Singapore and London remain two of the world's most popular places to meet, attracting record attendances in their business events, whether big or small. And that's because they're in constant reinvention mode. For example, the Lion City's centrally located Suntec City is undergoing a massive refurbishment, while the future of London's well-loved Earl's Court is being decided upon, with plans for an entirely new complex, alongside residential towers and commercial development being discussed. One thing is for sure, both cities will never stop polishing their arsenal of meeting facilities and attractions in the years to come.
Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre (Suntec)
• Conrad Centennial Singapore
What’s it like? Housed in a 31-storey tower are 482 guestrooms and 25 suites that exude quiet elegance and public areas showcasing genuine museum art pieces – a passion of the family behind owning company Pontiac Land.
How near is it to Suntec City? Get out from the hotel exit that opens into the Millennia Walk shopping area, then cross the main road to the facility.
Any onsite meeting facilities? There is a grand ballroom for up to 550 persons, six salons (including one by the pool), two boardrooms and four conference rooms outfitted with the latest video and audio conferencing hardware.
• Mandarin Oriental Singapore
What’s it like? The fan-shaped hotel, one of the trio, designed by iconic architect John Portman, that anchored the first major development in Marina Bay, continues to boast the most traditionally Chinese interiors. Mood lighting is another trademark that is best appreciated especially in the early evenings over cocktails in the second-floor bar.
How near is it to Suntec City? From the second level, a flight of stairs leads to the Marina Square Shopping Mall, then look for signage directing you to the exhibition centre.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Besides the fan-shaped Oriental Ballroom, there is a raft of options that can be used individually or combined together to create larger function spaces. A number of them, due to their floor-to-ceiling windows, allow lovely views over Marina Bay as well as al fresco settings for lively socials.
• Marina Mandarin Singapore
What’s it like? One of the trio of John Portman-designed hotels that have long been Marina Bay landmarks, this 575-room property has an amazing atrium rising 21 storeys and enhanced by a timeless installation, resembling Singapore’s national flower, the orchid. A major makeover in 2005 reimagined the entire product, but which continues to be refreshed with the arrival of the latest telecommunications technology and innovative customer services.
How near is it to Suntec City? One could cross the street to the facility, which is diagonally opposite but is not advisable due to the speeding traffic, or the safer way is through Marina Square Shopping Mall, which the hotel is attached to.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Two ballrooms, the pillar-free Marina Mandarin Ballroom for up to 700 people and Vanda Ballroom for up to 300 people. In addition, there are 12 smaller spaces on levels 1 and 6.
• Pan Pacific Singapore
What’s it like? This 790-room property, whose atrium lobby was also conceptualised by John Portman, has just emerged from a bottom-up refurbishment that has transformed the 25-year-old product. Its range of F&B offerings, from elegant Japanese (Keyaki) to exquisite Cantonese (Hi Tien Lo) are still among the best found in a Singapore hotel.
How near is it to Suntec City? It’s connected to the facility via a covered walkway.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Two ballrooms, one on the ground floor with a dedicated entrance, and another on level 2. Twenty-two more spaces for a variety of set ups are also available.
• The Ritz-Carlton
What's it like? Its art collection – including luminaries like Frank Stella and Andy Warhol – remains unrivalled among its peers in Singapore, and certainly stands with the best of them boasting similar cultural masterpieces. Views from the 608 guestrooms are either of Marina Bay or Kallang Bay and the city skyline.
How near is it to Suntec City? ? Exit from the hotel's side entrance, located near Shiraishi Japanese Retaurant and head for Marina Square Mall. When you reach the forum square in the centre, turn right after the information counter and walk straight. Just before the Muji store is an exit on the left which opens to the link bridge leading to the facility.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Chihuly Room, named after renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, offering natural light that accommodates up to 120 people; a grand ballroom with a permanent stage, private VIP entrance and two pre-function areas; and 11 smaller venues taking up to between six and 180 people.
Earl's Court Exhibition Centre/Olympia Conference Centre
(The two properties we list below are, of course, just a sample of the wealth of options available in the neighbourhood.)
• Best Western The Boltons
What's it like? Recently refurbished, this bolthole features 57 full air-conditioned guestrooms with wifi access and 24-hour room service.
How near is it to Earl's Court? Walking distance to Earl's Court Underground Station and 20 minutes' walk to Olympia.
Any onsite meeting facilities? None.
Contact Wasim Younis, general manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Holiday Inn Express London – Earl's Court
What's it like? No surprises here, but all the familiar Holiday Inn amenities associated with the brand – power shower, hot breakfast among others There are a hundred guestrooms to choose from.
How near is it to Earl's Court? Just a 15-minute walk to either Earl's Court Exhibition Centre or Olympia.
Any onsite meeting facilities? There's only one meeting venue, which takes up to 12 persons, but has all the required hardware for a productive session.
Excel (Exhibition Centre London)
• Aloft London Excel
What's it like? Cutting-edge design characterises this new-generation Starwood property with 252 loft-like rooms.
How near is it to Excel? It's directly connected to the facility.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Six cleverly named "tactic" rooms, two of which can be combined to open up a space for 40 people and five of which have 52-inch flat-screen TVs with laptop hook up and DVD players. Free wifi access is available throughout these networking spaces.
• Crowne Plaza London Docklands
What's it like? Stylish four-star accommodation in the heart of one of London's most vibrant precincts.
How near is it to Excel? It's a short walk to the exhibition facility as well as another popular venue, O2.
Any onsite meeting facilities? Features "Meetings Success", a self-contained conference venue with nine spaces with views of nearby attractions such as the Royal Docks and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment such as ISDN lines and wifi access, whiteboard, working walls, projection screens and conference stationery. In addition, in-house audio-visual hardware such as TV and video, overhead projector and LCD projectors are available. A breakout lounge suitable for networking and receptions is also part of the layout.
Margie T Logarta