Coronavirus: Singapore

Hotels ramp up room capacity to cater to longer SHN stays

But some have been converted into SHN-only facilities and had to turn away guests who booked staycations

Hotels serving as stay-home notice (SHN) facilities have put in place additional measures to help their guests cope with longer stays, while also ramping up their room capacities.

But the new rules that kicked in last Saturday requiring those on SHN to serve an additional seven days have left some holidaygoers frustrated, as some hotels that previously catered to staycation guests have been converted into SHN-only facilities and have cancelled earlier bookings.

Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it would tighten border measures to manage the risk of Covid-19 being imported by travellers and onward transmission to the local community. This comes as Covid-19 variants have been detected here and the number of community cases went up last week.

From 11.59pm last Friday, all travellers arriving in Singapore would have to undergo 21 days of SHN - instead of 14 days previously - except those coming from Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Those currently on a 14-day SHN and who had yet to complete their isolation by midnight of Friday have to serve an additional seven days at their current SHN facility so as to minimise movement and risk of transmission, MOH had said.

This means an additional $1,200 in expenses for a single traveller for the extra week of food and accommodation at a hotel, as well as for one more polymerase chain reaction Covid-19 test on the 21st day of SHN. This is on top of the $2,000 for a 14-day SHN under previous rules.

The Straits Times understands that guests who had booked staycations at hotels such as Park Hotel Clarke Quay and Mandarin Orchard Singapore have been told that they have to postpone or cancel their bookings, as these hotels would become dedicated SHN facilities.

At least seven hotels, with a capacity of 3,000 rooms in total, have converted or will be turned into SHN-only facilities in the coming days.

More than 70 hotels here have been serving as SHN-dedicated facilities since March last year, with the number of facilities in use varying based on demand, said the authorities.

They did not say how many additional hotels were activated in the light of the extended SHN.

"Facilities (are) activated as and when needed," they said.

"The Government will continue to monitor the evolving situation and work closely with these organisations to adjust the capacity of such facilities accordingly."

For safety and security reasons, hotels that are activated may turn away guests staying for leisure purposes, the agencies added.

Singaporeans who have used their SingapoRediscovers Vouchers (SRV) to book a staycation at these hotels are eligible for product exchange and/or cancellation and refund if their booking has been affected. More details will be announced soon.

Hotels and the relevant SRV authorised booking partners will progressively reach out to affected guests to provide assistance, added the authorities.

Hotel operators here told ST they will do more to help their guests cope with the extended SHN requirements.

Mr Garth Simmons, chief executive of Accor South-east Asia, Japan and South Korea, said: "Each guest will stay longer so we will need to provide them with a little bit more care, as this is a long time for people to be stuck in one room."

Accor's hotels, which include Fairmont Singapore and the Ibis Budget chain, will implement additional calls to check in on guests, and expand their food and beverage menus to provide more variety, he added.

Hotels such as The Westin Singapore have also expanded and intensified their cleaning regime.

Acting general manager Kuljit Singh said some of the measures include disinfecting designated public and operations areas with approved electrostatic sprayers and hospital-grade disinfectant, and deep cleaning of each guest room.

As full resumption of international travel is impossible in the foreseeable future, hotels said they are glad to have SHN visitors, which keep them in operation.

A marketing head at an international hotel said that during this time, most hotels want to operate exclusively for SHN due to the stable revenue, as business from staycations tends to be less dependable.

However, he added that some hotels cannot become SHN-only hotels as they have regular long-stay guests who are not serving SHN.

A spokesman for Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which operates Orchard Hotel, M Social Singapore, Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Copthorne King's Hotel, M Hotel and Studio M, said its hotels are ready to set aside more rooms to accommodate SHN guests.

Mr Simmons said that although the rates for SHN business are far below what regular guests would pay, the hotels are grateful that the SHN rooms are keeping them in operation and their staff employed.

He added: "We are in the business of caring for people so we will continue to care for all our guests, no matter what brings them to our hotels."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2021, with the headline 'Hotels ramp up room capacity to cater to longer SHN stays'. Subscribe