Every hotel has its own personality if you ask a brand person or a marketer – but the truth is that not every hotel has a good personality, and certainly not good enough to attract new guests.

I was snooping around TripAdvisor one night looking for hotels in Singapore and my eyes were drawn to a trio of small hotels with big personalities that made me instantly fall in love: The Scarlet, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, The Warehouse, and The Naumi. Among the hundreds of hotels in Singapore on TripAdvisor, these hotels managed to stand out among the big brands.

Here are some things that make these small hotels ‘pop’.

Have a Personality and be a Woman

In English, ships and hotels are feminine, and my speculation is that this is because men love them. Hotels are thus female, and some of them choose to take on that personality.  

The Scarlet is a gracious hostess wanting to share her abode (hotel) and travels (personality – through the designs, colors, textures, fabric, and intricate details of the hotel’s interior design) with our hotel guests. Importance is placed on the personalized guest experience, like how a host would welcome her guest, creating memorable memories of their experience and trip, and creating a personal connection between the guest and host,” said Fong Kah Seng, General Manager of Singapore’s Scarlet Hotel.

Naumi takes the role of a female welcoming you into her home. Subtle, yet delighting, Naumi is sophisticated, cheeky, thought-provoking, flirtatious, alluring, unpredictable, mysterious yet gentle in her approach to the extent of creating an almost tangible ‘host’. Naumi is not just a hotel. It is an experience,” explained Allison de Cruz of The Naumi Hotel.

If The Warehouse Hotel was a person – it would be that confident, sophisticated, well-traveled self-starter,” said Tarun Kalra, the General Manager. “Brand persona is extremely important. This is very clear. Is this enough though to differentiate? No. From my perspective, curating a bespoke customer journey that can consistently deliver the unique ‘brand persona’, with zero glitches is when we can truly say ‘we are differentiating’. For a guest to leave the hotel and then say ‘WOW’ I have to come back and tell my friends and family about this – is when one has truly done exceptionally well,” he added.

Naumi Hotel Singapore

Have a Voice

I found Naumi on TripAdvisor when I was looking at The Scarlet and the site showed me Naumi as a similar suggestion. Apart from everything I saw and loved about the hotel itself, the reviews were tWhile many other hotels stick with standardized reviews, this one goes the extra mile and they get extra smiles for it. I asked the hotel if there was one position dedicated to this job.

Our hotel team responds to the reviews. As they are on the ground and personally interact with our guests, they are the best people who understand and relate to the guests’ feedback. We value our guests’ feedback, good and bad, to improve our service, so it is vital that we invest in this process,” said Allison.

As Naumi is more than just a hotel, we want to share her personality in all our communications and keep the tone playful in fitting with the ethos of the hotel. Tone of voice is something that we cultivated from the start at our hotel. We also wanted the look and feel at the hotel to be playful and memorable, and seeing our guests share this on social media so positively, shows that this has connected.”

The most interesting thing that makes Naumi stand out. Naumi’s replies to her guests made me smile.

Every review response starts with “Naumi says ….”.  

For example, “Naumi says: A BIG thank you in every possible language!” Then follows up with a more formal response statement:

“Thank you for taking the time to review us on TripAdvisor and sharing your experience.”
“I am pleased to know that you enjoyed Naumi's inclusions such as our in-room offerings, location and most importantly, the level of service that we are able to provide.”

Even for the constructive complaint, Naumi answers in style: “Naumi says: Dearest, let's clear out all the noises in our heads and stay focused on you and me!”

“I am sorry to hear that the……. We are determined to make your next stay a better one!

While many other hotels stick with standardized reviews, this one goes the extra mile and they get extra smiles for it. I asked the hotel if there was one position dedicated to this job.

Our hotel team responds to the reviews. As they are on the ground and personally interact with our guests, they are the best people who understand and relate to the guests’ feedback. We value our guests’ feedback, good and bad, to improve our service, so it is vital that we invest in this process,” said Allison.

As Naumi is more than just a hotel, we want to share her personality in all our communications and keep the tone playful in fitting with the ethos of the hotel. Tone of voice is something that we cultivated from the start at our hotel. We also wanted the look and feel at the hotel to be playful and memorable, and seeing our guests share this on social media so positively, shows that this has connected.”

The Warehouse Hotel Singapore

Have a Look

The only reason we are having this conversation at all is because I found these hotels sexy. Just seeing them online made me want to stay. The Scarlet was transformed from an 1868 shop house while The Naumi has a more modern look. But The Warehouse really shows off its history to create something truly unique.

The Warehouse Hotel takes much reference from the building’s 120-year history along the Singapore River, part of the Straits of Malacca trade route, and then was a hotbed of secret societies, underground activity, and liquor distilleries. Today, while much of that history has disappeared, we’ve incorporated many of those elements into both the architecture and design of the hotel,” said Tarun.

From the moment guests step in, they glimpse The Warehouse Hotel’s history – from the pulley light fixtures that are homage to its time as a spice warehouse, to the ‘Objects of Vice’ retail installation that showcases elements of its darker past as the epicenter of illegal clans and spirits distillery. Po, our signature restaurant, is a contemporary take on classic Singaporean cuisine built from recipes handed down over many generations and our cocktail menu draws influences from each of the distinct time periods of the building’s history. Each element of the hotel has a story from the heart told from a modern perspective which makes it both nostalgic yet relevant.”

Have a Mind of Her Own

Standard procedure might work in big hotels, but when some of the self-proclaimed boutique hotels follow those standardization strategies, the result is a loss of the personal touch, and a small hotel with no personality rather than a true boutique hotel.

We have trained our Naumi aides with departmental flexibility so that they can assist in multiple areas of the hotel. This means that they can help guests with any query they might have no matter where they are in the property. Another difference in Naumi is that our approach is professional, yet casual. Our managers are dressed in their own clothes, to allow them to further express their personality with their sense of style, making the team more approachable,” explained Allison.

At The Scarlet we have 80 guest rooms. The number of full-time employees is 45. Every employee is driven to exercise initiative in meeting the guest’s unanticipated needs. Teamwork is key and a hands-on approach is needed to make things happen. There are no management layers and we are not governed by volumes of standard operating procedures. This allows us to stay vigilant and nimble in implementing the strategies and tactics at a rapid pace,” said Fong Kah Seng.

Our intention at The Warehouse is to create a truly immersive experience for guests – not just a ‘period interpretation’, where one feels swept away by the history and culture of the building from the moment they step in and hopefully walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the hotel’s and Singapore’s history. We were conscious of the need to avoid the obvious and safe, and aware of the importance of wholeheartedly embracing the space and its place in Singapore’s history. Through representing this in modern, accessible ways, we have created the means for guests to discover Singapore from a local perspective and curate an experience that is unique to us,” added Tarun.

Some people think hotels are just bricks and mortar, and see them purely as money-making machines. For some hotels this could be true, but if you are looking to have a successful boutique hotel you need a whole lot more of the qualities these three hotels can offer – including a mind of their own.