Independent for 50 years, Singapore is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. We spoke to Steven Long, the Singaporean General Manager of the Sheraton Towers, about how the city has changed in his eyes and what guests should look out for while visiting the city.
How has Singapore changed in the past five years?
Singapore has changed tremendously in recent years – from the inauguration of the F1 night race, an international event that puts Singapore on the world map, to the introduction of exciting new attractions like Gardens by the Bay and the two integrated resorts, which have notably transformed the city’s skyline.
How does it compare with the Singapore you grew up in?
The Singapore of my childhood was a very different place from the one we know of today. Life was much simpler; everyone dined mainly in hawker centres and coffee shops. These days people have much more choice.
How has the hospitality industry developed during your career in Singapore?
The hospitality industry has expanded incredibly; there were only a limited number of hotels in Singapore when Sheraton Towers officially opened in 1985, whereas today the number has crossed 300 and is growing rapidly. This expansion is largely due to increased tourist arrivals fuelled by the new and vibrant shopping malls, exciting dining venues as well as the introduction of the integrated resorts and other places of interest in Singapore. Besides, the growing availability of low-cost carriers has also encouraged short-haul flights around the Asia Pacific region. It is no wonder Singapore has been named the top travel destination in 2015 by Lonely Planet.
How does the Singapore dining scene compare with the rest of Asia? What dishes should guests try at the Sheraton?
As Singapore is known to be a food paradise, there’s a cuisine for every taste and budget. Our local fare is especially unique as it is a reflection of our multi-cultural diversity, offering cuisines from Chinese to Malay, Indian to Peranakan. Our fine dining scene has also seen an influx of award-winning chefs, new dining concepts and innovative culinary techniques from around the world, which have injected novelty and created a multitude of gourmet experiences in Singapore.
For a taste of Singapore, guests should definitely try the highly-rated Sheraton Signature Laksa, which is either served fried “dry” or in thick soup. Alternatively, a nutritious and comforting double-boiled soup is always a good starter to an authentic Cantonese meal at Li Bai. And for discerning diners who appreciate a fine selection of homemade pasta, DOMVS the Italian Restaurant should not be missed.
What local delicacies would you recommend to the visitor and what are your favourite hawker stands/centres?
Given the wide choice of local delicacies in Singapore, you can imagine that my recommendation list is quite long. However if I have to mention one favourite food haunt, it would be the famous Bak Chor Mee (Minced Pork Noodle) on Crawford Lane. From the al dente noodle doused in flavourful vinegar, to the freshly minced pork and silky soft dumplings with tight meat fillings, this is arguably the best in Singapore.
The rich hawker heritage is unique to Singapore and the Old Airport Road Food Centre remains one of my favourites. It houses many renowned hawkers that serve authentic local fare at a reasonable price. The other food centre that I frequent is Newton Circus as it is only a five-minute walk from the Sheraton and offers an excellent selection of barbequed seafood.
How do you relax on your weekends? What would constitute the perfect day?
Weekends are when I unplug from day-to-day matters, giving me the space and time to be more introspective about my work, guests and associates. Besides recharging for a brand new week ahead, I dedicate a lot of quality time to my family.
Naturally, the perfect day for me includes my family and friends. I like to jump-start the day with a simple breakfast and a cup of aromatic black coffee while I catch up on the latest news in the papers. As I understand the importance of staying fit and healthy, I not only jog on weekdays but also sweat it out on weekends when I meet my friends for a few vigorous badminton games. In the evenings, I like to take my family out to explore new dining spots.
Singapore is celebrating 50 years of Independence in 2015 – is this a big year for the city?
Singapore has come a long way since its independence. Having seen numerous campaigns surrounding the SG50 theme, I would say this is the biggest national event yet.
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
As Sheraton celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, I look forward to working alongside my associates to continuously deliver the warm and personable service that Sheraton is well known for. I will take good care of the team’s well-being, because only when the associates are in their best form are they able to serve our guests well.
Which neighbourhoods in Singapore do you think hold the most charm and are must visits for travellers to the city? And why?
I have to give it to the neighbourhood of Katong. Travellers who explore this cultural enclave will discover age-old eateries, conservation architecture and quaint Peranakan shophouses.
Chinatown is another ethnic neighbourhood I would recommend travellers to stop by, especially if their visit coincides with Chinese New Year as they can get acquainted with Chinese culture while basking in exuberant festivities.
How is the Sheraton celebrating Singapore’s Golden Jubilee?
In line with the nation’s effort in honouring the pioneer generation, the Sheraton will be rolling out a series of promotions as a tribute to those who have contributed significantly to our nation building. The promotions encapsulate the Sheraton’s core values of warmth, connection and community and are designed to encourage family bonding togetherness through offers like dining discounts, special family staycations and longevity birthday celebrations.
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