Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marina IR opens April 27

SINGAPORE’S second integrated resort, the Marina Bay Sands (MBS), will open on April 27.

Like its counterpart on Sentosa, MBS will open in phases, with the casino, some hotel rooms, restaurants, part of the shopping mall and convention centre opening first.

Unlike Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), however, MBS has detailed when its various attractions will open.

In a statement yesterday, the resort said its first major event, a meeting of lawyers worldwide for the Inter-Pacific Bar Association’s 20th annual conference, will be held on May 2 to 5, just days after it opens.

It added that a grand opening ceremony has been planned for June 23, when the Skypark and several other attractions will begin to accept visitors.

Other areas of the resort, such as its theatres and museums, will throw open their doors progressively till the end of the year.

However, MBS added a caveat to its statement: The timeline could change if there are construction delays, for example. Getting regulatory approval is another factor, it added.

Casino Regulatory Authority spokesman Vivian Heng said it received MBS’ casino licence application in November last year, and the clearing process is under way.

Yesterday’s announcement comes after three years of work, including several delays. MBS was originally slated to open last December, but construction woes – the resort said it suffered a shortage of sand and other materials – led to the opening date being pushed back twice.

At one stage, there were even questions about whether MBS’ parent company, Las Vegas Sands (LVS), could complete the US$5.5 billion (S$7.7 billion) project, given the battering it took during the global financial crisis.

At its low point, there were fears that the company could go belly-up because of its debts. Several analysts questioned then whether LVS was using the delays to paper over its financial woes.

But Mr Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of LVS, stressed several times that MBS was ‘probably the company’s most important project’.

Yesterday, Mr Adelson said: ‘Despite the challenging, and at times unprecedented economic conditions companies like ours recently faced, our dedication to completing this development never wavered, not even for a second.’

Analysts and industry experts contacted yesterday welcomed the announcement of an opening date, saying MBS would add a different dimension to Singapore.

They agreed that while the two integrated resorts (IRs) will help Singapore become more attractive to tourists, give a boost to the economy and create a wealth of jobs, MBS will add extra wattage to the cityscape by injecting a dose of glitz, glamour and culture.

Singapore hopes to attract 17 million visitors, who will spend $30 billion, to the country by 2015. The two IRs are also expected to add some $5.4 billion to the economy yearly, and create at least 20,000 jobs.

CIMB-GK regional economist Song Seng Wun said that while RWS will draw leisure travellers and families – an important segment of the tourism market, no doubt – the Marina Bay IR will pull in movers and shakers with fatter wallets and influence worldwide.

MBS will also add to Singapore’s nightlife and cultural scene too, with such world-class shows as The Lion King, said National Association of Travel Agents Singapore chief executive Robert Khoo.

But analysts were quick to point out that both sides have their own strengths, and will do a good job of appealing to their own market segments.

One group that had an opposite reaction was travel agents, who feel RWS, not Marina Bay, will be the game-changer for them, since their business covers mainly leisure travellers.

But convention organisers were rubbing their hands with glee.

Mr Edward Liu, president of the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers, said MBS’ opening is something that the local meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry has been looking forward to with great anticipation.

Its location and the number of attractions under one roof mimic the Las Vegas business model, a proven winner, he said.

He has already booked two mega- events at the IR.

Shares of Genting Singapore, which owns RWS, ended 1.5 cents lower at 94 cents yesterday after the announcement.

LVS shares opened slightly higher in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, despite a recent trend of pressure on Las Vegas casino operators due to fears of falling room rates and worries over MGM Mirage’s newly opened US$8.5 billion, 6,000-room CityCenter project.

What’s coming up this year
April 27: Phase One opening with 963 hotel rooms, part of shopping mall and convention centre, three of six celebrity-chef restaurants and other dining outlets and the casino
May 2 to 5: Hosting of its first event, the Inter-Pacific Bar Association 20th Annual Conference
June 23: Phase Two opening with the sky garden – Sands SkyPark – its event plaza in front of Marina Bay, the rest of the retail mall, more dining outlets and nightlife offerings. Grand opening celebration is also scheduled.
October: Disney’s The Lion King to open at one of its two theatres
Later in the year: Second theatre to host a variety of special events; headline acts to open
December: Marina Bay Sands museum to open

Source: Straits Times, 25 Feb 2010

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