‘Bright future ahead for IRs’: new Sentosa Leisure Group chief is upbeat about tourism growth

ECONOMIC growth forecasts may be trimmed, and hiring may falter, but a slowing economy may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Singapore’s integrated resorts (IRs).

So says Mr Mike Barclay, the new chief executive of Sentosa Leisure Group, which manages the 500-hectare (1,235-acre) island on Singapore’s southern tip where the Resorts World at Sentosa integrated resort is being built.

“With a slower economy, you could see a little bit of relief in some of the drivers, including increasing constructions costs”, Mr Barclay told Today on the sidelines of a Forbes Global CEO Conference ­briefing yesterday.

A combination of rising costs and supply shortages has reportedly caused the budget of some building projects across Singapore to soar by as much as 30 to 50 per cent.

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s other IR being built near the central business district, was recently reported to have blamed soaring prices of building materials for costs increasing from an estimated US$3.6 billion($5.12 billion) to US$4.5 billion.

Similarly, last November, Resorts World bumped up its budget to $6 billion from $5.2 billion.

Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World are slated to be open by the end of 2009 and 2010 respectively.

When asked about the progress of construction for the Sentosa IR, Mr Barclay said that Genting, the company behind the 49-hectare project, is “pushing very hard” to meet the deadline.

“They see the great long-term goal of getting the ­integrated resort up and running. Resorts World has a lot to offer businesses to Singapore and I think they share in this vision which.. (wouldn’t) be affected by the short term turbulence in the economic situation”, he added.

Mr Barclay, who is less than a month into his Sentosa role, also expressed optimism in Singapore’s tourism industry despite the recent hiccups in tourist arrivals to the Republic.

“The whole tourism industry is really looking at medium to long term goals, so whatever the short term turbulence this and next year, there’s a very bright future for the industry. We are coming out with some really great attractions in the coming years,” he said.

Future attractions at ­Resorts World include a ­Universal Studios theme park and a marine-life park.

Mr Barclay predicts visitor arrivals to Sentosa Island will reach 15 million a year by 2015, a target set in February this year.

Sentosa island currently enjoys annual visitor arrivals of about 6 million.

Source : Today – 9 Sep 2008

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