ISSUE #68 – Christian Westbeld (pictured below), General Manager of Raffles Hotel Singapore, shares with us more on the restoration process of the architecturally striking 130-year old structure, and the hotel’s approach to guest experience.
Raffles Hotel has such historical significance and unique heritage. How do you update and refurbish an iconic hotel without losing its charm?
One of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world, Raffles Singapore continues to be a legend in the global luxury hotel sphere, given its ability to evolve gracefully over time to suit and adapt to today’s travellers, while still maintaining its original, iconic charm and unique atmosphere. Until today, its architecture is perfectly preserved, giving the legendary hotel an intoxicating blend of luxury, history and classic colonial design. Much like the previous restoration in 1991, Raffles Singapore is evolving for 21st century travellers while preserving its core identity that travellers recognise as a distinctly Raffles experience, from our ever-present and welcoming Raffles Doormen, who are the most photographed colleagues of the hotel, to the refined, discreet and attentive service of our Raffles Butlers and the exceptional culinary and cultural experiences provided within.
The Raffles Doorman
The restoration process is a meticulous one, which involves breathing new life into the heritage parts of a 130-year-old structure, requiring intricate levels of finesse, sensitivity and care. Accordingly, the restoration team’s work has progressively become even more thorough, detailed, delicate and precise in the last few months. The presence of a dedicated team on the ground, which is working tirelessly towards curating an entire set of experiences for our guests when the hotel reopens from our Butler experience to the series of culinary firsts is in itself a big responsibility but simultaneously it is an extremely exhilarating and fulfilling endeavour as the team works passionately towards a successful reopening.
What is your philosophy and approach to guest experience?
Within the team at Raffles Hotel Singapore, we are very excited to welcome our guests, inviting them to rediscover cherished moments with our returning favourites and explore innovative and exciting experiences with our new line-up of dining concepts. For these reasons and more, Raffles Hotel Singapore continues to thrive and stay relevant for travellers around the world and our community as we preserve age-old traditions while providing guests with opportunities to create new ones. The service experience at Raffles centres around the guest and thrives on offering them emotional luxury.
The Singapore sling
Since the hotel’s inception in 1887, Raffles Hotel Singapore has been an epicentre for world travellers, the local community, culture and entertainment, being the first hotel in the city to hire a French chef in 1899, introducing travellers and Singapore to authentic French flavours. Fast-forward to today and the Grand Dame is once again at the forefront of a culinary and bartending renaissance, beginning with the presentation of a 21st century Singapore Sling. Widely regarded as the city’s national cocktail, the legendary Singapore Sling, created here more than 100 years ago, has made its long awaited return to a restored Long Bar since September 2019. Crafted with elevated ingredients that includes bespoke gin, organic pineapples and grenadine made from 100% pomegranate juice, the refreshed Singapore Sling with its modern taste profile is fast becoming the talk of city, delighting new and old supporters alike.
How do you see the consumer journey and guest expectations changing? Is it very different for the modern luxury traveller?
Today’s luxury traveller is more discerning, more sophisticated and more demanding. They are seasoned travellers who enjoy being social and are cultured, knowledgeable and worldly. They seek personal enrichment through deep cultural connections to past and present, with a particular appreciation for authentic heritage, not reproductions of the past. They appreciate naturally elegant, personal relationships and service which is delivered with warmth and sincerity. At Raffles, we understand this evolution and recognise that luxury is thereby more than what one owns but about how they feel. As such, we present to our visitors a perfect blend of legendary service which is gracious and intuitive, iconic design, culturally rich experiences as well as destination dining and celebrations where our guests feel sumptuously pampered and perfectly understood.
See also: Discover French shopping, dining & lifestyle in Singapore on So Chic
Interview with Christian Westbeld, General Manager of Raffles Hotel Singapore
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #1 2019 “The Consumer Journey Issue”