The hotel was named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. It is the flagship property of Raffles Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.
Raffles Hotel Singapore started as a privately owned beach house built in the early 1830s. It first became Emerson's Hotel when Dr. Charles Emerson leased the building in 1878. Upon his death in 1883, the hotel closed, and the Raffles Institution stepped in to use the building as a boarding house until Dr. Emerson's lease expired in September 1887.
Almost immediately after the first lease expired, the Sarkies Brothers leased the property with the intention of turning it into a high-end hotel. Just a few months later, on December 1, 1887, the ten-room Raffles Hotel opened. Its proximity to the beach, and its reputation for high standards in services and accommodations made the hotel popular with wealthy clientele.