Marina Bay




 Singapore’s red-hot economy may be cooling a bit, but the Ministry of Trade and Industry said the city-state remains on track to achieve forecasted growth of 13 to 15 percent for the year.

The economy expanded by a still robust 10.3 percent in the third quarter over the same period in 2009, down from the second quarter’s 27.3 percent rate, while on a seasonally adjusted quarter-by-quarter annualized basis the economy actually contracted by 19.8 percent.

“The decline in growth momentum was an expected correction from the exceptional growth in the first half of the year,” the ministry said.

Asian nations from Thailand to Japan have taken steps recently to tamp down appreciation in their currencies, which is threatening exports at a time when global growth is slowing. Reuters recently quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying growth in the city-state may “moderate” in the coming months after a record first-half expansion, citing risks from Europe and the United States.

“Singapore is typically a bellwether for the region’s export outlook, and it is the first to show cracks as global growth slows,” economist Alvin Liew of Standard Chartered said.

Threats to Asian growth include “the fading impact of stimulus packages, stubbornly high unemployment rates and austerity measures that are likely to crimp consumption in the West,” he said.

Growth in visitor arrivals to the city-state dipped in August to 18 percent from July’s record 24.1 percent. But the month’s total of 996,000 visitors was the highest ever for August and the ninth consecutive month when visitor arrivals hit a monthly record, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.

Not counting overland crossings from Malaysia, Indonesia contributed the largest number of visitors in August with 165,000. China was the fastest-growing feeder market, jumping 51 percent to 131,000.

The average occupancy rate at Singapore hotels rose to 85 percent for the month, a gain of 7.6 percentage points compared with a year ago. The average daily room rate increased by 24.7 percent.



HOTEL MARKETS REBOUND ACROSS EAST ASIA


A strong rebound in Asia’s hotel industry bodes well for the region’s gambling destinations.

As visitors to the recent Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific in Hong Kong heard, RevPAR across East Asia is climbing back toward its 2008 peak of US$95 after falling to $73 last year. RevPAR through August was up more than 23 percent year-over-year to $86, according to data from STR Global.

 “The good thing is we’re starting to see actual rate growth in addition to demand growth,” said Jonas Ögren, a Singapore-based area director for STR. “Almost every market is up in occupancy. About three months ago, we began to see rates go into positive territory. Hong Kong was the first one. They were able to bring up rates very quickly.”

Through August, Tokyo led the region in average daily rate at US$268. Shanghai was lowest at $128. Tokyo also led in RevPAR at $199.

More than 63,600 rooms opened in the region in 312 hotels during the past 12 months, Ögren said, bringing current supply to more than 2.4 million rooms at 17,600 hotels. More than 60 percent of the rooms are “unaffiliated,” meaning they are not part of any big brand. The current development pipeline calls for 255,208 more rooms at 1,037 hotels, 40 percent of which are not affiliated. STR projects 95,300 rooms coming on line next year and 88,900 in 2012.



IPO DRAWS NEAR FOR MGM CHINA



MGM China Holdings, the Macau partnership between MGM Resorts International and Pansy Ho, has moved a step closer to going public, filing a preliminary application for an IPO in Hong Kong.

No decision had been made about the timing of a stock sale or how much to raise, according to an MGM filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. However, Jefferies & Co. analyst David Katz said in an investors note cited by Bloomberg that a public sale of 25 percent of the partnership’s Macau assets is expected to raise as much as US$300 million for MGM’s 50 percent share.

MGM Resorts CEO James Murren has said the company plans to build “multiple properties” in Macau’s booming casino market, of which the joint venture has the smallest share of the six casino license holders. The casino operating company controlled by Pansy Ho’s father, billionaire Stanley Ho, has the lion’s share of the market.

Murren has said he is “confident” the share sale would be done in the third quarter.

“We designed this joint venture to go public,” he told Bloomberg. “It’s happening at a time when the Macau market is obviously large and growing. We like how we’re positioned there.”



MOODY'S POSITIVE ON CASINO SECTOR


Moody’s Investors Service has given the thumbs up to Malaysia’s sole legal casino, in part for holding up well against the new mega-casinos in neighboring Singapore.

In a report released last month, the bond rating agency said the country’s monopoly casino, Resorts World’s Casino de Genting north of Kuala Lumpur, has been unaffected by the Singapore competition, while all signs point to the market maintaining its stability and resilience.

Resorts World also operates one of the Singapore casinos.

Moody’s has issued a stable outlook for the Asia-Pacific casino sector as a whole as robust levels of regional travel and consumer spending continue to support steady growth in gaming revenues. Over the medium-term, the agency expects the Asia-Pacific markets will add more capacity as more operators seek opportunities in light of the industry’s strong performance.

“The liberalization and development of gaming markets elsewhere in Asia are also a possibility, but these are more medium- to long-term challenges with no impact in the foreseeable future,” the agency said.

“Looking ahead, we expect Macau’s gaming revenue to extend its growth in the next 12-18 months, supported by China’s still-booming economy,” said Moody’s Assistant Vice President and analyst Kaven Tsang.



WITH EYE ON INDIA, SANDS TOUTS MACAU AS FAMILY-FRIENDLY


Sands China is turning its gaze increasingly to the Indian subcontinent, opening sales offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru on the heels of a recent three-city road show through Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

“India is the fourth-largest source market in the region with a variety of interest in not only gaming but also in retail, culture, entertainment, dining, MICE and even wedding activities,” said Ruth Boston, The Venetian Macao’s vice president of destination marketing.

Sands China also has begun marketing its properties for weddings and has made arrangements to suit Indian weddings, Boston told Travelbizmonitor. The Venetian is keen on promoting itself as an “overall family experience” among Indian travel agents and trade partners, she said.

India is one of the fastest-growing outbound travel markets in the world.  According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association, outbound tourism is expected to hit 20.5 million by 2015.

More than 180,000 Indians visit Macau each year, a number that is steadily increasing, Boston said.