I was sitting on the sofa, enjoying the weather, when I noticed a banner above my head.
“What’s your geo-tag?”
The answer was “Island.”
I knew that this would be a problem, so I grabbed a pen and drew my geotag on it.
It was a nice touch.
The next morning, I woke up and checked my hotel’s website.
It wasn’t as nice as I thought.
“Islands are not allowed,” read the text.
“This does not apply to the following hotel rooms: the Hotel Island, The Beach, the Ocean, the Hotel Hotel and its sister islands, The Royal Ocean, and the Hotel Bistro.”
The hotel’s tag read “The Beach Hotel”.
The tag that followed said “The Royal Ocean Hotel”.
“There’s a big difference between these hotels,” I explained.
“There are many different types of rooms in The Royal, including the Beach, which is where I’m staying.”
I was still confused.
I was in the process of deciding which hotel to stay in, but I needed to find an explanation.
Was this hotel really a hotel?
The Hotel Island is owned by the same company as the Beach Hotel.
And the Royal Ocean is owned entirely by an Indonesian company.
So, I contacted the island’s owner, and he explained that he’s owned the islands for 30 years.
The Royal was established in 1998.
The Beach Hotel is in fact owned by a different company, which the islanders are legally obligated to disclose, but that’s the least of my problems.
As soon as I confirmed my identity and the hotel’s geotagged tag, I called the hotel and spoke to the manager.
He told me that the hotel had “been flagged by the Singapore Tourism Department” for violating Singapore’s tourism regulations, which are known as “the tourism code”.
The code is part of Singapore’s strict tourist management rules that prohibit hotels from charging extra fees for foreigners, including foreign tourists, or selling their tickets.
The code also prohibits any business from using its location to advertise to tourists.
“It’s a pretty severe penalty,” says Anas Abdulla, a Singapore-based travel agent who works for the island-based Tourism Association of Singapore (TAOS).
“It is the biggest warning letter I can give them.”
Abdulla says it’s rare for Singapore’s tourist office to take any action against a hotel that has violated the code, but he says it happens quite a bit.
“The tourist office is very strict,” he says.
“They will ask you to fill out an application, they will make a decision, and they’ll write back to you a letter saying that they’ve checked with the government.”
A spokesperson for TAOS told Business Insider that the Tourism Ministry did not provide specific advice on the hotel, nor did they respond to questions about how it responded to my request for an explanation on the island.
However, they did offer an explanation of Singapore Tourism’s stance on hotels that violate the code.TAOS says the island is one of a handful of islands in the country with “restrictions on tourist activities” and the government has “made it a point to provide all of the necessary permits for our tourist facilities to operate without any additional cost”.
In other words, there are no additional fees for a tourist to stay on an island.
The spokesperson said that Singapore Tourism does not enforce these restrictions on tourist sites, “but the government is also committed to the principle that Singapore must respect the law, and we will do our utmost to ensure that our tourist attractions are safe.”
I decided to speak to the hotel directly, and found the manager’s explanation of the islander’s predicament a little more nuanced than the hotel itself.
I also contacted the Tourism Authority of Singapore and asked them to explain the code in more detail.
I contacted the Singapore Ministry of Tourism to ask about the hotel.
A spokesperson for the ministry said it was not aware of any violations and said the code applies to all hotels, regardless of nationality.
“I cannot speak to any specific case,” she told me.
The hotel owner did not respond to my questions about the code or the hotel when I asked him for an interview.
I tried calling the hotel several times, but no one answered the phone.
I called back and left a voicemail message with the hotel owner, but it didn’t seem to work.
I finally got in touch with TAOS, which told me to check back.
“We’re looking into the matter and will update you if we have any information,” a spokesperson wrote.