The restarting of Macau’s hotel expansion programme on the Cotai Strip and the opening of integrated resorts (IRs) in Singapore signal a new stage for the Asian hotel sector, said Steve Jacobs, vice-president of IR giant Sands China.
Speaking at the International Hotel Investment Forum Asia Pacific in Macau, Jacobs said that the Las Vegas Sands parent group, which also owns the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, was exploring expansion into other markets, namely Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Mainland China and Thailand.
He stressed that while so far no solid deals had been agreed it was now a question of “when not if” further IRs would be developed in the region.
Sands China is the developer of The Venetian Macao, The Sands Macao and The Plaza Macao.
Jacobs acknowledged that existing local regulations regarding gaming were a barrier in several countries but noted that governments across the region were looking seriously at the IR concept now that there were two different territories with operations to compare and learn from.
One of the critical factors, Jacobs said was the rapid transformation of the corporate events sector created by the arrival of the IRs. The meetings and exhibition market was widely seen as a major potential revenue source alongside the leisure market.
Frank McGoldrick, managing director of architectural firm Aedas, which designed a number of the properties in Macau and the Marina Bay Sands, said that experience had shown that gaming need not be the central part of IRs.
“In Macau, the casino is located at the heart of The Venetian, whereas in Singapore, we put the casino on the periphery. In a sense, Singapore had a head start since it has an already well established events market,” McGoldrick said.
Singapore’s first IR, Resorts World Sentosa, opened earlier this year ahead of the Marina Bay Sands offering several thousand hotel rooms, convention space and attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore.
The City of Dreams, comprising the Grand Hyatt, Hard Rock Hotel and Crown Towers opened last year on the Cotai Strip.
Sites 5 and 6 on the Cotai Strip, which were put on hold during the height of the financial crisis, are now aiming to open through 2011 and 2012, Jacobs said, adding around several thousand extra rooms in the first phase.
The sites include the new 636-room Shangri-La, a 1,259-room Traders Hotel and a 4,067-room Sheraton Macau Hotel, which will become one of the world’s largest hotels when it is fully open.
Further developments will include hotels by Hilton, Conrad, Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel, alongside a major project on Site 3 involving InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Cosmopolitan hotels called the Phoenix.