Business Times - 21 Apr 2009
Raffles Hotel may turn shops into more rooms
By EMILYN YAP
(SINGAPORE) Known for its mix of high-end watch, fashion and jewellery boutiques, the Raffles Hotel shopping arcade may undergo redevelopment to make space for as many as 78 rooms.
In a brief statement issued last evening, Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) said that it has obtained the nod from Singapore authorities to redevelop the arcade.
'This approval will add significant value to the hotel as it will include up to 78 additional guest rooms,' KHC said. The company is chaired by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and it holds a 58.1 per cent controlling interest in Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI). FRHI in turn owns Raffles Hotel, along with many other hotels around the world.
The announcement to redevelop the arcade comes just days after The Times of London reported that Raffles Hotel could be put up for sale with a price tag of up to US$450 million.
It speculated that Prince Alwaleed could consider disposing of several assets after investment losses - namely from the falling value of his stake in Citigroup - hit his portfolio.
Raffles Hotel's website notes that the arcade now houses more than 30 retailers such as The Hour Glass and Louis Vuitton across two levels. No details were provided on the expected size and cost of the redevelopment.
Raffles Hotel has slightly more than a hundred suites currently. A night in a room with two twin beds can cost up to $490, according to its reservation site.
No thanks to the economic slowdown, the outlook for the hotel industry here has been dismal.
CBRE Hotels (Asia-Pacific) said last week that hotel occupancies and room rates are likely to soften as more supply comes onstream in the next few years.
Nevertheless, the consultancy unit's executive director Robert McIntosh felt that the creation of more rooms in Raffles Hotel would be a good idea, 'particularly for property of that quality'.