My staycation review dilemma

There's a glut of newly-opened hotels in Singapore that all need reviewing, but the prices are...not economical.

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

COMO Metropolitan Singapore

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.

Hotel💸 Lowest Rate For…
JanFebMar
ArtyzenS$576S$505S$505
COMOS$454S$464S$469
EDITIONS$683S$683S$907
Pullman Hill StreetS$369S$369S$369
Mandarin OrientalS$793S$769S$769
Mondrian DuxtonS$324S$324S$324
Pan Pacific OrchardS$385S$358S$360

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.

Redeeming points

EDITION Singapore (the rooms looks rather underwhelming here I have to say)

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.

Daycations

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

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.

Conclusion

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?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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bobby

similarly i’ve also opt to not take up the marriott edition 40,000 points offer to redeem a nights stay.
didnt chance upon any positive unbiased reviews

Tony

I looked at trying Conrad Orchard and as what you said it was having old bones. So skip it for the staycation. The price was more than SGD 400 plus the newly minted 9% GST. At that price, I can get a cheap ticket to a nearby city and room with much lower cost of dining, it is probably around there too.
With so many new hotel properties and cost of visiting Singapore, I also wondered how the hospitality industry has a sustainable model.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tony
chk

I chk Artyzn Hotel for July this week & it was around $800 with breakfast for Sat-Sun. Good grief.

But yours is a “biz stay”. Ask your young CEO to up the budget 😉

chk

The MileLion employee then no dilemma liao – staycation hotel reviews to cease 😉

Per Roland

Staycation used to be a popular weekend thingy before pandemic n post pandemic but not nowadays ..The prices of hotels here is crazy. ..rather go to Shenzhen and stay in luxury hotels that cost half or less than here….Bangkok prices is also going higher than before, but still relatively cheaper than here, based on exchange rate.

Per Roland

I’m an Accor Gold member as well as Tripcom Diamond Tier, I can still get some good rate if I need one.

Tom

Wow a trip.com diamond member, impressive lah

Spoon

LOL Trip.com diamond tier. In other words, dear Roland has 8 bookings on Trip.com. Very nice. We need an article on this excellent status.

Tom

I’m shocked Aaron hasn’t done one already to be honest

Chris Teh

Forget staycations in SGP. Spend your money overseas – on significantly more affordable hotels in your overseas destinations. If tourists don’t mind spending an arm and a leg and more to stay in SGP’s overpriced hotels, then let them do so. There’s a limit to what SGP folks can and should do to support our local hotel industry.

Matrix.RX1

I find hotels have increased dramatically worldwide. A popular US blogger finds nothing of paying at least 1’000 USD/night now for 5 stars. Citizens like him visiting Florence have brought the prices to a 14 square meters room at a Mercure behind the train station to nearly half that (400+ EUR) and to top it off, my favourite Tokyo hotel is now exactly double the price as pre-pandemic. Hence, I am not at least surprised by the SG local increases, which however I have to say are not as strong as elsewhere.

Lifshitz

I think it’s mostly the top-end, instagrammable stuff that has gotten more expensive. EG, if you look at Hong Kong, a market that really hasn’t had an easy time the last years, if you look at the top you think the whole world is rushing there. StR, Rosewood, MO all charging top $$. But if you look one level below, Hyatt Regency, the new AKI, Renaissance etc – all below what I paid in 2018. That’s probably an issue for Aaron (Hyatt Regency reviews aren’t pulling that many readers methinks), but not for there average traveller. I mean, outside of… Read more »

Luke

You do have a point! I can see lower end hotel are moderately cheaper than 2023.

Tom

Wow I hadn’t realised staycations had gotten so crazy as I’d stopped doing them post-covid. I’ll stop complaining now how expensive hotels have gotten in Bangkok and Bali now hahaha

Lifshitz

Well. Yes the Mandarin price gets you to Bangkok. But then you also sit in economy for 3 hours and then some – is this enjoyable?
Honestly, I’d put 350$ under ‘wife’s birthday’ (19th would have been more appropriate…) and 350$ under business expense and enjoy the time at the Mando. Or, alternatively, skip the review and make use of the red hot rooms at the Fairmont (282++)

David

Review the Pullman and mondrian first. They are fairly new and looks nice in photos. The others like edition are mostly overpriced

Mark

Crazy. Especially with Japan and Bangkok still significantly below the 2019 prices. In fact Japan remains a stand-out-bargain. I have a 42-day trip to Japan coming up, and the prices are more-or-less a gift.

SlopeRocker

Currently staying at the Ritz Carlton in KL…in a beautiful one bedroom suite with full Club privileges for S$335 including all taxes and fees..

Spoon

The prices of hotels in general in the popular travel destinations such as Japan and Europe have gone up ever since Covid reopenings compared to prior years. As for the UK it is even worse with their Brexit excellence. A Novotel on the south side of London can cost more than 400 pounds nightly during peak periods, double what it was when I stayed in 2017/8.
I am fine with paying high rates for hotels but SG hotels in general pale in comparison to the hotels you can get in major EU destinations for similar prices.

Bruno

Even the Holiday Inn in JB can reach over 200 SGD/night nowadays.

thomas the tank

I regularly stay there and the lead in room rarely goes north of 120sgd per night. What dates are you seeing 200sgd for?

Nick

And then there’s the MVC, I could use it to book Bonvoy properties. I was contacted more than 12 years ago and recently they had a ‘promo’, but I could not find any objective review of the MVC, mainly negative ones. I am sure its ok for members who could book in advance, akin to booking a KF first class or suites cabin, but I guess I need to check it up further …

SSHH

With Singapore being so close to destinations with amazing AND well priced hotels, I don’t get why staycations are so popular among residents. Singapore hotels are – generally speaking – worse (in terms of brand benchmark standards – AND significantly pricier compared to e.g. Bangkok. I really don’t get it.

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