Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marina Bay IR aims to change the game

HEADLINE acts, parachutists and glitterati were all on show as the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort celebrated its opening yesterday.

Even the resort owner's predictions glittered: Just as MBS' towers have transformed the skyline, the IR will 'forever change' Singapore's image and give the country's tourism industry a major fillip.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson called the US$5.7billion (S$7.9billion) facility a game-changer for tourism here - a magnet for between 125,000 and 150,000 people that he expects to visit it each day.

This would be a record for parent company Las Vegas Sands' (LVS) properties worldwide.

Not surprisingly, all stops were pulled out for the opening ceremonies, which featured a competition to climb the three towers, a black-tie dinner party, a concert and more.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Adelson said 'the integrated resort model is unmatched, and MBS will now be the reference point by which all new tourism projects are judged'.

The 71-year-old American added: 'It's going to change Singapore by providing entertainment amenities that were not here before.

'This will be for the Asian people a very major attraction, and will change the conservative perception of what Singapore has in the night time.'

The Republic will reap many benefits as MBS will transform the tourism industry and attract visitors from countries in the region and further afield, including China, Australia and Europe, he said.

To mark the occasion yesterday, some 2,500 guests were invited, as well as 1,100 members of the media from 17 countries who were specially flown in.

International superstars such as Diana Ross and Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child added a touch of glamour to a gala celebratory concert last night.

MBS first began accepting guests on April27, when the casino, meeting and convention centre and one-third of the hotel rooms opened.

From today, the rest of its 2,560 hotel rooms, more shops, restaurants and meetings facilities will also be open.

The Sands SkyPark, a surfboard-shaped attraction perched atop the three towers, will accept its first public visitors at 2pm today. Its features include a 150m-long swimming pool and spa.

But the resort will not be fully ready until next year, when it opens a theatre to host its Lion King show and two pavilions - one housing nightclubs Pangaea and Avalon, the other featuring a Louis Vuitton boutique.

Yesterday, MBS chief executive officer Thomas Arasi said the IR has drawn 500,000 visitors so far this month.

The big draw? Its casino, which attracts about 25,000 visitors daily, a third of them Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Such numbers, the company's chief operating officer Mike Leven forecast, indicate annual revenues of about US$1billion, and will allow its parent company to recoup its investment in just four to five years.

The company is looking beyond that, however.

MBS, Mr Adelson said, is the second step in his plan to expand further into Asia, which he sees as having an almost insatiable appetite for gambling.

Indeed, he said, even having the equivalent of five Las Vegases with 140,000 hotel rooms each in five different Asian locations would not satisfy demand.

An indication: In 2006, Macau overtook the Las Vegas Strip as the world's biggest gambling centre.

Last year, it drew about US$14.5billion in gaming revenue, compared to the entire US market's US$30.74billion.

Asia accounted for about 73per cent of LVS' revenue at the end of last year, he said, adding: 'We are an Asian company with a presence in the United States.'

By 2020, he expects this figure to hit 90per cent. But Macau will complement, not compete with Singapore, he said.

Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China, gets the bulk of its visitors from the mainland, whereas Singapore will draw customers from other parts of Asia.

Mr Adelson said LVS is exploring markets like Japan, South Korea and even China itself.

Analysts contacted yesterday said MBS' projections on earnings and visitors were on the high side.

Nonetheless, Barclays economist Leong Wai Ho said MBS' prime location in the heart of the city, and a critical mass of close to five million people here, mean the projections are attainable.

Source : Strait Times
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