Bake cupcakes or try art-jamming with staycation packages

Hotels are offering art, cycling and other activities to attract Singaporeans

To relive the sleepovers they had in their teens, undergraduate Janice Lim, 21, and her three girlfriends decided to spend a night together at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore.

They took the Girls' Party Staycation package, priced at $700 a night and accommodating a maximum of four guests in a room.

It includes canapes and a vodka-infused watermelon, as well as the use of a gel manicure set, a GoPro camera and a giant inflatable rainbow unicorn for the pool.

Ms Lim says: "We did a movie marathon like we used to, drank and had fun chilling and spending time together.

"A staycation is much more convenient and cheaper than heading overseas. And with this package, everything is lined up for us so we don't even need to leave the hotel."

Staycations are on the rise here as more Singaporeans want to avoid the hassle and cost of plane tickets and choose instead to relax in their own backyard.

According to the Holiday Value Report released last May by travel website TripAdvisor, Singapore was the third-most popular destination for Singaporean travellers last June, after Bali and Bangkok.

Hotel booking portal Hotels.com also said that staycation searches in Singapore last year grew by 87 per cent compared with 2014.

Meanwhile, hotels are rolling out the red carpet for these vacationers by offering themed packages that would appeal to locals looking for a special weekend.

"Adding a spa package to a hotel stay is now passe. Hotels now have to think of what else they can offer besides the standard deals," says Associate Professor Sharon Ng of Nanyang Technological University's business school.

Increasing competition is another reason hotels are stepping up their game and offering alternative staycation experiences, says Ms Katherine Cole, regional marketing director for Hotels.com (Singapore, Australia and New Zealand).

There were 8,514 hotel rooms being built or planned for development islandwide as of the fourth quarter of last year, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority, adding to an already saturated market.

At The Quincy Hotel on Mount Elizabeth, these creative perks are art-jamming classes or cupcake-baking sessions, which are part of its Qool Weekend deal, priced from $331++ a night.

At Village Hotel Changi, the freebie is a complimentary three-hour bicycle rental on Pulau Ubin. It is included in the Ubin Adventure package, with room rates starting from $180++ a night.

Both hotels are run by Far East Hospitality, which operates 10 hotels, all of which have staycation packages.

The group's chief executive Arthur Kiong says it has seen more than 50 per cent growth in staycations from 2013 to last year.

The goodies get more "local" at Ramada Singapore and Days Hotel Singapore in Zhongshan Park, which offer free Shaw Theatre tickets in The Big Screen Package (from $168++ at Days Hotel Singapore and $188++ at Ramada Singapore). The tickets can be redeemed at the nearby Shaw Theatres Balestier. Ms Macy Cheng, director of sales and marketing, says close to 40 packages have been sold since January and half of the customers are Singapore residents.

She adds that the hotels change their staycation promotions regularly and offer activities such as a visit to the River Safari or Adventure Cove Waterpark at Resorts World Sentosa.

Who are the Singapore staycationers?

 

They could be lovebirds looking for a hassle-free getaway, such as financial advisers Peter Sin, 32, and Cynthia Boon, 25.

Last year, they went for a hotel stay almost every month, with Mr Sin proposing at The Quincy Hotel last Saturday. They had checked in with the Qool Weekend deal. Ms Boon said yes.

He says: "I wanted to propose to her in a private and romantic setting where it was just us two."

Other staycationers are families. Ms Jade Wong, her husband and two daughters checked into an underwater-themed family room at D'Resort in Downtown East to celebrate younger daughter Kassandra's birthday last weekend.

That was their second time at the resort since it opened in July.

Ms Wong, 44, a deputy director for customer relations, says her girls were happy to stay and play in the room.

"For them, the bunk beds and theme were the highlight of the stay. They can't wait to go back."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Stay and play'. Print Edition | Subscribe