Singapore's Marina Bay Sands hotel bursts onto the scene
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and casino (MBS), Singapore is officially open. It is big. Both in ambition and actual size. Think Mega Vegas resort kind of big. Actually, think bigger. The Marina Bay Sands is the poster child of the integrated resort model. A model Sands is betting US$5.5 billion on. There are 2,560 rooms that will start at around S$359 a night to occupy, and the Marina Bay Sands investment cost puts it behind only MGM Resorts' insane CityCenter (over US$8 billion) in Las Vegas as the second most expensive casino property in the world.
Marina Bay Sands has been ramping up a frenzy over the last couple of months by opening parts of the property to the public starting with the first public viewing on April 27, 2010, and the most recent being the SkyPark official opening. Here's a quick look at what MBS has to offer, and what its opening means to Singapore.
A park in the sky
At first glance the aforementioned Moshe Safdie designed SkyPark which sits atop the three Marina Bay Sands hotel towers 200 meters high is a real attention grabber. The SkyPark features the largest outdoor infinity pool at that height.
The space can host up to 3,900 people at a time, and the public entrance fee is S$20. We can imagine some amazing parties being hosted there over the coming years.
Mr Rostam Umar, Executive Director,Communications, Singapore Tourism Board told CNNGo, "Its overall architecture is very impressive and will certainly stand out as one of Singapore's icons. We look forward to the Marina bay Sands being fully opened."
The opening of the Marina Bay Sands Casino signifies the first shots fired in what is the beginning of the Singaporean Casino War, currently being waged by MBSC and Resorts World Sentosa Casino, which opened this February. An interesting aspect to both casinos is that Singaporean Permanent Residents must pay an entrance levy of either S$100 for 24 hours or S$2,000 for a year. Non-Singaporean residents do not have to pay this levy. How this will shake out with the local population remains to be seen.
Those that visit the casino can expect to find 1,600 slot machines and almost 500 tables (200 of which are high roller) including games such as Baccarat, Roulette, Sic-Bo, Singapore Stud Poker, Non Commission Baccarat and Money Wheel. Plenty of ways for both locals and visitors to lose money. For those with a gambling problem or who just feel like enforcing a little self restraint, MBS Casino offers "social safeguards" such as the Self Limit Program and the self-exclusion order as required by Singaporean law.
Singapore's National Counsel on Problem Gambling (NCPG) also offers a Family Exclusion Program that "enables a family to apply for exclusion of a problem gambler from casinos and serves as a social safeguard to prevent problem gamblers and those with financial difficulties from entering the casinos in Singapore. The Family Exclusion is available to immediate family members defined as spouses, children, parents and siblings, including adopted and step relations."
In other words, Singaporeans that like to gamble better not piss off their wives. Ever.
We contacted the Marina Bay Sands and asked them what VIPs can expect from a stay. A Marina Bay Sands spokesperson said, "In Singapore, VIP guests arriving in the private JetQuay CIP Terminal and Changi Terminals 1, 2 and 3 will be welcomed at the aero-bridge or tarmac upon arrival, and escorted to the arrival gate by electric buggy or limousine transfers. They will travel in luxury in our dedicated fleet of BMW 5 and 7 series to our property where they will be..." bathed in liquid gold, covered in diamonds and whisked away to meet God himself on a privately arranged stairway to heaven. You get the idea. Though, we should also note they mentioned something about 50 butlers serving guests on the suite floors.
Shopping, as one can imagine, is plentiful at MBS. Shoppers will find the usual luxury suspects such as Louis Vuitton, Rolex, and their partners in crime along with many other major brands.
Plenty of room
Hypothetically speaking, if each of the 2,560 rooms were occupied on one day at a minimum rate of S$359 per night that, would fill MBS's coffers with S$919,040 per day. We tried to work out the math for how long it would take Sands to recoup the building costs over a period of years, but the dashboard calculator on our MacBook Pro wouldn't go past 999,999,999.
Suffice it to say, US$5.5 billion is a lot of money to make up, and MBS is betting not only on cutting edge architectural engineering such as the SkyPark, or money from the casino, but must be looking long term as well.
At S$359 a night, hotel guests must feel like the price is worth it and this must continue over a period of years until MBS builds a solid reputation of its own like its other Sands properties. Guests can book from the S$359 Atrium Deluxe rooms up to the Chairman Suite at S$17,000 per night, along with special packages.
The rooms are brand spanking new, so it is safe to say guests can expect at least immaculate and fresh accommodation. After training 10,000 new employees there will be some bumps, but MBS will push through initial potential service challenges riding on the back of the shiny new glitter and gloss of all the facilities.
Marina Bay Sands has seemingly covered their bases when it comes to fine dining with Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Santi Santamaria, Tetsuya Wakuda, Wolfgang Puck and Guy Savoy all opening restaurants. Though one blogger thinks MBS's Guy Savoy restaurant is still getting up to speed and doesn't quite meet the standard the name represents. It will be interesting to see how these culinary heavyweights fare with the food crazy Singaporean population.
Clubs and culture
Late Night, Fuse, Sancy and Marina Bay Club & SkyPark are the main nightlife options Marina Bay Sands is offering up, with the SkyPark Marina Bay club not open yet. We wonder if other tourist nightlife hot spots like Clarke Quay will take a hit, or see a boost.
So maybe not everybody is into clubbing. That giant lotus shaped building? A museum. Two "state-of-the-art" (we're not sure what the actual specs are yet) theaters will open with 4,000 seats. The Broadway play "The Lion King" will debut in Sands Theaters and the outdoor event plaza along the promenade next to Marina Bay will host audiences for watching events on the bay or on the plaza. There are also Sampan boat rides (for what it's worth) and an art walk.
Integrated resorts the future of tourism?
Having both super entertainment complexes MBS and Sentosa open at relatively the same time should help make Singapore a must-see destination in Asia, even with each appealing to somewhat different demographics and being competitors. Rostam Umar told us, "We expect Marina Bay Sands to help draw more visitors, both leisure and business to Singapore, as well as increase visitor expenditure. It will also raise the bar in tourism offerings and visitor experience with many celebrity chefs housed under one roof and high-end flagship stores in the Crystal Pavilion on the Marina Bay."
"The opening of the integrated resorts will also boost Singapore's attractiveness as a destination by broadening our leisure and entertainment options to enhance Singapore's tourism appeal and reputation as a must-visit destination," Umar added.
Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE: LVS), the parent company of Marina Bay Sands and Umar are in agreement about Singapore's bright tourism future, “Marina Bay Sands is really the future of tourism development. For countries serious about boosting tourism and creating new jobs, the integrated resort model is unmatched and Marina Bays Sands will now be the reference point by which all new tourism projects are judged,” said Adelson in a recent press release.
He continued, “In Singapore, Marina Bay Sands will be the pivot point in which tourism here is going to explode.”
Only time will tell if he's right. Time... and 50 butlers.