and receptions.

Founded as a British trading station in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, from whom this city-state got the name of its most famous hotel, Singapore this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of its independence. Events and festivals to mark this milestone will continue until year’s end.
Another anniversary worth noting: The Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, the largest such facility in the city, is 10 years old. The venue offers 240,000 square feet of exhibition space, as well as a 596-seat theater and 31 meeting rooms. 
    Known for its clean streets and smart business ethos, Singapore offers visitors an ever-increasing roster of new hotels and attractions.

Room boom
Having outlawed gaming for four decades, the city finally is ready to roll the dice. Plans are afoot to build two Las Vegas-style megacasino hotels one on Sentosa Island, the other at Marina Bayfront. The two new properties, each likely to cost in excess of $1 billion, ultimately will add an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 hotel rooms to Singapore’s room count upon planned openings in 2009 or 2010. At press time, the government was weighing several proposals, some from parties with a strong presence in Las Vegas. City officials also are looking into possible companion projects for the casinos, including a new convention center, a Formula 1 racetrack and a theme park.
    Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open the 299-room St. Regis Singapore in 2007. The 180,000-square-foot property, in a landmark 1904 beaux arts building, will be a part of the upscale Orchard Road shopping and entertainment complex and will include four restaurants, a spa and 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
    The 527-room Oriental Singapore, managed by Mandarin Oriental, finished a top-to-bottom renovation in May that had closed the hotel from August to December of last year. All 527 guest rooms were spruced up, as were the 13 meeting rooms.
    Last month, the Hotel New Otani became the Novotel Clarke Quay Singapore. The 406-room property, which has been totally renovated, now offers three restaurants, a ballroom, a pool and several meeting rooms, as well as views of local landmarks and the Singapore River.

Sites and flights
From independence until 1990, Singapore was governed from the Parliament Chamber of the Arts House. As of this year, the renovated building, known now as the Old Parliament, is available to groups for meetings and receptions; its chamber seats up to 152 people.
    Beginning next year, business travelers will be able to reach the city-state in upgraded style, after Singapore Airlines becomes the first carrier to fly the new Airbus A380-800. The plane has two stories along its entire length, can seat almost 500 people and will begin by servicing travelers to and from London and Sydney, Australia.
    Singapore’s Changi Airport, which now offers a scant 146 rooms in its vicinity, plans to open a new 300-room hotel in early 2008 to coincide with the debut of the facility’s new Terminal 3. Meanwhile, the existing Terminal 2 is in the midst of a makeover, which will finish by the middle of next year.

Local flavor
A new restaurant causing a stir is StraitsKitchen at the 626-room Grand Hyatt Singapore. The 260-seat eatery opened last December with inventive décor courtesy of the designers of Tokyo-based Super Potato. Dishes derive from Chinese, Indian and Malay sources.