Raffles Hotel: We don't feel threatened

I make my way through the pebbled driveway of the Raffles Hotel, hoping to escape the pelting monsoonal rain with minimal impact on my appearance. Gathering myself at the entrance, I'm greeted by the kind and familiar face of the hotel's Sikh ambassador.

Minutes later, I'm transported through time as director of sales & marketing, Andrea Greybanks sits across from me, telling stories about one of Singapore's most iconic hotels.

"Raffles Hotel is very much a part of the history of Singapore," she says.

"People visit for various reasons, be it for the history of Long Bar, to taste the famous Singapore Sling or to walk in the corridors patronised by royalty and celebrities."

She drops the names of authors such as Joseph Conrad, who was one of the hotels earliest guests, and Somerset Maugham, who was known to have worked endlessly in the Palm Court. The hotel also played host to the rich and famous, including Charlie Chaplin and Elizabeth Taylor.

As we dig into pâté en croûte, mixed vegetables and truffle vinaigrette, Greybanks says it's not only famous personalities who stay at the hotel.

"There is the generation travel," she says.

"This happens when guests stay because as a child they stayed with their parents or their parents have stayed with us and hence they come back. Today ,we have 125 years of history and this is a big landmark in the history of the Raffles brand."

Over our mouth-watering main course of wagyu "bourguignon" parmentier, our discussion moves towards the marketing strategy for the brand. Greybanks says merely having a legacy is not enough and that the brand is proactively seeking digital and newer forms of marketing.

"It is not simply about tweeting or responding on Facebook, but rather the language and tone of differentiation when it came to the various nooks and crannies of digital marketing that are vital for success. Digital marketing is easier to measure than traditional PR and advertisements where it is harder to see the numbers that follow afterwards."

But it's not just a marketing tool. "It is also about business and the revenue that we can generate from this platform," she says.

Next, tucking into the sweet treat, we discuss the perception some might have of the hotel not being welcoming to families.

On the matter, Greybanks says going forward, the hotel will focus on multi-generational travellers and campaigns will look to entice a younger crowd to stay at the hotel.

"We want to change the perception of people who don't think we are a family-friendly hotel and open up new doors to luxury family travel, for example," she says.

But has the lure of the hotel waned with the emergence of other tourist drawcards such as Marina Bay Sands or other integrated resorts? Greybanks disagrees, saying the new developments have positively impacted the hotel and visitor numbers to Singapore.

"The developments in Singapore bring more events and activities to the country and Raffles is fortunate that it is supported by Singapore Tourism Board where they are marketing the country and destination," Greybanks says.

"We don't feel threatened. We don't directly compete with the newer hotels because we are very different. We are just 103 suites with all suites offering full butler service for all of our guests. It's not just a hotel suite, but rather an experience."

Read the full interview in the March edition of Marketing Magazine Singapore.