After Sands, big plans

Marina Bay casino on track to be launched in '09

Not one but two casinos are planned for Singapore, although with actual gambling space capped at a small percentage of overall area, a new phrase has been coined: the Integrated Resort (IR).

“A phrase that Singapore has made its own,” joked William Wiedner, prexy and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., last August. He was in Singapore for the signing of the Marina Bay Sands IR development agreement.

“The Marina Bay Sands is on track and on target to be launched in 2009 as planned,” he says. “In particular, Las Vegas Sands will work closely with the Singapore Tourism Board and relevant government agencies to ensure that the Marina Bay Sands remains aligned to Singapore’s economic, social and tourism priorities.”

In choosing Las Vegas Sands, a dark horse in the Marina IR race, the tourism board has made clear its goals lie squarely with the business travelers, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (BTMICE) sector.

“Besides boosting Singapore’s attractiveness as a destination, it is also key to our aim to grow the BTMICE industry and to draw more world-class tourism investments to Singapore so as to achieve our Tourism 2015 vision.”

Other bidders for the Marina Bay Integrated Resort had submitted more entertainment-oriented bids, with a James Cameron “Titanic” experience and a Universal Studios theme park among the proposed attractions. But those bids can now focus on the second IR, on the more tourist-oriented Sentosa Island.

The tourism board’s decision to see the Marina Bay Sands IR as a catalyst to boost business and convention biz affirms its confidence in Singapore’s existing attractions — and rumors abound of possible new ones.

Indeed, Disney has described Singapore as “a good market,” while the tourism board says it’s constantly sourcing projects suitable for the tourism landscape here. Singapore Tourism Board still has ambitious targets to meet — 17 million arrivals and $20 billion in tourism revenue by 2015.

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