Banyan Tree to run resort at upcoming Mandai nature hub

Mr Mike Barclay (left), group executive of Mandai Park Holdings and Mr Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings posing in front of a piece of botany artwork, on Oct 11, 2017.
Mr Mike Barclay (left), group executive of Mandai Park Holdings and Mr Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings posing in front of a piece of botany artwork, on Oct 11, 2017. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Eco-friendly hotel will be ready by 2023, and cater to visitors to area's five wildlife parks

Visitors to the wildlife parks in Mandai will in future get the chance to stay in the area past nightfall.

By 2023, they can spend the night in an eco-friendly hotel run by Banyan Tree Holdings, a Singapore-based hotel chain known for its luxury resorts around the world.

When opened, it will be the chain's first resort in the Republic.

Banyan Tree and Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) announced plans for the hotel yesterday.

MPH is spearheading plans to turn Mandai into a nature destination with five wildlife parks. The relocated Bird Park from Jurong and Rainforest Park will join the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari currently there.

The hotel will be capped at four storeys and occupy 4.6ha of land on the existing compound. It will have a variety of offerings, from standard and family rooms to elevated cabins and tree houses, to cater to guests with different budgets, MPH group chief executive Mike Barclay said ata briefing.

The hotel can have up to 400 rooms - the maximum number set out in an earlier environmental study, which looked at how the development could be done in a way that would least impact the sensitive habitats and wildlife in the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The hotel will also offer a variety of activities, such as talks on conservation and guided nature walks.

"This stayover experience forms an integral part of our overall vision for the Mandai nature and wildlife precinct - to inspire guests to value and conserve biodiversity through memorable experiences," said Mr Barclay.

Banyan Tree was selected as the hotel operator following a request for proposals, which saw submissions by eight companies. Construction is expected to start in 2020, after design and operation plans for the resort are finalised.

Yesterday, MPH and Banyan Tree said the upcoming hotel will be designed in an eco-friendly way. Flora of conservation value will be protected, and a 15m-wide vegetation buffer will be retained between the hotel and the adjacent Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Dr Guan Chong, head of the marketing programme at the Sin-gapore University of Social Sciences' business school, said the hotel will differentiate itself from others, being located so close to the wildlife parks.

"Currently... tourists who visit the parks have to travel back to the city centre after their visit.

"Being the first to be there, the Banyan Tree resort in Mandai can cater to the needs of park visitors and will face less competition as compared with hotels in the downtown area."

But concerns have been raised by nature enthusiasts about the impact the hotel's presence will have on wildlife there.

Mr Barclay said its design is paramount. "Two children in a swimming pool located at the edge of the resort could result in noise travelling to the reserve. But by placing the pool in the centre of the resort, and using buildings and other noise abatement strategies, this can be reduced," he said.

Nature guide Ivan Kwan hopes the resort will be designed and built in such a way that the abundant bird life will not fly into hotel structures.

Mr Tai Lee Siang, chair of the World Green Building Council and a member of Mandai's Environmental Advisory Panel, said such incidents could be reduced with the use of fewer reflective surfaces.

Mr Kwan said: "Another concern would be how the resort will deal with wildlife that the guests and staff will inevitably encounter.

"The resort will need to have proper guidelines for human-wildlife interactions, and ensure these are followed by the guests."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Banyan Tree to run resort at upcoming Mandai nature hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe