October 27, 2008
Resorts World at Sentosa
When attendees gathered at last week’s ITB Asia in Singapore, there was a pair of integrated resort projects that came up in conversation time and again— one was Marina Bay Sands and the other was Resorts World at Sentosa. Singapore’s Sentosa Island is only minutes away from the city and is seamlessly accessed via a causeway. The new Resorts World Sentosa project will cover 49 hectares of the 500 hectare CONVERT Sentosa Island. When it opens in early 2010, Resorts World at Sentosa will dominate Singapore’s leisure offerings, and will be especially appealing for families, offering a combination of theme parks, hotels, casino gaming, a spa and an assortment of shops and dining venues.
An artist's rendering of Resorts World at Sentosa
“Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa are both integrated resorts,” said Robin Goh, assistant vice president of communications, Resorts World at Sentosa. “The difference between them is Marina Bay Sands is a MICE hotel while Resorts World at Sentosa is a family destination and attraction that is without parallel in this part of the world.”
Half of Resorts World at Sentosa will be taken up by Universal Studios Singapore, which will have 24 rides and attractions, with 18 of these being either brand new or newly designed for Singapore. The big news is the Transformers attraction, which is debuting at Universals Studio Singapore.
The resort will also have Marine Life Park, the largest oceanarium in the world, according to Goh. The park will have 700,000 marine creatures and 20 million gallons of water. There will also be a “wet experience” feature which allows guest to have an up-close experience feeding tiger sharks.
“We’re a casino resort with family attractions,” said Goh. “Our goal is 15 million visitors in the first year— 8 to 9 million of these will be tourists.”
The resort will have six hotels with a combined room count of 1,800 rooms and suites.
The two major hotels are Hotel Michael, which is designed by celebrated architect Michael Graves, and Maxims Residences, where the resort’s casino will be located. Both hotels will be very high-end. Rounding out the hotel offerings are the Equarius Hotel, a good recommendation for nature lovers, the Festive Hotel, a good match for families, and ESPA Villas, where the resort’s spa will be located.
An artist's rendering of Hotel Michael and Maxim's Residences at Resort World at Sentosa
“Resorts World at Sentosa is not a phased opening, although the spa villas and Equarius will probably open for business three months after the official opening,” said Goh.
The casino will be one of two legalized casinos in Singapore. A government bill was passed that requires Singapore citizens to pay $100 to enter the casinos, a bid to discourage problem gambling among locals. “It may sound Draconian, but it’s a safeguard,” said Goh.
Additional attractions at the resort include the interactive maritime Xperiential Museum, which chronicles the history of the maritime Silk Route; ESPA, a destination spa and wellness retreat that will be the first ESPA destination spa on its own and not part of a hotel; the Festive Walk, a promenade lined with shops and restaurants; and La Vie— the Magic of Life, a theatrical production created by Mark Fisher (stage designer of the Las Vegas production "Ka") that can only be seen at Resorts World at Sentosa and the Equarius Water Park.
The resort can host 35,000 delegates for meetings at any one time, and 7,300 can be seated in the largest ballroom. Since 20 percent of business travelers bring their families with them to Singapore, the new resort should have tremendous appeal.
October 23, 2008
Marina Bay Sands on Track to Open in 2009
An aerial shot of the future site of the Marina Bay Sands resort
Marina Bay Sands is a huge waterfront project that is getting big buzz at ITB Asia, with many predicting it will have a transformative effect on Singapore’s tourism profile. Marina Bay Sands comprises meeting space, hotels, shops, restaurants, casino, as well as architectural flourishes that will likely become iconic emblems of Singapore’s skyline. I was especially impressed by the 2.47-acres rooftop Sky Park— complete with restaurants and a swimming pool— that will lay atop the project's three hotel towers. The Sky Park will have both a public area and an area limited to hotel and restaurant guests.
“The towers will top out next year and we’ll open by the end of 2009,” says George Tanasijevich, vice president of Singapore development and general manager of Marina Bay Sands Singapore
Marina Bay Sands is poised to capture a big chunk of the groups and conventions market and its Expo & Convention Centre will total more than 1,291,699 square feet with approximately 2,000 exhibition booths and 200 meeting rooms.
“We’re trying to bring something new to this market in the sense of an integrated resort,” says Tanasijevich. “We wanted to build in Singapore because it’s clean and orderly and runs well. It’s all of that, but it’s an exciting destination as well.”
Tanasijevich claims that the development will have the largest ballroom in Asia, with banquet seating capacity for at least 6,600 persons. There will also be an outdoor Event Plaza along the project’s promenade that can accommodate up to 10,000.
It’s a huge project and, at one time during the construction, Marina Bay Sands was using 50 percent of the cranes in Singapore. “It’s a single development phase of production— we won’t stop until we’re finished,” says Tanasijevich.
A scale model of the Marina Bay Sands resort
The project will have three hotels with over 2,600 rooms and suites “Because of the curvature of the towers, you don’t get a cookie cutter situation,” says Tanasijevich. “There will be a contemporary feel to the rooms, with sea views and views from balconies."
Marina Bay Sands will also have an ArtScience Museum with a lotus-inspired design. It’s a truly unique architectural achievement and will make a great addition to Singapore’s efforts to bring a more playful aspect to the city, which in the past seemed over-controlling. It’s an effort that is summed up by a statement I saw on a flyer, “…as Singaporeans progress from a better life to a better lifestyle.”
“Marina Bay Sands will be pitched to the higher end of the market, with high end retail and posh rooms,” says Tanasijevich. “We’ll be focusing in the North American market, plus Australia, the Middle East, Thailand and other important markets in Asia.”
October 23, 2008
ITB Asia: Tourism Malaysia to Concentrate on Niche Marketing
Senior Editor Mark Rogers is reporting from ITB Asia in Singapore. After giving his first impressions of The St. Regis Singapore, he reports on the latest tourism highlights to come from Malaysia representatives.
Chong Yoke Har addresses the crowd at ITB Asia
During first ever ITB Asia in Singapore, Tourism Malaysia laid out its marketing plans for the upcoming year.
“We’ll be focusing on niche products, including MICE, medical tourism and eco-tourism and homestay,” says Chong Yoke Har, director for international marketing division for Southeast Asia, North Asia & East Asia for Tourism Malaysia. “By selling these niche products, we’re building on our strengths.”
Look for Malaysia to also highlight the cities of Malacca and Penang— both received UNESCO World Heritage status this year. Malaysia will also turn the heat up under its dual destination packages, especially those pairing the destination with Singapore. “We’re working with other airlines besides Malaysia Airlines, such as Singapore Airlines,” says Chong Yoke Har. “This provides us with even greater air access for our visitors.”
Chong Yoke Har notes that 2008 has been a challenging year. The country saw solid growth of 4.4 percent up until September and then it hit the skids, with September showing a dip of minus 0.1 percent. While growth from the U.S. was an impressive 17.8 percent, the U.S. is not even in the top 10 of generating markets for Malaysia. In response to my question about how Malaysia intends to market itself to the U.S., Chong Yoke Har replied that they will concentrate on Internet marketing.
Malaysia is focusing its marketing in Europe on the Sabah and Sarawak regions of the country, and I expect we’ll see these areas also promoted in the U.S., since in my opinion these areas have the greatest ability to attract long haul travelers from the U.S. in search of cultural and ecotourism experiences.
October 21, 2008
First Impressions of The St. Regis Singapore
Senior Editor Mark Rogers is reporting from ITB Asia in Singapore, and gives his first impressions of The St. Regis Singapore.
I arrived a day early in Singapore to attend ITB Asia, which is billed as the largest trade show in Asia. The time would be well spent, since I was invited to tour the relatively new The St. Regis Singapore. The hotel had a soft opening in late December of last year and officially opened on April 20. Open a scant six months; it's receiving the kinds of awards it usually takes years for a hotel to acquire.
Although The St. Regis Singapore doesn't officially have an Orchard Road address— the hotel is situated on Tanglin Road, which turns into Orchard Road— it has a superb location in the heart of Singapore, with rooms overlooking Singapore's Botanical Gardens.
Wilson Associates created the St. Regis Singapore's interior design. In a world where hotels seem to be trying to outdo themselves in embracing a Zen-like spareness in their interiors (especially their rooms) The St. Regis Singapore takes a different approach— one that utilizes color, opulence, museum-quality art and attention to detail to create an upscale homey feeling. When I say museum quality, I'm talking about renowned artists such as Marc Chagall, Fernando Botero and Frank Gehry— in fact, the Presidential Suite even has a bright and splashy Sam Francis painting hanging in the bathroom.
The hotel has three restaurants, LaBrezza, a terrace restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine; Yan Ting Chinese, the hotel's fine dining restaurant, serving Cantonese cuisine, and Brasserie les Saveurs, a light and airy French restaurant looking out over the pool.
I had a great lunch at Brasserie les Saveurs with Wong Wye Leng, the hotel's director of marketing. Over seared scallops and spicy tomato soup, she told me that tables can be reserved in advance at Brasserie les Saveurs. If your clients would like unobstructed views of the pool, fountains and sculpture (including a really charming sculpture by Li Chen of a baby Buddha cavorting on his back) suggest they reserve tables one through 14. If they'd like an intimate table, reserve one of the alcove tables, 88 or 89.
"The brand wasn't well-known in this part of the world, so it was a real challenge to raise brand awareness," says Wye Leng.
