Selling Dreams - Early advertising in Singapore
LIVING IT UP
Commercial lodgings and accommodation were first available in Singapore in the 1820s and catered to early travellers – merchants, missionaries, sailors and explorers. The advent of a regular steamship service from Britain to East Asia in 1845 and opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 substantially increased visitor traffic to Singapore, resulting in the growth of hospitality industry.
By the turn of the 20th century, Singapore was home to several luxurious hotels of international renown – the many advertisements of Hotel de l’Europe (1857), Adelphi Hotel (1863) and Raffles Hotel (1887) testify to this fact. They belonged to the league of grand hotels – luxurious accommodation with excellent cuisine and impeccable service – that started in Europe, America and other parts of the world in the late 19th century, catering to wealthy leisure travellers. Housed in magnificent buildings with modern amenities, early luxury hotels were also centres of social life for the who’s who in Singapore. Gala dinners, performances and fancy dress balls were events where the European and Asian elite rubbed shoulders with one another.
As Singapore developed into a modern cosmopolis in the 1930s, hotels and dining options proliferated. As seen in ads from the era, there were accommodation options to suit every budget and the city’s restaurants offered cuisines from diverse culinary traditions. A sophisticated lifestyle was evident in the ads of fashionable cafes and restaurants that catered primarily to well-heeled Europeans.
After the Second World War, a new generation of high-rise hotels came on the scene. Cathay Hotel (1954) in the 16-storey Cathay Building was a fine example. The 1960s ushered in a new era for hospitality in Singapore as Orchard Road emerged as a hotel and retail hub.