Asia’s integrated resorts – when hotels and attractions go hand in hand
by Thibault Paquin
Thibault Paquin (left) is the founder and principal of Celebrating Life Asia, an independent consultant and development company for the leisure & entertainment industry. He is also the managing director of iVenture Card Asia, which is operating attractions passes in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
Originally from France, Thibault holds an MBA from HEC Paris; he is an expert in hospitality and leisure development in Asia where he spent the last 10 years, partly with Accor Hospitality, between Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Continuing a series of reflections on the recent evolutions of the Asian attractions industry, here I look at the relationships between hotels and attractions and how they join forces to build destinations.
Rooms for Parks
I remember when Disneyland Paris opened my friend who had just graduated from Cornell University went to work in their revenue management department because it was considered to be the most advanced in France at the time; this was a real eye opener when she told me the kind of occupancy levels the hotels were running at and the number of visitors it was driving to the park. Let’s do the calculation together: 4, 170 rooms at 90% occupancy and 2 pax per room that’s 2.7 million visitors annually to the park!
But hotels are expensive to build – more than US$100, 000 per room – and therefore usually come in phase II of a development; often after much convincing from park operators to their shareholders telling them they could achieve much better attendance with a hotel. And that’s what we’ve been seeing in Asia recently.
In Hong Kong, both Disneyland and Ocean Park announced new hotels to build their attendance after massive expansions of their parks: tender is under way for Ocean Park’s 495-room hotel and Hong Kong government discusses third hotel for Disneyland.
Elsewhere in South East Asia, Accor opened its largest Ibis hotel (606 rooms) at TransStudio Bandung, Resorts World Sentosa completed all 6 hotels offering now over 1, 500 rooms and Legoland Malaysia is getting a hotel by 2014. Enchanted Kingdom (Philippines) has plans to add its first hotel as part of a new expansion plan and in Singapore the government is looking at adding hotels in Mandai Lake to support the new River Safari complementing Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.
Entertainment for Rooms
And it goes the other way around: hotels and resorts add entertainment to complement big room inventory and become destinations for business (meetings) and leisure. Asia is big on such integrated resorts.
Singapore got all our attention in the past two years with the opening of the two giant casino complexes by Sands and Genting. The list of entertainment is impressive. Resorts World Sentosa now counts three of Singapore’s top attractions (Universal Studios, SEA Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark) and Marina Bay Sands has been lining up a great program of shows at the Sands Theatre and exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum, making the complex a must-go for every visitor to Singapore.
But what I find more interesting is the smaller integrated resorts, the ones you would not hear about overseas but which do very well in their local markets.
Malaysia – home of Genting – has developed over the last 40 years a unique integrated resort model. It relies on a few key success factors: abundance of rides and attractions suitable for all ages with a mix of dry and wet, variety of accommodation including family apartments/bungalows, generous meeting facilities, good highway access and shuttle services to main surrounding cities, solid special events program (festivals, concerts, etc) and attractive loyalty programs (discount cards, annual passes, etc).
The king of Malaysia’s integrated resorts is Genting Highlands with more than 20 million visitors annually, 2 theme parks, 5 hotels – including one of the world’s largest – and a huge indoor FEC. This is where the Resorts World recipe was invented – the one that is now being applied around the world: Singapore, Manila, New York, Miami, Birmingham and even Vegas!
Other examples in Malaysia include Bukit Merah Laketown Resort up north with more than 550 rooms, a waterpark, eco-park and Orang Utan Island or down south in Melaka A’Famosa Resort with 790 rooms, a golf course, waterpark, safari park and Cowboy Town. Open any weekend newspaper in Malaysia and you will see advertising for overnight packages from these two favorites for local families.
So back to my friend from Cornell University; if she went back to school today maybe she should ask for a course on attractions management because increasingly hotels and attractions we go hand in hand.