Keeping it fresh

It’s a game of constant rejuvenation and innovation for Asia’s integrated resorts (IR). Here, we take a look at the latest attractions coming up at existing as well as upcoming IRs in the region.

Artist’s impression of the evolution & extinction zone at Singapore Oceanarium, part of Resorts World Sentosa


Resorts World Sentosa
Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has unveiled major transformation plans touted to “create a new wave of tourism growth for the next decade”.

With a total development investment of S$4.5 billion (US$3.3 billion), RWS 2.0 will see an increase in gross floor area of about 50 per cent. The added 164,000m2 will be largely achieved through intensification of existing land, and new experiences will be delivered in phases from 2020. Completion is projected for 2025.

Slated to open end-2020 will be a new pirate-themed “adventure dining playhouse”, which will replace the Resorts World Theatre. Next up will be a public seafront attraction with free evening light shows, as well as expansions of Universal Studios Singapore (USS) and S.E.A. Aquarium.

With the expansion, USS will feature two new sections – Minion Park and Super Nintendo World – filled with family-friendly attractions, themed shops and restaurants.

Meanwhile, S.E.A. Aquarium’s size will more than triple as it gets rebranded as the proposed Singapore Oceanarium. The new centre will showcase marine life; additional exhibits of prehistoric marine life and deep-sea creatures; and tell a story of evolution, exploration and conservation.

Along with the expansion of hotels in the Central Zone, RWS 2.0 will also introduce a new waterfront lifestyle complex complete with two new hotels which will add about 1,100 more rooms to RWS.

Capping off the redevelopment are plans to introduce a new driverless transport system that provides connectivity between the mainland and Sentosa.

Tan Hee Teck, CEO of RWS, said: “RWS will form an integral part of the future Greater Southern Waterfront and become a centrepiece of the transformative journey to enliven the southern corridor.”

Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) will be investing S$4.5 billion to build a fourth tower, designed by the property’s original architect Moshe Safdie.

The new tower will be built on 3.2ha of land beside the current resort, and will feature a suites-only luxury hotel with some 1,000 keys, a sky roof with a swimming pool, signature restaurant, ballrooms, exhibition halls and F&B offerings.

Also part of the plans is a 15,000-seat indoor entertainment arena centrepiece, “with leading design and cutting-edge technology (to) attract top entertainers from Asia and around the world”, announced the owner of MBS, Las Vegas Sands. A timeline for completion has not been set at press time.

Mike Lee, vice president of sales, MBS, shared: “Today’s tourism landscape requires hospitality players to be even more nimble-footed and adaptable than ever. MBS is keenly aware of the evolving landscape and demands (of visitors), and has always been focused in innovating and planning for the future.”

Aside from the new hotel tower setting “a new standard of luxury in South-east Asia”, Lee also expressed that dining expectations have also intensified, as guests “now want to be entertained while they dine, and be simulated by visual and aural senses”.

“Think DJs taking centrestage in a restaurant, theatrical show kitchens and a playlist that sets the mood of a venue and the ensuing conversations of its guests,” he described.

This has inspired MBS to continue looking out for opportunities to “morph entertainment and food”, evident from their partnership with Tao Group to open cocktail lounge Avenue, nightclub Marquee and the upcoming Japanese restaurant KOMA.

What’s coming to Singapore
• Universal Studios Singapore to welcome Minion Park and Super Nintendo World
• A new waterfront complex will be added to Resorts World Sentosa
• Marina Bay Sands to construct fourth tower with luxury hotel and a 15,000-seat indoor entertainment area

By Pamela Chow

A rendering of the upcoming Londoner Hotel at Sands Resorts Macao


Sands Resorts Macao
To woo new and repeated visitors, Sands Resorts Macao continues to push the experiential envelope hard to attract increasingly savvy visitors.

According to Sands China’s vice president of sales, Stephanie Tanpure, connecting with guests and offering varied experiences and events that resonate on a deeper and emotional level is key to remaining successful in the IR space.

Aside from ensuring a varied selection of 850 retail brands at the Sands Resorts Macao, new experiential offerings include the Parisian Privé Styling Suite, exclusive to the Shoppes. The bespoke space allows guests to enjoy a personalised styling consultation with a fashion stylist for the latest looks, trends and fashion tips, as well as make-up and gift recommendations.

