Dawn Teo, owner of Amara Hotel Singapore, wants to build ‘good hotels, handsome buildings in thriving cities’


Anyone who has recently set foot in Amara Singapore on Tanjong Pagar Road will know that the hotel is not what it used to be. After a four-month long cosmetic refresh, the lobby has emerged looking au courant, with living room-like seating areas; an updated, neutral colour palette; and real trees that take advantage of the double volume space, as well as soften the setting.

But the starkest difference lies in where the four reception counters used to be. Now in their places stand a full-fledged wine bar with a wood-panelled backdrop, lending a decidedly ski lodge vibe. As the hotel transitions to an online check-in system, the reception counters have been scaled back (only two are left) and relocated to a more discreet area of the lobby.

The idea here was to create a more vibrant, social setting that encourages hotel guests, passers-by, and residents of Tanjong Pagar to mix and mingle. Or at least that was the brief given to international hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, who orchestrated the redesign. It’s a far cry from the hotel of old, which saw its last refresh in 2000.

Amid Amara’s long-overdue revitalisation, we find Dawn Teo, 46, officially the senior vice president of Amara Hotels and Resorts and director of Strategic Planning and Corporate Development for Amara Holdings, an SGX mainboard-listed company.

Unofficially, she’s the fourth-generation member of the Teo clan who’s boldly charting a new course for the business founded by her great-grandfather, and currently helmed by her father, Albert Teo.

When it opened in May 1986, Amara Singapore was a pioneer, being one of the few hotels in Tanjong Pagar built to cater to business travellers and those in the shipping industry. A notable neighbour/rival at the time was the Hong Leong Group’s Harbour View Dai-Ichi Hotel at Anson Road – today known as M Hotel.

Teo was eight at the time and recalls her grandfather toiling over building plans in his office. “I’ve grown up with this business, so I have this deep connection, this sense of purpose with the business. In many ways, hospitality is in my blood – as cheesy as that sounds!” she says with a laugh.

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