Las Vegas Sands eyes 3 potential IR spots in Asia

PHOTO: Las Vegas Sands eyes 3 potential IR spots in Asia

SINGAPORE - For about seven days each month, Singapore-based George Tanasijevich gets on a plane in search of new business opportunities for his company.

The managing director of global development at Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS) has three Asian countries on his radar at the moment - Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

These markets have, he feels, the potential for a lucrative "MICE-driven integrated resort" in future.

"It needs to be in a major urban area, near a major international airport because of the volume of people that we bring in, and a whole list of other characteristics that would make it an attractive investment opportunity for us," says the American in an exclusive interview with BT.

MICE, which stands for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, is a major part of LVS's operations worldwide.

The S$8 billion Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort in Singapore, where Mr Tanasijevich is also its president and chief executive officer, is home to the country's largest exhibition and meeting venue.

"If we were to be able to build our network and footprint in Asia, it would have a positive impact on our Singapore operations," he says.

This would be especially so in the burgeoning global MICE industry, where there are many different large-scale events that rotate around different markets over a period of time, rather than always returning to the same city every year.

"The stronger and bigger your network is, the more relationships you can build and the more business you can keep within your company."

Mr Tanasijevich hopes that the experience that he has garnered in Singapore - having been involved with the MBS project since day one some seven years ago - can position him better "to be able to explain what we can bring to new markets".

And when he travels to other parts of Asia to find out more about how countries there view tourism, he can, in turn, better understand the business opportunities for MBS in the years to come.

"Hopefully, we can continue to find new opportunities to build the company and grow it in other markets, but at the same time we'll never take our eye off the ball here in Singapore," he says, describing MBS - which first opened in April 2010 - as an "extremely important property" for LVS.

Mr Tanasijevich says that he and his 9,400 employees are doing all they can to position the company as a pro-active asset manager that is customer- centric and able to drive tourism to Singapore.

One of the ways is through growing its MICE operations.

Last month, MBS recorded its busiest ever month after hosting 13 trade shows - four times its usual monthly average - and welcoming some 46,000 delegates.

MBS's Sands Expo and Convention Centre also won the prestigious "Best Business Event Venue Experience" award in October at the annual Singapore Experience Awards, organised by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Mr Tanasijevich, though, thinks that MBS has nearly hit its peak in terms of just how many events it can handle in any given year.

"As we continue to build, in some areas, the greater challenge that we're going to have is a constraint on space," he says, emphasising a point he made in his previous interview with BT last year.

MBS is on track to host a total of 50-55 exhibitions this year, but Mr Tanasijevich thinks the maximum number in a 12-month period is likely to be no more than 60.

MBS's grand ballroom, the largest such facility in South-east Asia, is also often fully booked.

"It's a nice problem to have, but as we move forward, we think there is still more that we could be doing in the meetings area," he says.

"We will still be looking to bring in more and higher quality events to MBS, regardless of what piece of the building it occupies."