Company Turned S’pore’s ‘Worst Hotel’ in Geylang into IG-Worthy Hotel That Attracts Humans Instead of Cockroaches

Everyone wants a nice, comfy place to sleep in when they go for a staycation or abroad for a holiday.

But it doesn’t always turn out that way, especially if you’re a cheapskate thrifty like me.

Some rooms may have cockroaches in the comforter, for instance, and those aren’t really the kind of companions you want under the sheets with you.

Or the room may smell like it was recently the scene of a murder.

And since there are sites where people can review hotel rooms, if most of your customers are dissatisfied with their stays and say so online, you’re going to have trouble finding new ones.

Golden Dragon

That’s what happened to Golden Dragon Hotel, a hotel in Geylang’s red-light district. Golden Dragon had an average rating of 1.5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. One Straits Times reporter even called it one of Singapore’s worst hotels when she had a sleepless night there.

According to ST, the hotel’s 60-year-old owner, Mr Siah, opened Golden Dragon in 1997 after buying the land and building the hotel in the 1990s with his two brothers.

However, he couldn’t cope with the demands of younger customers.

“I wanted to improve things, but my knowledge of hotel management was not up to date. I could not keep up with the demands of younger customers who are used to online ratings and bookings,” he said.

He relied mainly on walk-in customers, most of whom made two-hourly bookings on the spot and did not spend the night.

I’m guessing these customers were playing a game of Scrabble and wanted some privacy?

The occupancy rate of the hotel fluctuated between 40 and 50 per cent, which is half the average rate of Singapore hotels, according to ST. But the hotel managed to survive by offering some of the lowest room rates in the area.

But then, just like how Batman jumped from a building to save Rachel, one company swooped down from the heavens to save Golden Dragon from its dark and dingy abyss.


When RedDoorz, a Singapore-based hotel management and booking platform, decided to lease and makeover his property in July 2019, Mr Siah couldn’t believe his luck.

RedDoorz spent about three months, from September to November 2019, on an extensive renovation that cost about $100,000.

This included new lights, air-conditioning units, mattresses, linen and furniture in the rooms and lobby.

And it was quite a transformation. This is what the room used to look like:

Image: Best Singapore Hotels
Image: TripAdvisor
Image: TripAdvisor
Image: TripAdvisor
Image: TripAdvisor

And this is what it looks like now:

Image: Planet of Hotels

Not too shabby, huh?

As you can see, the dull green walls have been replaced with a fresh red, white and grey, covering all those unsightly stains on the wall.

And the dingy bathrooms have been spruced up with modern white subway tiles, and soap and shampoo wall dispensers with simple amenity kits as well.

There are also wall murals in each room that depict tourist attractions such as Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.

Transit bookings decreased

Now named RedDoorz @  Geylang, the modern-looking hotel now attracts new customers which include families and young travellers. Transit, or two-hour, bookings have decreased from 70% to about 15%.

No one wants to play Scrabble anymore, I guess. 

And they’ve even managed to get an average rating of 7.4 out of 10 on travel booking platform Agoda.

Image: Giphy

Higher prices

Because you no longer have to share a bed with insects, the prices have also increased.

A two-hour booking, which used to cost about $20, now starts at about $30.

Nightly rates used to range from $45 to $50, but now they can cost up to $80.

Current promotion rates are as low as $54 a night, however.

No regrets

RedDoorz, which was founded in 2015, now has 18 RedDoorz properties in Singapore, including this new one at Geylang.

Vice-president of operations Adil Mubarak says: “Small, unbranded hotels may lack the finances to upgrade and manage the property, so we bring in the tools to compete with bigger players out there.”

He says that Golden Dragon Hotel was “not an easy transformation” due to the hotel’s condition, but he believed the location had potential.

Mr Siah, who used to make about $30,000 a month running the hotel, said he has no regrets giving up the business.

“Although I earn about 20 per cent less as a landlord, I am much happier and more relaxed now,” he said.

I’d like to think that RedDoorz is going around renovating old hotels out of the goodness of their hearts, but it’s probably just a good business strategy.

With such sleek-looking modern rooms at low prices, who could say no?