Out-of-the-box idea for container hotel in Singapore

Island-wide ambitions: Seah dreams of having 50 container hotels spread across 20 locations in Singapore. — The Straits Times/ANN

REPURPOSED shipping containers could make for unusual hotels in surprising locations, say, on Coney Island, or the Marina Barrage overlooking the National Day Parade fireworks.

Depending on how his first two container hotels do at one-north in December, entrepreneur Seah Liang Chiang dreams of having 50 spread across 20 locations island-wide, and eventually popping up in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The concept is to set up two to five containers in far-flung places in Singapore where there are no permanent built hotels, for about two to three years, and then move on to another destination.

The Singapore permanent resident and founder of numerous companies, including technology solutions firm DSC Solutions, told The Straits Times at a shipping container yard in Tuas: “I want people to experience living off the grid in places where there can’t be permanent hotel building structures.”

The 55-year-old Malaysian, who is married with one daughter, hopes to have the containers at JTC Corporation’s start-up cluster, Launchpad @ one-north, open and running by mid-December.

An official launch is planned with the Ministry of Trade and Industry for January.

Seah said: “I want people to be plugged into the ecosystem of Launchpad.”

“Launchpad is great because a lot of start-ups and companies are working there, but it is also quite a ‘play’ place: There is Timbre+ and a lot of people go there to drink, but there is no accommodation nearby, ” he added.

Though called a hotel, the container is more like a cabin because there are no facilities such as swimming pools, room service or daily housekeeping. Guests will be given a 24-hour hotline number to call should they need anything, and the containers are cleaned by staff after each stay.

At 280 sq ft, each is slightly smaller than two carpark spaces, and can sleep up to four people.

A night in a container at one-north will cost about S$150 (RM460) to $200.

The containers are equipped with a toilet, kitchen and dining area, TV, sofa, and a bedroom with a queen-size bed.

The total cost of repurposing each container and connecting it to plumbing and electricity is around S$70,000 to S$110,000.

Seah was able to benefit from the First Mover Framework, overseen by the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP), a private-public platform under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The First Mover Framework gives entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas a head start in the allocation of public assets to implement their ideas.

The PEP linked Seah up with various agencies, and eventually, JTC offered him two plots of land at the Launchpad.

Dr Wong King Yin, a lecturer in marketing who specialises in tourism at the Nanyang Technological University, said: “The idea has potential because of its novelty.

“It appeals to younger people, who like this kind of a new idea. Especially if the hotel is able to get young people to post about it on social media, it can create a buzz.

“The long-term idea depends on how (Seah) operates, how he handles marketing, and what kind of services he can provide to keep the demand going and make the company sustainable.” — The Straits Times/ANN

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