Despite tight security and media scrum, business as usual around St Regis Hotel

Despite tight security and media scrum, business as usual around St Regis Hotel

media scrum outside St Regis
The media scrum outside St Regis Hotel. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

SINGAPORE: When news emerged that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be staying at the St Regis Hotel, the manager of a nearby Starbucks joint thought the hordes of journalists camped out there would mean good business.

While the manager, who did not want to be named, said "plenty" of journalists had patronised the outlet in Tanglin Mall ahead of the Trump-Kim summit on Tuesday (Jun 12), the numbers were not as large as he had expected.

"Business is about the same, just a slight rise," the manager told Channel NewsAsia on Monday. "There are more people around the area but not a lot of them coming in."

journalists camping outside St Regis
Journalists camping out near St Regis. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

More than 2,500 journalists are in Singapore for the landmark summit, with United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim meeting at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa at 9am on Tuesday to discuss Pyongyang's denuclearisation.

The media frenzy, along with the heightened security in the Tanglin area, had the potential to cause disruption, but businesses and passers-by said life went on largely as per normal.

Dozens of journalists and camera crew, many donning hats and sunglasses in the 30 degrees Celsius heat, waited in front of the hotel, eager to catch any sign of Mr Kim.

Police officers on partially-closed Tanglin Road checked vehicles headed for the hotel, while police vehicles occupied the fully-closed Tomlinson Road. A pair of Gurkhas stood guard by the road entering and leaving the hotel.

security checks outside St Regis
Police officers checking cars entering St Regis. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

The media scrum and police blockades meant passers-by had to tread a narrow path to get to the other side of the hotel, which is especially troublesome for those pushing strollers.

media scrum outside St Regis 2
Passers-by had to squeeze through the media scrum. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

But the obstructions didn't seem to bother one tourist from Melbourne. "It's no inconvenience," said Mr Denis, who was visiting his daughter living in Singapore. "The journalists were blocking a little bit, but that's their job."

Journalists were also seen crowding the entrance to Treknology3, a bicycle shop on Tanglin Road. But sales assistant Jonathan said the effect has been positive.

"You have this, people will come down this way and discover the store," he said, adding that he has been seeing more walk-in customers. "There's an increase in awareness that we are here."

Passers-by outside St Regis
Passers-by taking photos of the media scrum outside St Regis. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)


Attention also centred on the journalists themselves, with passers-by taking photos of the scene and one giggly group of teenage girls sneaking in shots of a handsome Caucasian correspondent.

Retiree Mr Wu, 71, said he didn't mind the intense media attention as it put Singapore on the world map. "There are a lot of international journalists here," he said. "It's very grand, good for Singapore."

media scrum outside St Regis 3
The media scrum as seen from the St Regis side. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

The self-professed "busybody" said he waited outside the Shangri-La Hotel to catch a glimpse of Mr Trump's motorcade before heading over to St Regis. "Is Kim coming out?" he asked. "I'd like to see the motorcades."

Mr Wu said he had no issues with the tight security and road closures either. "We were only stopped when the motorcade went out," he said. "I even took a bus here."

man selling souvenirs outside St Regis
Mr Jun Miyagawa brought about 20 US and 40 North Korean flags from Japan. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

Then there was Mr Jun Miyagawa, who came from Japan to sell US and North Korea souvenirs outside St Regis.

The 63-year-old Japanese, who arrived on Sunday and will stay for a week, was selling each country's flag for S$10 a piece and North Korea guidebooks and maps for S$15 each. Business was "so-so", he said.

"I came here to feel and study the historical summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un," he added. "I guess the flags will be useful for tomorrow's event."

Still, it was not long before plainclothes police officers caught up with Mr Miyagawa, in another example of the heightened security in the area.

police speaking to man outside St Regis
Police officers speaking to Mr Miyagawa. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

The officers checked his passport, flipped through his books and asked him questions about North Korea. Mr Miyagawa packed up his wares and left about 45 minutes later.

Like Mr Miyagawa, the Australian tourist Mr Denis feels the summit will be significant. "I hope for a really good outcome between the two of them," he said. "It's better for all of us."

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Source: CNA/hz