Sands Resorts Macau’s “F&B and event areas are also all about the experience”, Tanpure pointed out. For instance, the IR welcomed Chicado, a contemporary Portuguese restaurant by Portuguese celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa; along with the Crystal Jade Group’s opening of restaurants at Sands Cotai Central and The Parisian Macao.

Earlier in June, Sands China announced that The Venetian Macao and The Parisian Macao have become InterContinental Alliance Resorts. The Londoner Macao – with suites designed in collaboration with famed football star David Beckham – will join the alliance when it opens in 2020, following the renovation of the current Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central.

MGM is putting innovative art and entertainment experiences at the heart of its two resorts, MGM Cotai and MGM Macau.

With the help of the MGM Theater, the resort has continuously brought in a line-up of varying shows and concerts, such as the Jabbawockeez hip-hop dance crew, The Harry Potter Film Concert Series and Fuerza Bruta Wayra, a post-modern theatre show that originated in Buenos Aires.

The latter is a 360-degree immersive theatrical performance that does not require a rigid stage or seating arrangement, and instead revolves around the audience, according to a MGM spokesperson.
“MGM will continue to use this space and technology to create even more immersive experiences for visitors and make people part of the art,” the spokesperson added.

Aside from theatre experiences, the MGM spokesperson revealed the IR wanted to create an environment that allowed people to “create and interact with the art”. As such, MGM Cotai boasts a permanent art collection – numbering over 300 pieces ranging from Qing Dynasty carpets to Asian sculptures – on display throughout the resort.

Recently, both MGM properties also launched a series of exclusive F&B experiences. For instance, the renowned Wagyumafia from Tokyo unveiled a pop-up at Grill 58 of MGM Cotai, and brought in their first-ever Wagyumafia Progressive Kaiseki Dinner, the first to be served outside of Japan.

Over at MGM Macau, visual-gastronomical experience Le Petit Chef will be available until September 13, 2019, as the character retraces the steps of Marco Polo and presents gastronomic highlights from the Silk Road to diners.

An exclusive sushi pop-up bar will also run at Rossio until September 29, 2019, where Hiroyuki Sato, the chef-owner of the one-Michelin-star Hakkoku in Tokyo’s Ginza district will elevate the crafting of sushi into an art form.

What’s coming to Macau
• Construction of the Grand Lisboa Palace will be completed this year, boasting fashion designer-branded hotels – Palazzo Versace Macau and Karl Lagerfeld Hotel.
• Studio City Macau will welcome two new entertainment attractions – The Flip-Out, Macau’s first indoor trampoline centre; and Legend Heroes Park, the city’s first VR theme park.

By Prudence Lui

Resorts World Genting’s Imaginatricks live-action show

Resorts World Genting
This Malaysian IR on the peak of Mount Ulu Kali has been welcoming new developments since 2016, as part of its 10-year, RM10 billion (US$2.4 billion) Genting Integrated Transformation Plan that was announced in December 2013.

These investments were deemed necessary in order for Resorts World Genting (RWG) to stay competitive in the face of newer IRs in Asia, where the aim was to offer its guests world-class entertainment combined with a holiday experience that encompasses both shopping and dining.

In 2017, the SkyAvenue mall opened first with 250 shops offering dining, entertainment and shopping options, followed by the launch of Genting Highlands Premium Outlets with 150 shops offering steep discounts on branded items.

More recent openings include Skytropolis Funland, which soft-opened in December 2018 with a 37,100m2 indoor theme park boasting more than 20 rides; and the 3,250m2 Zouk Genting, which comprises hip-hop club Empire by Zouk, gaming bar RedTail by Zouk, RedTail Karaoke and upcoming Fuhu Restaurant & Bar.

Rocky Too, senior vice president, sales and marketing, RWG, said: “We regularly create exciting events to keep interests high and the momentum going. One such attraction is Imaginatricks, a stunning show of dance and acrobatics.” The multimillion-dollar international production will run until May 24, 2020.

Although RWG is also promoted as a family-friendly destination, the IR has taken “great pains” to attract every market segment, said Too.

As such, the Jungle Gym was also added to its offering early last year to provide age-appropriate activities for children, while F&B prices are kept reasonable to cater to this segment.

