Hotels make room for kids

SINGAPORE - Children are increasingly no longer just an afterthought in hotels.

At least five hotels here - Swissotel Merchant Court, Swissotel The Stamford, Festive Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa, Grand Park Orchard and Grand Park City Hall - have specially designated kids' rooms, adjoined to regular rooms, where the bedsheets, furniture, decor and amenities are all suited to their younger guests' tastes.

While some hotels have these rooms set up as part of larger family suites, some transform regular guest rooms into kids' rooms upon request when a reservation is made.

Serviced apartments Fraser Place Robertson Walk also offers children's rooms in some apartments, and Holiday Inn Resorts on nearby islands such as Batam and Bali offer the same in their family suites.

This trend of creating rooms specifically for children is slowly catching on in Singapore, after starting in Australia and the United States within the last five years, say hotel experts such as regional director Katherine Cole.

Festive Hotel and the Swissotel introduced these rooms in 2010, while Park Hotels introduced them here last July.

She believes the trend might be an extension of the themed- accommodation that theme parks often offer to cater especially to families with young children.

"The popularity of theme parks and the added allure of staying in themed hotels have caught the fancy of family travellers, driving hotels to offer child- friendly services," she says. "A sizable number of hotels have begun adopting this concept and tailoring their set-up to children via offerings such as providing toys for kids."

This is important as children "have become key decision-makers in family travel", says Ms Cole.

A spokesman for Resorts World Sentosa says Festive Hotel's family suites with kids' rooms were introduced when the hotel opened in 2010.

The suites - which feature loft beds, toys and amenity kits for children containing kid-sized toiletries - have proven to be "very popular", says the spokesman.

"It allows a family of four to be within a room, yet for parents and children to have their own private space," adds the spokesman. The family suite starts from $620 a night.

Ms Susie Lim-Kannan, FRHI Hotels & Resorts' director of public relations for the Asia Pacific region, says the children's rooms at Swissotel hotels here have also proven highly popular. "We have had instances when children were reluctant to leave the room after residing in it for a few nights. Many also request to take home the toys found in the rooms," she says.

Kids' rooms at Swissotel come decked out with age-appropriate toys, books, DVDs and video games for children in three age categories: zero- to five-year-olds, six- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 17-year-olds.

The hotel group decided to introduce the rooms after seeing a rise in family holidays, with parents travelling with children of varying ages, says Ms Lim-Kannan. "We saw the opportunity to differentiate the experience of staying in our rooms for kids and adults," she says.

A set of connecting rooms, including a kids' room, at Swissotel Merchant Court starts from $550 a night, while a set of connecting rooms at Swissotel The Stamford starts from $420 a night.

Ms Cole points to the fact that hotels "began riding on the trend by providing the basic amenities for children, such as cots and high chairs, and moved on to provide dedicated facilities and attractions such as playrooms, children swimming pools, children tours and magic shows".

"As children become more influential in family travel decisions, hotels are also upping the ante and differentiating their service offerings by providing themed bedrooms for a unique stay," she says.

Some of the more interesting offerings she has seen in local hotels are the brightly coloured linens at Swissotel Merchant Court, Grand Park City Hall and Fraser Place Robertson Walk; the soft toys, Xbox and games at the Swissotel hotels; and children's bath accessories and art kits at Grand Park hotels.

She also suggests that the rise of "staycations" is fuelling the trend of rooms catering to children. "In Singapore, we have hotels that have gone beyond adjoining rooms for families, to provide options that run from colourful bedding, to rooms that feature the latest toys and gadgets, to family accommodation that rivals theme parks'," she says. She cites data that reveals that Singapore travellers contribute the second-highest numbers for hotel room bookings in Singapore, after visitors from Hong Kong.

Parents here are appreciative of the trend. Customer relationship management consultant Andy Lee, 40, spent a weekend in March with his wife and four children, aged five, seven, nine and 11, at the Grand Park Orchard hotel. "Hotel policy normally restricts a room to two adults and two children. We have four kids, so it's often a problem finding a room that fits all of us. We also feel booking two rooms defeats the purpose as we're not all staying together," he says.

The Park Hotels group's Family Moments package, which allows families to book an adjoining room customised for the kids at half-price, worked for them. Rooms start from $242 a night.

He adds that his children were "exhilarated" when they realised they would have their own room to themselves. The children's room, which had a double bed and a single bed, came with special linens printed with images of cartoon characters; snacks; special shower accessories and toiletries for children.

"It's often difficult to get the kids to stay in their own room because they can be afraid in a new place, but the way this room was customised made them feel really welcome," says Mr Lee. "They rushed in immediately and told us it was their room. They had less resistance to sleeping on their own, which allowed my wife and I to have our own space and time."

This article was first published on June 8, 2014.
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