Raffles has a long history and it’s a well-known name in luxury hotels. So it might be surprising that the company has no hotels in North America.
That is changing this year with the opening of its first U.S. property, the Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences, which Raffles and Orient Express CEO Omer Acar said will pave the way for plans to relocate Raffles’ headquarters to New York this summer.
Acar said that Boston represents “an ideal entry point” into the U.S. for Raffles, describing it as a “booming cultural hub” and “one of the key education capitals of the world.”
“The Boston opening will only enhance our overall awareness levels,” Acar said.
He added that the brand looks forward to “exploring further opportunities,” citing interest in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii and Miami.
An American foray is a long time coming for Raffles, which traces its roots to 1887, when the iconic Raffles Hotel Singapore opened its doors.
The brand joined the Accor fold in 2016, following the hospitality giant’s takeover of FHRI Holdings. Since then, it has steadily expanded, debuting in the Maldives; Bali; Dubai; Qatar; Udaipur, India; and Shenzhen, China, over the past few years.
Today, Raffles has 18 properties across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with another newcomer, the Raffles London at The OWO, slated to debut in the coming months.
The U.S., however, has been on the brand’s bucket list for some time.
“The U.S. is such a well-established market, with fully developed city centers and strongly identifiable destinations, most locations having a high barrier to entry,” Acar said. “Plus there are only so many places that can facilitate the service and experience synonymous with Raffles.”
The Raffles Boston, which will occupy part of a 35-story high-rise at the corner of Trinity Place and Stuart Street, will house 147 rooms and 146 residences along with amenities like an indoor lap pool, a spa and a fitness center.
While the Raffles Boston will certainly share some commonalities with its sister properties — including signature Raffles staples like the Long Bar, the Writers Bar and butler service — it plans to put its own unique spin on the Raffles experience, according to general manager Oliver Dudler.
Acclaimed chef George Mendes is coming on board to oversee its culinary program, the centerpiece of which will be the Portuguese-influenced signature restaurant, Amar, on the 17th floor.
Also on the 17th floor will be the Raffles Boston’s version of the Long Bar, serving New England-style fare, while a speakeasy will be tucked away on the 18th floor. In addition to the Writers Bar, the hotel will have a ground-floor café and another dining concept on its second floor.
“Everything is connected,” said Dudler. “You can go to the Long Bar for a cocktail, then go to an event or Amar for dinner and then end up at the speakeasy later that night — you never have to leave.”
That’s not to say that the Raffles Boston is looking to sequester its guests away from the world. The property’s leadership, in fact, hopes to achieve the opposite.
“Something that’s very important for us is that we want to become the hotel that Bostonians consider their hotel,” said Simon Rodrigues, director of sales and marketing for the Raffles Boston. “We want our restaurants and bars to become their living rooms.”
Although the Raffles Boston hasn’t set an opening date, it is taking bookings for stays starting in September, with the booking window set to extend into the nearer term once an official debut is set.