During the COVID pandemic when borders were shut and international travel went on indefinite hiatus, staycations became the next best alternative for stir-crazy Singaporeans. I myself reviewed no fewer than 35 local hotels during this period (including one that till today remains the most-read MileLion article).
But with all those restrictions now a thing of the past, it’s become increasingly difficult to justify staycations when that money could go a lot further overseas. That’s all the more so when hotel prices are flirting with all-time highs– set to increase even further in 2024.
Which brings me to my staycation review dilemma…
Singapore hotels are springing up left right centre
By my count, 2023 saw at least eight 5-Star hotels opening or reopening in Singapore:
- Artyzen Singapore
- COMO Metropolitan Singapore
- Conrad Singapore Orchard
- EDITION Singapore
- Pullman Singapore Hill Street
- Mandarin Oriental
- Mondrian Singapore Duxton
- Pan Pacific Orchard
That’s not even counting lesser lights like 21 Carpenter, Aloft Novena, Owen House and The Robertson House.
2024 looks set to be more of the same, with Banyan Tree Mandai Park, Sentosa Resort and Spa and The Standard all making their debuts, as well as the highly-anticipated reopening of the Grand Hyatt Singapore.
Out of this laundry list, I’ve only managed to review the Conrad Singapore Orchard so far. I’d love to put more of these new properties through the ol’ MileLion blacklight test, but there’s just one problem…
And the prices are insane
The MileLioness’ birthday (18th, if you must know) is coming up, and I was trying to see whether I could two-bird-one-stone this by booking a staycation and also checking off another review.
Well, that was the plan at least, but the asking prices are giving me reason to pause.
|💸 Lowest Rate For…
|Pullman Hill Street
|Pan Pacific Orchard
While Pan Pacific Orchard, Pullman and Mondrian are somewhat affordable, the ones I’d really like to review — Artyzen, COMO, EDITION and Mandarin Oriental — are frightfully expensive. Even with the content-generation angle and birthday special occasion, I find it hard to bring myself to spend that kind of money. I mean, for the Mandarin Oriental’s price, I could almost do a whole Bangkok trip!
That leaves me with the following options.
EDITION is under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella, and when it first opened, award nights were going for 40,000 points per night. I passed on that opportunity (sigh), and the lowest possible price now is 52,000 points. Given the cash rates, I’d still be getting an OK value per point, but again it’s hard to part with so many points for just one night.
Pullman and Mondrian are part of Accor Live Limitless, but Accor’s redemptions are revenue-based, with a fixed value of 2,000 points = €40. This means there’s no opportunity for outsized value, and if the cash rates are poor value, it follows that the points rates are no better.
Best Rate Guarantees
Best Rate Guarantees (BRGs), for the uninitiated, are promises by hotels that if you find a lower price through third party OTAs, they’ll match that price and offer a further discount.
It’s meant to give you the confidence to book through the official website (thus saving the hotel ~15-25% worth of commissions), but based on my searches, third party OTAs can sometimes beat the official websites for these new hotels.
Take COMO Metropolitan, for example. For a 6-7 February 2024 stay, the official website is asking for S$392++ (S$470 nett) for a breakfast included, non-refundable rate.
A breakfast-inclusive non-refundable rate would be S$355 nett on Trip.com. COMO’s BRG offers 10% off the competing rate, which would bring the cost down to a very reasonable S$320- if it were approved.
The wild card is that BRG claims are always a game of roulette. For example, I could see COMO denying this claim on the grounds that it’s a Trip.com “Gold member” price, and therefore not available to the general public. The next lowest rate would be Expedia, which charges S$433 nett for a breakfast-inclusive rate (S$390 assuming the BRG is approved)- but in that case I might as well book on Trip.com!
|😢 BRG woes
|The vagaries involved in BRG approvals has led to accusations that they’re no more than marketing gimmicks. I’ve read some ridiculous stories of rejected BRG claims, including one where the lower competing rate was rejected because it included breakfast, while the hotel’s rate did not- never mind the logic!
What’s more, you need to make a booking with the hotel before you file a BRG claim, and the cheapest rates are usually non-refundable. If the hotel decides not to honor the BRG claim, you’re stuck.
Still, the general idea is to use a meta search engine like Google Hotels or Kayak to browse availability at a particular hotel, and see if third parties are offering lower comparable rates to the official website.
If the main objective is to experience the hotel’s rooms and facilities, then perhaps an overnight stay might not be strictly necessary. A daycation or work-from-hotel package would give me the access I need.
But while such packages were plentiful during the COVID era, they’re less common these days. Daycations are meant to keep rooms from sitting idle, after all- who needs that when the hotel’s running close to full?
Moreover, one could argue that a daycation wouldn’t be the best basis for a review, since you wouldn’t be reviewing the breakfast or overnight sleep experience.
In any case it’s a moot point because I wasn’t able to find daycation options for any of the new hotels. Daycation packages are typically added after the hotel has been on the market for a while and the initial buzz has died down.
As much as we may lament the stratospheric levels that hotel rates have reached, here’s the cold hard facts: this isn’t 2021 anymore. Hotels don’t need staycation guests to keep them afloat, and occupancy is doing just fine without them. If visitors are willing to stomach the prices, why wouldn’t you take their money?
So even though there’s more than half a dozen hotels I’d love to review, I’m going to have to be a bit more selective in my approach. I think BRGs are the way to go, though if you have any other bright ideas I’d love to hear them.
Which of these hotels would you most like to see reviewed?