Last year, the news broke that the Mandarin Orchard Singapore would be rebranded as the Hilton Singapore Orchard in early 2022, following a S$90 million renovation. That raised questions as to the fate of the HPL-owned Hilton Singapore, whose management contract will end in September 2021.
Well now we have the answer. The Hilton Singapore will become the voco Orchard Singapore in January 2022, under the IHG umbrella. The press release says that this will be the first voco property in South East Asia, which I assume means that the voco Bangkok and voco Da Nang have been delayed (both were originally set to open in 2021).
What the heck is voco?
voco is IHG’s fastest growing brand, with 19 hotels opened since its launch in 2018 and 31 more on the way. It’s positioned as an “upscale, versatile brand” (aren’t they all), competing with AC/Delta Hotels from Marriott and the Curio Collection by Hilton.
From what I gather, voco hotels are meant to target guests who like modern design, but don’t require traditional facilities and aren’t prepared to pay full service hotel prices.
What’s interesting is that based on this pitch deck for hotel owners, the voco brand requirements look very different from what the Hilton Singapore currently is. Gyms, conference and concierge facilities are not mandated, nor is all-day dining. The only F&B they require is a bar with barista coffee- I guess it’s hipster fodder.
The recommended size for a standard room in a voco property is 22-30 sqm, which means the Hilton Singapore is actually slightly ahead of the curve in this aspect (32 sqm).
voco, in case you were wondering, is Latin for “call together” or “to invite”.
What can we expect at the voco Orchard Singapore?
A major renovation, I hope.
I did a media stay at the Hilton Singapore back in October, and while I couldn’t fault the service, the hardware was dismal. The room looked like something straight out of the early 1990s, with bland and anonymous design.
It was a strange juxtaposition of old and new, like someone had decided to renovate and then stopped halfway through. The toilet, for instance, was half old marble, half modern dark marble, with a mix of grated plastic floor traps and concealed ones.
The light switches reminded me of something you’d find at one of those faded Grand hotels in Europe, the wallpaper was peeling, and the wiring was exposed in parts.
Wear and tear comes with the territory (the hotel dates back to 1970), but cleanliness should be non-negotiable. I found some big stains on the mattress protector, plus a ton of hair trapped under the bedsheets.
So I can’t say I enjoyed my Hilton Singapore stay, nor recommend it to anyone but those doing mattress runs (provided you don’t mind a mattress that looks like someone had the runs on it).
But lurking somewhere within the building is a single “demo room”, which looks downright impressive. It’s like a little oasis of modernity within the time capsule that the Hilton Singapore otherwise is.
I’m not sure why this design was never rolled out to the rest of the rooms, but my hope is that it might serve as the blueprint for voco renovations. Based on the other voco hotels I’ve seen online, my guess is the end product will feature a lot more yellow, with metal finish furnishings and carpeted floors. Since the number of rooms will remain constant at 423, I wouldn’t expect any new sizes or configurations to be added.
The Hilton Singapore’s lounge is a lot more up to date, and was one of the brighter spots of my stay. Unfortunately, club lounges aren’t a common feature at voco hotels- to my knowledge, only two voco properties worldwide (Dubai and Riyadh) have one. This leads me to suspect that the existing lounge space may be converted into some kind of co-working area, sans the club lounge benefits.
In any case, even IHG’s top-tier Spire members don’t get complimentary lounge access, so unless you’re willing to pay out of pocket for an executive room, you won’t notice the difference.
While there were rumours that the Hilton Singapore was going to be reflagged as a DoubleTree, it looks like the owners have decided to make a clean break from the brand altogether.
Hilton doesn’t seem to be shedding too many tears, though, and is already marketing the new Hilton Singapore Orchard on its app (bound to cause confusion, given how the existing Hilton Singapore is also in Orchard).
The voco Orchard Singapore will become IHG’s 12th hotel in Singapore, making it quite the hotbed for IHG Rewards loyalists.