MBS moves more swiftly to remodel its hotel rooms

MBS moves more swiftly to remodel its hotel rooms

SINGAPORE - With its hotel operating at almost full capacity throughout the year, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is in the midst of giving each of its 2,560 rooms in all three towers a facelift.

The S$8 billion integrated resort (IR), which opened in phases from April 2010, has already completed the refurbishment of around 1,000 rooms in Tower 3.

Work will begin on the 1,500-plus rooms in Towers 1 and 2 in early 2017, and those are expected to be all done by the end of that year.

MBS president and chief executive officer George Tanasijevich told The Business Times in an interview that the renovations are being fast- tracked because of the heavy usage of the rooms.

"We started thinking about (the refurbishment) in our fourth year. Typically, it's a seven-year cycle for something like this. But with occupancy rates in the upper 90s, the rooms are being used more frequently, and we need to proceed with this on a shorter time frame," he said.

For the three months ended June 30 this year, MBS's hotel occupancy rose 0.5 percentage point to 96.4 per cent year-on-year. The average daily rate per room was largely unchanged at US$375, while revenue per available room held steady at US$362.

Mr Tanasijevich said his team is busy sorting out the final procurement issues for Towers 1 and 2. The plan is to carry out the renovations floor by floor, while trying to keep noise levels down so that it won't affect guests on the other floors.

He added: "We'll move through the building as quickly as we can. It means fewer hotel rooms to sell next year - which presents a challenge for us because we're running at such high occupancy rates. But we don't have a choice; it's time to refresh those rooms."

It's not just the hotel segment that is doing brisk business. The retail arm of the IR is also delivering strong numbers, with occupancy rates at The Shoppes going up 2.8 percentage points to reach 96.4 per cent as at June 30.

One of the major draws of the 800,000 square foot mall are its luxury offerings, and Mr Tanasijevich revealed there are plans to strengthen this area in 2017.

Some of the main enhancements to the mall next year will be a doubling of luxury jewellery retailer Tiffany & Co's existing space to a duplex. The Chanel store, which is currently a duplex, will also increase its footprint to occupy nearly 11,000 sq ft of retail space.

Mr Tanasijevich made the point that the "right merchandise mix" is the key to the mall's success in the long run.

"Unlike other areas of the property, the mall is where there will be changes on an ongoing basis. The lease cycle in Singapore can be as short as three years. This means that, at that point in time, there's the opportunity to move somebody else in or move (a tenant) to a different location in the mall or take up a bigger space," he said.

A popular attraction that will be overhauled in 2017 is Wonder Full, the largest light-and-water show in South-east Asia that is watched by more than 4,000 people each night at MBS's Event Plaza.

The 15-minute show was launched in February 2011, just 10 months after MBS first opened to the public, and Mr Tanasijevich said it is time to do a revamp and roll out a second edition.

"The current show has a bit of a theme or storyline to it, and the new one will be less thematic with more focus on spectacle. We're going to have additional infrastructure out on the water that will add some more elements to the show," he said.

Looking ahead, even as the Singapore government's 10-year IR duopoly is set to expire in 2017, Mr Tanasijevich is adamant that it will be "business as usual" at MBS even though there is a chance of more competition entering the IR space down the road.

MBS and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) were granted exclusive rights from 2007 to 2017. One of the reasons was to give their operators (Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore respectively) a head start in recouping their investments.

Mr Tanasijevich said the IR is always looking for ways to make the iconic building a more exciting and compelling place to visit - be it by upgrading the infrastructure, introducing new attractions and amenities, or raising service standards.

"As you see us going forward, we're still going to be looking for those same opportunities to reinvest in MBS and reach into the community to enhance our bond with Singapore and Singaporeans," he said.

"Quite frankly, there's new and emerging competition all the time. We're mindful of that, and constantly gauging our strategic plans to remain competitive and what we believe to be the top IR in the world; and be the model to which others look when deciding whether to enter this industry or how a new project should be developed. We want to keep it that way."

This article was first published on September 13, 2016.
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