Currently, the domestic market makes up 80 per cent of arrivals to the resort, and Too revealed that “our existing customers are taking a lively interest in the new developments”. He also added that RWG is “gaining more interest among millennials, with the opening of Zouk Genting, as well as international dining options” such as UK-based restaurants Burger & Lobster and Harry Ramsden’s.

Desaru Coast
Desaru Coast, a coastal getaway in the southern state of Johor with a 17km-long beachfront, was officially opened by the sultan of Johor on July 5, 2019.

Desaru Coast is home to four hotels and resorts, two world-class golf courses, a themed water park, a retail village as well as a conference centre.

Currently, two international hotels – the 275-key Westin Desaru Coast Resort and the 365-room Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast – have started operations, which Vikram Mujumdar, general manager of The Westin Desaru Coast Resort believes will “elevate the profile of the tourist destination” and “deliver a brand promise that was lacking in Desaru”.

Two more internationally-branded properties, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas and One&Only Desaru Coast, are on track to open at the end of this year.

Also already open is the Desaru Coast Conference Centre, managed by Westin, and the anchor attraction Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark.

In conjunction with the official launch ceremony, Desaru Development Holdings One also hosted the inaugural edition of the three-day Ombak Festival with specially curated activities including culture, music and food which highlighted homegrown talents, products and creativity.

Roslina Arbak, CEO, Desaru Development Holdings One, shared that response towards the waterpark has been “encouraging”, while the golf courses are “attracting growing interest from Singaporeans and regional travellers”. Key markets for the IR include Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and India.

“We are in the midst of curating more outdoor activities at Desaru Coast to complement the Adventure Waterpark, such as ATV rides, mountain biking, a climbing tower and ziplines, among others,” she elaborated.

Although Roslina has indicated that the IR’s primary focus is on “holidaymakers”, the IR is mindful that the MICE sector is also growing.

“We are in the midst of adding teambuilding activities and facilitation, as well as curating lifestyle and entertainment events that will appeal to both the business event and bleisure traveller,” she noted.

To further improve access from Singapore, a ferry terminal at Desaru Coast is scheduled to be completed by end 2020.

What’s new in Malaysia
• Resorts World Genting and The Void have introduced the first-of-its-kind hyper-reality experience Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire created in collaboration with ILMxLA.B.
• Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark has five thematic zones, offering unique rides such as Kraken’s Revenge and the Tidal Wave Beach.

By S Puvaneswary

An aerial rendering of the upcoming Hoiana in Vietnam


The opening of Hoiana in Central Vietnam is set to be a game-changer for the country’s tourism landscape.

The joint venture between VinaCapital, Suncity and VMS, comprises a sprawling US$4 billion IR set along a four-kilometre-long beach south of Hoi An and Danang. Once complete, the waterfront development will include hospitality, gaming, leisure, entertainment and retail facilities.

The first phase is slated to open in September, and will include golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr’s first course in Vietnam, the Hoiana Shores Golf Club, and Rosewood Hotels & Resort’s Vietnam debut, Rosewood Hoi An.

Hoiana Casino, Suncity’s first casino, and other accommodation, including New World Hoiana Hotel and Residences, will open later in the year. This will be followed by a string of other developments that will be rolled out in phases.

Grace Hoang, Hoiana’s vice president of resort marketing, said the IR is backed by a portfolio of esteemed brands and expertise, which are expected to “bring exciting entertainment and hospitality experiences and raise the benchmark of IR in Vietnam”.

With tourism in the area growing at a rapid pace, the Central Vietnam destination was the most attractive to Hoiana. A total of 4.3 million people visited in the first six months, representing a 15.1 per cent year-on-year increase.

With the dominance of the Asian market, Hoiana is aggressively targeting players from South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau and South-east Asia, as well as the domestic market.

Added Hoang: “Hoiana is lucky to work with some of the best international brands to establish our destination. Furthermore, we have a beautiful site at a fantastic location – pristine beachfront and proximity to Hoi An old town. Not many IRs in the region can boast these advantages. It is an exciting time ahead for us.”

Aiming to raise hospitality standards, Hoiana has also partnered with the Arts, Culture and Tourism College to launch Hoiana – Quang Nam Tourism Vocational Training Centre.

