From The Straits Times    |

Mission Control (aka the lobby) at Yotel Singapore
Image: Yotel Singapore


Self-check in booths. SmartBeds that recline with the touch of a button. A whopping 60 television channels including Mio Stadium. Singing housekeeping robots equipped with mapping technology to roam autonomously (the first in the world!). Intrigued? So were we, when we made plans to stay in the tech focused, travel-inspired Yotel for a night.

In our experiences with staycations, there tend to be two camps: one where you spend the entire day in the hotel, enjoying the room and the facilities. The other is when the room is used primarily at night (where you collapse in the bed post-dinner), and the day is spent doing other activities. But if you’re looking for something that meets you both ways, Yotel might hit that sweet spot.  

First off, the hotel’s location is incredibly central. The entrance is situated along the quieter Claymore Hill (look behind Shaw Centre), so guests get the perks of being in the heart of Orchard Road without the noise of human and literal traffic along the main stretch. So if you have a sudden craving for Koi, need an emergency trip to Watsons, or feel the urge for some retail therapy you can nip out and back without the bother of transport.

Long story short – there’s no need to suffer from cabin fever for those who prefer the non-sedentary life.  


You won’t be bored on the premises. Promise. 

Image: Yotel Singapore


But that’s not to say that Yotel has nothing to offer for guests who do want to make full use of their stay. It has a pool, a 24-hour gym, a restaurant and even co-working spaces and small private rooms at your disposal.

Restaurant Grains and Hops also functions as a bar that serves craft beer. The breakfast buffet spread is modest but well-thought through. The food was replenished often, and we were impressed by the fluffy scrambled eggs – usually this dish tends to wilt in the window at buffets.


Sharing platter at Grains and Hops


The lunch and dinner menu features rice bowls with meat and seafood, or you can opt for sharing platters where you can mix skewers (we recommend the salmon and beef) with your choice of grains. But our favourite was the moreish, savoury Marmite Chicken Pops with crispy skin and juicy meat.


I, Robot

Robots gaily decorated in Christmas hats.


True to Yotel’s concept of marrying technology with service, you also get the novelty of self-check-in and check-out booths. Instead of queuing at the concierge to be served, you can scan your passport/ID, swipe your credit card and even issue your own key cards (guests are limited to just two unless you approach the staff). But for those leery about this system, the process isn’t fully automated. A staff member still verifies your final steps, which we found reassuring.

But what really won us over were the two R2D2-esque robots (one male, one female) that serve as your friendly housekeeping assistants. They can be programmed to carry water bottles, towels and small toiletries to your room. 

After seeing the robots in the hotel lobby, we were excited (disproportionately so) for one of them to visit our room. However our first call to reception, which is called Mission Control, came to naught. It transpired that the poor dears were run ragged fetching everyone’s toiletries all day and needed some R&R to charge.


The robots have three tiers of shelves, which means they can visit three rooms per trip.


But the next morning when we called again, sure enough a robot rolled up to our room with the water we requested. You’ll get an automated phone call when they’ve reached your door, and all you have to do is take what you asked for out of their inbuilt shelves. We were later told that the female robot sings in the corridors, although unfortunately we did not bear witness to this as it was the male robot that came to our aid.


Get a room, stat  

Premium Queen Cabin: the SmartBed can be adjusted to give you more walking space.
Image: Yotel Singapore


The rooms (or cabins, as they are called at Yotel) were the real draw for us. We booked the Premium Queen cabin, which makes up the majority of the 610 cabins in the hotel. Heads up – the cabins are small, with the queen sized SmartBed taking up most of the room. But it was snug rather than claustrophobic, thanks to the clever interior design to maximise what they’ve got. The walls of the bathroom are made entirely out of glass (there are blinds for privacy) and overlook the city – this let in natural light and gave the illusion of greater space. There were concealed doors and clothes hooks, a clothes rack instead of a wardrobe, and no unnecessary furniture like desks and chairs (no one really needs to work during a staycation but if you do, there are the co-working spaces on the 10th floor).

When in a hotel room, it’s a safe bet that most of your time will be spent horizontal. So there were no complaints that the SmartBed was the primary feature of the room, with its Serta mattress and reclining feature. This means that you can sit upright with the touch of a button (gasp) and binge watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians (which is what we did at 8am in the morning) without any cricks in your neck. When fully inclined, you also get more walking space in the room. The bed directly faces the television for maximum TV marathons – if your partner is a football fan, he can enjoy matches in all their HD glory.


Premium Queen Cabin with Bunk
Image: Yotel Singapore


Aside from the Premium Queen, there are six other types of cabins, including the Premium Queen View (that has a balcony) and the Premium Queen with 1 Bunk (a bunk bed with a ladder is directly above the SmartBed). And if you want to splash out for a special event, there’s also a VIP View Suite which even has its own kitchenette. Because the suite is a lot more spacious than the regular cabins, it doesn’t have a SmartBed, and there is only one in the entire hotel.



Novelty or functional?

The self-check -in booths are the first thing you see when you enter the lobby.
Image: Yotel Singapore


Naysayers might dismiss the tech additions as gimmicks, but after spending a night in Yotel, we beg to differ. The SmartBeds, for a start, made us wish all hotel beds were adjustable. The self-check in booths did allow us to save on waiting time, and were incredibly easy to use (we got word from the staff that even the older generation was game for giving it a go). And as for the robots, well, they earned their spot for being adorable and Instagrammable.

An emphasis on tech can sometimes come across as cold or sterile. Not in this case – Yotel, despite all its technological advances, was kitsch and charming, and we wager we’ll be back to put our feet up in one of those beds.