Room for more 'luxury hostels' in Singapore

Room for more 'luxury hostels' in Singapore
Married couple Benedict Choa and Sonia Anya in one of the rooms at the Cube boutique capsule hotel.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Travelling on a shoestring budget does not necessarily mean cramming into a frills-free backpackers hostel, as RB Hospitality - started by a husband-and-wife team in 2015 - has set out to prove.

The firm operates the Cube boutique capsule hotel in Chinatown, and has three other properties due to be renovated, then used in the same way this year.

"We realised that there's a dearth of good accommodation options in prime locations for a traveller with a budget of $100 in Singapore. That's why we decided to embark on this business," said Ms Sonia Anya, general manager at Cube in Smith Street.

RB Hospitality took over the property on a long lease last year and invested more than $1 million to spruce up the shophouse, converting it from an old 22-room hotel to a 78-bed "luxury capsule" hotel.

Since the renovation was completed last September, demand for beds has been "overwhelming", with European travellers accounting for 60 per cent of its guests, the firm said.

"We are actively scouting new locations for Cube. We are looking at five properties in Little India, Clarke Quay, New Bridge Road, Chinatown and East Coast area," Ms Anya said.

The average rate ranges from $50 to $75 a night, and unlike typical low-cost accommodation, Cube offers an array of services, including a 24-hour concierge, an airport transfer shuttle, housekeeping, laundry services and free Wi-Fi.

Instead of bunk beds in a common room, guests get their own private cabin fitted with a reading lamp, a safe, filtered air ventilators and a foldaway dressing table. The cabins are separated by thick insulated partitions to reduce ambient noise.

Each cabin is slightly larger than the size of the mattress - either a super single or a double. Guests share 12 standalone bathrooms, each stocked with toiletries and a hair dryer, in various parts of the hotel.

Read also: Capsule hotels in Singapore offer cheap but stylish accommodation

Some hotel chains, such as Hotel 81 and the Fragrance Group, offer budget-priced hotel rooms. Prices are typically from $80 to more than $100, and include an attached bathroom.

RB Hospitality, backed by a private wealth fund, has three other hospitality properties - in River Valley Road, Bussorah Street, and another also in Smith Street.

They will be progressively refurbished under the Cube brand.

Mr Benedict Choa, director at RB Hospitality, told The Straits Times that the firm is focused on acquiring or renting "tired properties in good locations" on long leases.

"It's a two-pronged strategy that allows us to benefit from the capital appreciation after the property has been renovated, as well as tap the potential of the luxury hostel business," Mr Choa said.

Potential properties the firm is looking to acquire are shophouses near MRT stations with a price tag of between $5 million and $20 million.

RB Hospitality hopes to double the number of hotels under its portfolio within the next two years to eight hotels, with a total of 800 beds.

The firm intends to expand to South-east Asia after establishing a wider footprint here.

"We see a market gap in the luxury hostel segment, which we believe will continue to grow as people demand more well-located, low-cost accommodation that offers convenience and a wide range of services," Mr Choa said.

Apart from running the hotel business, RB Hospitality also owns two serviced office units in GB Building in Cecil Street.


This article was first published on Feb 15, 2017.
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