The not-for-profit initiative provides free hospitality training to local students, and graduates will be guaranteed employment with Hoiana. Courses include Asia’s first accredited golf training programme.

What’s coming to Vietnam
• A 198-room Ramada hotel is slated to open at Ho Tram Strip as part of the IR’s second phase, which include other amenities such as a waterpark, an outdoor auditorium for 2,000 pax, and movie theatres, among others.
• Slated to open by 2022 is the US$2 billion Van Don project in Quang Ninh. The 2,500ha development is expected to receive a 50-year license, on top of multiple entertainment options, hotels and F&B venues.

By Marissa Carruthers

Resorts World Manila


Resorts World Manila
The fourth and last phase of Resorts World Manila’s (RWM) expansion is currently more than halfway through, as it attempts to retain its edge as the country’s largest and most diversified IR.

The expansion covers both gaming and non-gaming facilities, and while its gaming capacity has almost doubled, the same holds true for its number of hotels, retail stores, F&B outlets and entertainment centres.

The 357-key Hilton Manila was the first to open end-2018, while the Sheraton Manila opened earlier this year with 390 rooms. The 188-key Hotel Okura Manila is expected to open soon, bringing with it several dining options including Japanese, a pool, and fitness centre. The three properties will add 940 keys to the IR, bringing the total to over 2,000 keys.
RWM also announced plans to renovate Maxims Hotel into a Ritz-Carlton, a first in the Philippines.

To appeal to more family-friendly travellers and non-gaming clientele, a roster of theatre plays, musicals and recitals will be held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater; while new attractions have also been unveiled, such as Lumina, a 110m-long walkway with 100,000 multi-coloured LED bulbs that links RWM’s second level to Newport Mall.

To make it more convenient for guests, RWM has taken advantage of its proximity to Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, to which the IR is linked via an air-conditioned walkway. Shuttle buses also regularly ply routes to other terminals and a number of points in metro Manila.

By Rosa Ocampo

Osaka’s IR will be sited on Yumeshima Island in Osaka Bay

IR operators place bets on Japan
Almost one year after the Japanese government approved legislation that permited the creation of the nation’s first IR, potential operators are beginning to jostle for the limited number of licenses that will be released.

Aside from Tomakomai in southern Hokkaido, local authorities in the city of Osaka; Marina City in Wakayama Prefecture; and Sasebo City in Nagasaki Prefecture have all expressed a firm interest in hosting IR.

For Osaka, the city has set aside the reclaimed island of Yumeshima in Osaka Bay for its IR.

Earlier this year, Genting Singapore announced that it is bidding for one of the hotly contested Japan licences, and has its eyes set on Osaka. The company revealed in May that it is preparing a concept plan ahead of the August deadline. Seven companies are understood to be in the running, including MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands.

Then in late June, US casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment unveiled plans for a US$4.5 billion IR in Tomakomai city.

The proposal envisages three hotel buildings, a conference hall and an arena in a forested part of the community, while outdoor activities will include cross-country skiing, riding and farming. The plan also includes a casino, where the whole development could lead to the creation of as many as 7,000 new jobs.

Hard Rock International also has its eye on Tomakomai, proposing a guitar-shaped hotel, an event venue, Broadway-style theatres, wellness facilities, a Four Seasons-branded resort and nearly 20,000m2 of retail and dining space.

Other casino operators that have expressed an interest in the Hokkaido IR include Rush Street Gaming, Macau-based Melco Resorts and Entertainment, and SJM Holdings.

Under the Integrated Resort Act, passed on July 20, 2018, three licenses will initially be provided for operators that meet the requirements for any facility to have a conference hall, an exhibition site “suitable for global level exhibitions and fairs”, a theatre to promote Japanese history and culture, a travel facilitation office, and hotel accommodation.

Under the terms of the law, the size of the casino cannot exceed three per cent of the size of the entire IR. Licenses will be valid for three years and can be renewed for additional three-year terms, while a range of restrictions on Japanese visitors will be designed to ease concerns over an increase in gambling addiction.

Firm bids are expected to be invited after Tokyo host the Olympic Games in 2020, with the first licenses approved in the early part of 2021. The first resorts are expected to open their doors in 2026.

By Julian Ryall

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