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Around the world, our 250 000 employees in AccorHotels brand hotels share the same dedication to customer service.

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30/09/2016

Meet Narajan Singh, the legendary doorman at Raffles Hotel Singapore

Meet Narajan Singh, the legendary doorman at Raffles Hotel Singapore

Narajan Singh has been a doorman at Raffles Singapore for 24 years. As one of the most photographed man in his country, he has become a great ambassador of the Feel Welcome spirit at AccorHotels. We loved interviewing such a dedicated man, with an experience and a sense of humanity beyond compare.

1)      What originally interested you in becoming a doorman at Raffles Singapore?

 

In the 90s, Singapore unveiled the Tourism 21 blueprint whose objective was to transform Singapore into a “tourism capital” in order to attract more tourists and generate higher levels of tourism expenditure. To work towards this, employers within the tourism sector including hospitality were encouraged to invest in training, development and recruitment. I realized that this would be a good time for me to enter the industry. I don’t think there is another hotel in Singapore as legendary and as iconic as the Raffles Singapore and that’s what I aimed for. Singapore is synonymous with the Grande Dame and I felt that it would be a privilege to be of service at this renowned property. Though not originally intending to apply for this position, the HR manager who interviewed me recognised that I could be a great asset to the hotel as a doorman and recommended the role to me. I happily agreed. I had indeed walked past the colonial structure many a time and admired the liveried doormen watching over the Raffles ivory frontage, much like an honourable general to his queen. This would be my opportunity to continue this legacy.

 

The first time I dressed in my immaculate crisp white Gieves and Hawkes military uniform decorated with a black satin sash and gold braid, I could clearly imagine reliving the era of sovereign hospitality in the early days of the hotel.

 

2)      What major changes have you seen over all your time at the hotel?

 

Through my 24 years with Raffles, I have seen the legend growing. From the classic colonial splendour of Raffles Singapore where it all began to Dubai, Seychelles, Cambodia, Paris, Beijing, Hainan, Makati and Makkah, the Raffles name is synonymous with luxury, glamour and extraordinary adventure.

 

I have seen that with this growth, more and more guests around the world have been able to experience the distinctive Raffles charm. Our brand promise has evolved and strengthened so we can strive to deliver even higher standards of service built around personalization, discreet luxury, authenticity and heritage.

 

I am also happy to note that the commitment of the management teams towards colleagues is something that has consistently remained strong. We are considered to be the hotel’s biggest and most important assets and many policies and activities are dedicated towards our welfare and development including social programmes as well as training courses.

 

3)      What are some of your most fun/interesting anecdotes about your guests, or memories at the hotel?

 

I have had the privilege of serving numerous politicians, celebrities, heads of state, royalty, literary heroes, entrepreneurs amongst others and each has left an indelible impression. Most of them were extremely humble and unassuming though protective of their privacy which is something Raffles prides itself on.

 

A few anecdotes stand out:

·         The furore created when Michael Jackson stayed with us in 1993. Our entire driveway was filled with fans and the atmosphere was electric. We had to whisk him in through a concealed entrance. Though I didn’t have direct interaction with him on arrival, as he walked out through the driveway upon departure, his aura was tangible and I could understand completely why he was such a huge sensation.

·         The visits of both HH Queen Elizabeth and her grandchildren Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge were also particularly memorable. I have a beautiful picture with Prince William welcoming him as he arrives at the hotel and it’s a memory I really treasure. They were as graceful and charming as you can imagine and made sure to greet and acknowledge any colleague serving them.

·         The Queen of Spain had a gift delivered to me through her personal butler; it was a lovely tie with the Spanish royal emblem embroidered on it.

 

Many of our guests who return and stay with us on several occasions certainly remember me. I recently met a young lady who had visited us with her CEO father 10 years ago. She laughingly commented that my beard had greyed since we had last met but I was still as charismatic as ever. Such heartfelt comments keep me standing tall!

 

4)      As a doorman do you feel that you can build a specific relationship with guests?

 

Definitely, I am not ‘just a doorman’ who literally only opens doors and assists with luggage. I am proud to be part of our legendary arrival experience here at Raffles where I commence the first point of welcome. Often I assist my colleagues at the Front Desk and facilitate check-in procedures, especially with guests I am familiar with. There are some guests who stay with us every year and take a picture with me each time they come. Earlier this year, one of them showed me a collage of pictures he had prepared which had pictures taken with me over the last 10 years!

 

Some guests even address specific requests directly to me, for example recommending city itineraries or places to dine out on local food. I am more than happy to share my tips with them as I have a good knowledge of both the hotel’s history and Singapore.

 

I once assisted an elderly man to surprise his wife for their 40th wedding anniversary. He had previously arranged with me to pretend that I would show one of our suites to his wife for a casual tour. In reality he had already booked that suite for their stay and I worked with our florist to have the suite decorated with flowers and champagne to surprise his wife. I must say the sheer joy and absolute disbelief on her face when she saw the surprise, brought tears to my own eyes!

 

I am usually the first person that greets a guest and the last to say goodbye, so I always make sure I am sincere and friendly to make a lasting positive impression for our guests.

 

5)      What do you think are the secrets to being a great doorman?

 

With due consideration to the variety of roles I perform in our overall guest experience, a doorman needs to have good observation skills. I pay close attention to the movements of guests and pick up specific habits or requests that could then help me and the team better anticipate their needs.

 

Being friendly and down-to-earth is another key asset. Sometimes, the weather in Singapore is unrelenting and being outdoors, we need to keep both our bodies and temperaments cool. Many tourists approach us for pictures constantly so a friendly and welcoming demeanour goes a long way in shaping their positive perceptions.

 

Discretion and tact is also important. Our guests value their privacy and it is one of our roles to ensure they are not disturbed and this is respected.

 

6)      How do you feel about being an ambassador of the Raffles brand / your hotel?

 

An ambassador is the best positive representation of a brand and embodies its true values and identity. In that sense, I am most proud and humbled to have performed this role over the last 24 years. Raffles is an oasis for the well-travelled and our guests have come to expect discreet, emotional luxury and a bespoke experience which is unique to Raffles. Through the dignified presence of myself and the team of doormen, this experience begins right at arrival and carries through until the guests departs. Not only that, I also feel that I am an ambassador for Singapore itself. Indeed we are one of the most photographed icons around the world!

 

Throughout my years with Raffles Singapore, I have received many opportunities to represent the hotel in several prestigious events and award ceremonies overseas.

 

Among them:

·         World Doorman Convention in Vancouver, Canada in 1994 – I was the only doorman representing Singapore at this international event

·         Hotelier of the Year award conferred to our previous General Manager, Ms Jennie Chua – I had accompanied her to receive this notable award

·         Celebrating 100 years of the iconic Singapore Sling in London with the Singapore Tourism Board at a special pop-up event

·         Participating in marketing activities for the launch of the inaugural flight to New York by Singapore Airlines

·         Collecting the TTG magazine’s Hall of Fame award in Bangkok

·         Representing the hotel to receive the award for World’s Best Independent Heritage Hotel in Las Vegas and presenting a speech on stage

 

Just as a home-grown brand like Singapore Airlines is a representation of the city’s achievements and progress, so I consider myself to be the same for Raffles Singapore. The hotel hasn’t just given me a job, this is a lifelong career I have the privilege of performing to best daily.

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