The hotel has 299 rooms. Keep in mind that if you're requesting rooms with poolside views, rooms on the lower floors have the best view. The opposite is true for rooms facing the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Tang Lin Road side, where the best views are achieved the higher you go. I was impressed by the Executive Deluxe Rooms, which are essentially the standard rooms at the hotel. There was lots of color in the décor, Jim Thompson silks were utilized throughout, and the bathroom had an abundance of marble.
I was also invited to experience the hotel's Remede Spa, the first in the Asia-Pacific region. This was really appreciated after spending 20 hours flying into Singapore from L.A. The spa manager is Femme Findlay; advance reservations can be made by contacting her at (firstname.lastname@example.org, 65 6506 6788).
Femme told me that all the spa's treatments could be customized. She'd booked one of the spa's signature treatments for me, the Warm Stone Jade Massage. I'd experienced hot stone massages before in Latin America but this was definitely a notch above. The jade stones were ultra smooth and, instead of utilizing only hot stones, the session ended with a series of cold stones applied to various energy centers of the body.
An outstanding massage therapist can ascend to being a healer; my jade stone therapist Mon is in that category. I can definitely recommend her to your clients— I was assured that Mon's first name was sufficient to make a booking. Also, advise your clients to come at least an hour early so they can enjoy a variety of features that complement each other: the Finnish Sauna, Ice Fountain and Eucalyptus Scented Steam Chambers. First you start with the dry heat, and then move to the bracing ice fountain, where you're actually rubbing crushed ice over your body. You finish in the steam chamber. It's a great prelude to a massage treatment.
A detail worth noting: the hotel has the only ballroom with skylights in Singapore, banishing that dreaded claustrophobic feeling that can afflict huge functions (the ballroom seats 450.
The General Manager is Yngvar Stray (65 6506 6888).
Travel agents can reach out Ashley Hanson, the hotel's director of sales & marketing. She can be reached at email@example.com, 65 6506 6718.
October 21, 2008
New York Theatre Blog: "Not to Be"
If your clients love old movies, they might be intrigued in Nick Whitby’s stage adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 classic satire "To Be or Not To Be" currently running at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. That Jack Benny/Carole Lombard gem (written by Melchior Lengyel, Edwin Justus Mayer and Lubitsch himself) is a brilliant example of wringing laughter from drama, and fans of the golden age of the silver screen would understandably want to see this memorable classic about the stage on the stage.
But please, steer them clear, for their own sake. While the movie is hilarious, the stage adaptation is merely a pale imitation of its source material.
Most of the blame needs to fall of Whitby’s shoulders, and on director Casey Nicholaw. The script meanders and stumbles through the clever storyline (a group of actors in occupied Warsaw outwit Nazis with their theatrical talents; hilarity ensues. No, really!), needlessly adding subplots and shtick that bring both the comedy and the drama to a screeching halt. Nicholaw, who directed the hilarious "The Drowsy Chaperone" a few seasons back, hasn’t infused this sophomore effort with nearly as much energy and wit as his previous work featured. There are some laughs in the comedy, but nothing lingers. By the time your clients have returned home, they will probably have forgotten much about the show. It’s hardly worth their time, or a $96.50 price tag per seat.
The cast is largely fine, if not particularly memorable (there is an old adage about making silk purses from sows’ ears). Tony-nominee Jan Maxwell, as ever, is a standout, making the role of Maria Tura her own if not erasing the memory of Lombard. David Rasche is appropriately hammy as her egocentric husband, but denied much of the opportunities that can make the role so rich, he becomes little more than a buffoon. Anna Louizos’ scenic design and Gregg Barnes’ costume designs are pretty, and nicely conjure the time and place, but are nothing particularly memorable.
What makes this even more depressing is how brilliant the show could have been. The original film, and its 1983 Mel Brooks remake, is a Valentine’s candygram to the stage, and to the ingenuity of theatrical people. This production seems to have eaten all of the chocolates and left us with an empty box.
Photo by Joan Marcus
By: Jena Tesse Fox
October 20, 2008
La Amada, Evidence That Playa Mujeres Should Be On Agents’ Radar
Playa Mujeres, a resort destination located about 25 minutes away from the Cancun International Airport, has been on the rise and it doesn’t look like that momentum is slowing down anytime soon. The destination is expected to get perhaps its most expansive development early next year.
La Amada, a three-phase project that will include a hotel, residences, a golf course and marina, will be completed by February, a source close to the project told us during the Cancun Travel Mart Mexico Summit 2008. All 109 hotel rooms will be suites designed for the high-end client. So, be sure to keep this property in mind for your luxury clients looking to travel to Mexico next year.
October 20, 2008
A Tour of Fiesta Americana, Coral Beach Cancun
During our coverage of Cancun Travel Mart Mexico Summit 2008, we set aside some time to take a first-hand look of an excellent property for you to sell to clients, Fiesta Americana, Coral Beach Cancun. This is a great option for families and business travelers since it offers a lot of meeting space and, more importantly, very large rooms.
