It is not often that one gets a surge of national pride when touring another country’s historical landmark. But there’s a first time for everything. It happened to me in Sydney, half an hour into the tour of the city’s former General Post Office, a monument of architectural grandeur from the mid 19th century.
In October 2019, the building was officially launched as The Fullerton Hotel Sydney, the first international property of the Singapore-based luxury hotel brand. Standing under the light-flooded glass ceiling with the city’s iconic clock tower in view, the hotel’s tour guide marveled at how the Singaporean company had done a laudable job of preserving and showcasing the story of this historic building and its pivotal role in the development of Sydney.
(Source: SG Magazine)
Located in No.1 Martin Place, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is a joint acquisition between Far East Organization and Sino Land. “While the property is a joint acquisition with Sino Land and is part of a mother company,” says the brand’s General Manager, Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, “the Fullerton Hotels and Sino Hotels serve very different clientele and operate independently.”
Previously owned by GIC Real Estate and Australia Post, the site operated as a Westin Hotel until early 2019. When the Fullerton took over, the team began remediation and maintenance work on the building.
True to the brand’s passion for conservation, the company created a revitalization program that includes heritage tours for hotel guests and the public, and a book, “Fullerton Stories,” which will be published in 2021. The book will chronicle the social history and transformation of the building from a former GPO to a hotel, and the building’s pivotal role in the development of Sydney and the Martin Place precinct.
An image of the General Post Office from the archives. (Source: SG Magazine)
The historical and pictorial narrative features evocative accounts, anecdotes and memories from personalities who have a connection with the building. Ahead of the book launch in 2021, poignant stories in the form of video vignettes will be shared on The Fullerton Hotel Sydney’s social media platforms, inviting guests to go on a journey down memory lane with the personalities, most of whom used to work in the GPO. The brand has always celebrated the importance of a building’s history and community, as with Singapore’s first Fullerton hotel.
The heritage tours in Sydney feature the building’s vibrant history dating back to its opening in 1874. Guests of the tours can hear fascinating stories about the GPO since its operation in the 19th century and little-known facts of the bygone eras, explore the building’s special rooms, stonework and carvings that depict Sydney’s early life, and be regaled with tales of Morse code, talking clocks and gold bars.
For the first time, hotel guests and Sydneysiders alike are getting acquainted with the rich history of the building and the city. With the tours being booked up at least a month in advance, Fullerton’s commitment to celebrating heritage has proven to be their brand asset.
- A NEW PHASE
- A GREEN FUTURE
A New Phase
Since The Fullerton Singapore opened its doors 19 years ago, the brand has cultivated an identity rooted in a strong sense of place — the original grande dame also being Singapore’s former GPO. The Fullerton Bay Hotel, which was launched in 2010, is located at the historic precinct of the Singapore River, a few minutes’ walk from the national icon, Merlion Park.
While distinctly different in style, both hotels have garnered awards and become representative of Singapore with their popular heritage tours. After almost two decades, the Fullerton brand has grown to be a leading force in the luxury hospitality sector and the fact that it has finally made its first foray beyond its home turf is a little surprising but highly anticipated.
“We have been looking for an opportunity to present The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts’ award-winning style of hospitality to Australia for a while now. When Qantas commenced its direct service from Australian cities to Singapore, the hotel saw a visible increase in visitors from Australia and we believe the market is a perfect fit for our brand. Both our hotels in Singapore also enjoy high visitorship from Australian guests so our brand recognition there is strong,” explains Mr. Viterale.
The Martin Place Suite in Fullerton Sydney
Like its Singapore counterparts, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is located in the heart of the city, enjoying close proximity to Sydney’s thriving arts and cultural spots, retail centers and dining venues. This property, however, was uniquely a brand conversion, so staff retainment was paramount to ensure a seamless continuity in services.
“Our priority was to ensure a smooth transition in operations. We have introduced soft enhancements and Fullerton signature touches to the lobby and the guestrooms,” says Mr. Viterale.
The Deluxe King room
The rooms each have a Harman Kardon Blue- tooth speaker, a Nespresso machine and pods, the much-loved Singaporean TWG tea selection, and a high-tech Tapendium streamlining the customer service experience. At the touch of a button, guests can select a variety of experiences and offerings including in-room dining options, pillow menu and more from a Samsung tablet that houses the Tapendium digital concierge technology.
Phase one of the revitalization program included external maintenance work on the building. An expert stonemasonry team took 38,000 hours to complete a chemical-free cleaning process to restore the building’s façade to its former glory.
Such commitment and painstaking efforts in preserving the heritage of a building also extends to the environment. “Sustainability is integral to our business,” says Mr. Viterale. “Care of the environment is paramount for our hotel group and the guests. Frequent travelers are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint and how hotels are addressing sustainability efforts. How and where hotels source amenities and suppliers have become critical in guests’ decision- making process. We strive to be good stewards of the environment in the way we operate and serve.”
A little known fact: The brand is among the first hotels in Singapore to stop serving shark fin soup and foie gras in their restaurants.
- A NEW PHASE
- A GREEN FUTURE
A Green Future
All Fullerton hotels now have reduced single-use plastic, adopted green technology and reduced water usage. The hotels have completely eliminated the use of single-use plastic stirrers and straws, and plastic bags have been replaced by non-woven reusable bags.
In 2019, they signed a Plastic ACTion (PACT) agreement with the WWF and pledged the following for the two hotels in Singapore: to place recycling bins in all guest rooms by August 2019; reduce consumption of single-used plastics by 50 percent by 2022; eliminate the use of plastic bottles by 100 percent by 2022; advocate design packaging that is carbon neutral or positive, circular and/or actively reduce plastics in nature; and utilize property-centralized procurement to ensure all plastic item alternatives are validated and have supporting documentation. In the hospitality industry, these sustainability efforts are no mean feat and are often costly.
A month after the opening of The Fullerton Hotel Sydney, the region saw the most devastating bushfires during summer. Besides donating A$60,000 to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) in support of disaster relief and recovery efforts, the hotel also donated a portion of the sales proceeds from various stay and dining packages to the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal, which supports communities affected by the devastating bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland. With a challenging season over for the Sydney property, the group is focused on new growth.
Mr. Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, General Manager of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts
Development is in the works for The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel, due to launch in Hong Kong in 2021. The upcoming property will be a luxury resort centrally located in the Island South, overlooking the Aberdeen Harbour, which is also a historical site.
On the choice of destination, Mr. Viterale says, “Sino Group, the property developer behind the award-winning Fullerton brand, is based in Hong Kong. We saw opportunities in expanding our footprint and operating in a city that we are familiar with.”
The brand, ready to take on the world in this new decade, is always on the lookout for new destinations, setting its sights on gateway cities and considering key holiday spots such as the Maldives.
“Our vision is to deliver beyond the cookie-cutter hotel offering. In the next decade, we are looking at an exponential increase in people who travel, whether for business or leisure. Hotel businesses have the opportunity to tailor different experiences and packages to capture more market share.” The Fullerton name is poised to show the world that a sense of place, community and heartfelt hospitality can all be a part of luxury travel.