The New Singapore

The island attempts to shake off its stopover destination status

By: By Gary Bowerman


Changi Airport Terminal 3
Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix
Hotel 1929
Link Hotel 
Marina Bay Sands 
Naumi Hotel 
New Majestic Hotel 
The Scarlet Hotel 
Sentosa Casino Resort 
Singapore Flyer 
St. Regis Singapore 


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Location, location, location. Ever since a merchant named Thomas Stamford Raffles hoisted the British flag in 1819, Singapore’s fortuitous geography at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula has made it a central location for people from around the world to meet, trade, socialize and depart. Flying into Changi Airport — regularly voted the world’s top airport — on a clear day, you’ll see that Singapore’s trading hub status is still clearly evident. As the plane swings low over the bay, scores of ships wait in line to enter Asia’s most pivotal trading port.

Major plans for development are taking place at Singapore’s Marina Bay. // (c) Gyver Chang
Major plans for development are taking
place at Singapore’s Marina Bay.

The Raffles name is now synonymous with Singapore’s most famous hotel, as well as street names, statues and buildings constructed during its days as a British colony. But look beyond the restored neo-classical architecture, iron Victorian bridges and landscaped parks, and a new, dynamic Singapore is evolving — one determined to shed its reputation as a stopover destination on the way to or from Australia and the Far East.

In 2005, Singapore launched an ambitious plan to double overseas arrivals to 17 million visitors by 2015. Now, three years later, the seeds of Singapore’s tourism future are starting to germinate.

Marina Bay
By 2009, Singapore’s window to the world, which separates the Singapore Straits and the Singapore River, will be transformed with new sky towers, a waterfront boutique hotel by the Fullerton Hotel and Marina Bay Sands.

Currently being built by Las Vegas Sands Corp., the $3.6 billion integrated Marina Bay Sands resort aims to be Southeast Asia’s leading meetings and conventions destination. When completed, it will feature 3,000 rooms across three 50-floor hotel towers, two 2,000-seat theaters, a casino, an ArtScience museum, a shopping mall, upscale restaurants and more than 328,000 square feet of convention space.

Opened in March, the 42-story Singapore Flyer is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Promising the only 360-degree view of Singapore, its 28 glass capsules take 30 minutes to turn full circle. Also located on Marina Bay, it will eventually be linked to the Marina Bay Sands resort by a curving, glass-encased walkway spanning the bay.

Sentosa Casino Resort
Genting Group is building a $5.2 billion development on the island of Sentosa. As well as hotels and gaming, Sentosa Casino Resort — slated to open at the end of 2009 — will focus on family entertainment by featuring Universal Studios Singapore; a water theme park; an approximately 861,000-square-foot oceanarium with the world’s largest marine tank; a whale shark lagoon; and the world’s first museum dedicated to Asia’s maritime history.

Formula 1
Major sports franchises are adding Singapore to their global roster, including the inaugural 2008 HSBC Women’s Champions golf tournament and the Volvo Ocean Race. Singapore is also bidding for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games.

This year’s most spectacular sports event will be the world’s first night-time Formula 1 motor race through the streets of historic Singapore. Expected to attract some 80,000 spectators, it takes place on Sept. 28.

Cool Hotels
Last December, the St. Regis Singapore became the city’s first new international five-star hotel in a decade. By offering superlative luxury, a myriad of art pieces and a marble-themed Remede Spa, the St. Regis is raising the bar for the several new hotels slated to open in the near future.

Boutique hotels are also thriving, with idiosyncratic properties like The Scarlet Hotel, New Majestic Hotel, Hotel 1929, Link Hotel and Naumi Hotel offering personalized service and a savvy sense of cosmopolitan chic.

Changi T3
Opened in January, Changi Airport’s approximately $1.3 billion Terminal 3 can accommodate 22 million passengers. Its eye-catching architecture features four artificial waterfalls, an interior garden and 919 natural reflector panel skylights. T3 also boasts the first Ferrari travel retail shop outside Europe, the first Sony Style airport outlet in the world and the first Hard Rock Cafe to be housed in a major international airport.