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Raffles Hotel to close for 6 months for major renovation

The Raffles Hotel opened in 1887 and is now a historic icon of Singapore.

SINGAPORE -- Raffles Hotel Singapore, a historic icon in the city-state, will close its doors for six months from end of next year for major renovation work. The Qatari owner of the hotel made the long-awaited decision to go ahead with the face-lift, just three months after French AccorHotels Group acquired the Raffles Hotel brand.

The hotel announced on Oct. 11 that it will embark on the three-phase, 18-month-long restoration work in January 2017. The first phase will cover its shopping arcade area, followed by the second phase to redo the lobby. The hotel will be closed from the end of 2017 until the second quarter of 2018. The number of rooms is not expected to change much from the current 103.

The luxury hotel, which opened in 1887 during the British colonial days, is well-known for having famous writers as guests, such as Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad. The building, designated a National Monument in 1987 by the Singapore government, is a popular attraction for tourists.

Katara Hospitality, a Qatari state-owned company and the owner of the Raffles Hotel property, is going to make "significant investment," said Wayne Buckingham, senior vice president of FRHI Hotels & Resorts. The hotel operator FRHI, which runs international luxury brands including Raffles Hotel, was acquired by AccorHotels Group in July for $2.9 billion.

The work this time is expected to add the facilities and functions that meet the needs of modern travelers, while retaining the heritage and the original structure of the hotel. It will be "a sensitive restoration that will enable us to continue to offer what our guests expect and value," said Diana Banks, vice president of Raffles Hotels and Resorts.

The last round of restoration of the Raffles Hotel, from 1989 to 1991, cost 160 million Singapore dollars ($116 million). There was talk of major renovations since then, but it never materialized as the hotel repeatedly changed hands. The hotel was owned by CapitaLand group company before being sold to Colony Capital in 2005. Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia became the majority owner before the property was sold to the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority in 2010. Katara acquired it in 2011.

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