In fact, even the property’s standard rooms, the Junior Suites, were about the size of an apartment. The Junior Suite we saw was room #1058. We can really put this up there with one of the best standard rooms we’ve ever seen in Mexico. There are 478 of these and they can come with either two beds or a king-size bed. The room we saw had two beds and offered an incredible view of the swimming pool and the ocean from the balcony since it was so high up. With that said, book this room or make sure the room you book is located on a top floor.
The Master Suites are also worth pitching. They offered much more space as well as a plasma television that can be turned around to face the living room and the bedroom, which are not separated by a wall. We saw Master Suite room #1054 and while the balcony was just as impressive as the Junior Suites, the most impressive feature is, surprisingly, the bathroom.
From a glance, the bathroom was almost the size of the living room and it comes with a Jacuzzi. Agents should note that the property will be undergoing a major renovation project due for completion by November. Since nearly 100 suites will be renovated, the property will only offer 510 of its 602 total rooms beginning in January. Agents should contact Renata Moreira, sales manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 20, 2008
Paris Blog: Insider Secrets
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com. Here, we present the first in a series of his blogs, live from Paris.
Ever since Richard Avedon came to Paris in the 1940s to shoot fashion photos for Harpers Bazaar on the streets and in front of its magnificent monuments, the city has become the inspiration for great fashion photographers to create their most memorable images.
This fall, Paris is celebrating two prolific fashion photographers who have very contrasting styles with two terrific shows.
Paris-born Patrick Demarchelier has been a top fashion and celebrity photographer for over three decades, snapping everyone from Oprah to Gisele Bundchen. Even with over 400 photographs, his show, called "Images and Fashion," at the majestic Beaux–Arts Petit Palais only represents a small fraction of his enormous output. Madonna in a black cap with a cigarette hanging out her mouth, Tom Cruise with long stringy hair, and Scarlett Johansson with her sweeping blond mane are just some of the instantly recognizable iconic images. The wonderful series of Princess Diana and a candid photo of a relaxed Paul Newman sitting in his barn bring a tear to the eye in remembrance of two our most beloved stars. You will also recognize Demarchelier’s work that has graced all the best fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle and Glamour with revealing shots of the first wave of super models Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington.
In a much more personal vein, the David Seidner show at the Pierre Bergé–Yves St. Laurent Foundation, a former private 19th-century mansion, shows the more serious and artier work of the photographer, rather than the glamorous fashion photos he was best known for. When Yves St. Laurent hired him to shoot his collection in the early '80s, he was the youngest photographer to ever photograph one of his campaigns and successfully created gorgeous ads for Bill Blass, Ungaro, Christian Dior, John Galliano, and Lanvin.
A series of haunting black and white, full-faced portraits of artists Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns, Joan Mitchell, Brice Marden and Jenny Holzer in a black room and a contrasting white wall with still life portraits of orchids bursting with pure color are the highlights of this provocative and meticulously crafted exhibit. David Seidner unfortunately died at the peak of his career eight years ago, and the show is the first major retrospective of this brilliantly talented photographer.
These are two must-see shows in the fashion capital of the world.
What: Patrick Demarchelier's "Images and Fashion"
Where: Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008
When: Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except Monday, through January 4, 2009
Metro: Champs-Elysees Clemenceau
Telphone: 01 53 43 40 00
What: David Seidner's work
Where: Foundation Pierre Berge- Yves St. Laurent, 5 Ave. Marceau, 16th arr.
When: Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except Sunday, through February 1, 2009
Metro: Alma Marceau?
Telephone: 01 44 31 64 31
By: Richard Nahem
October 16, 2008
Cancun Travel Mart Mexico Summit 2008 Wraps Up
CANCUN, MEXICO– Travel Agent has concluded its coverage of the Cancún Travel Mart Mexico Summit 2008 with news and notes from the suppliers and buyers who attended this year’s successful event (check our blogs section for more). According to the final numbers presented by the Cancun Hotel Association on Thursday, the event attracted 102 supplier companies and 273 supplier delegates as well as 124 buyer companies and 225 buyer delegates.
October 16, 2008
Campeche Eyes Fairmont, Westin
Earlier in the year, we told you about the unknown Mexico destination of Merida and now we’re giving you heads up on a destination about two hours away, Campeche. The destination, like Merida, offers access to many of Mexico’s greatest archaeological sites, eco-travel opportunities and beautiful beaches. The one attribute it has lacked, however, was major resort developments— until now. The first part of the three-phase Campeche Playa Golf, Marina, Spa & Resort is expected to be completed within the first three months of 2009. That phase will include the completion of a 500-room hotel.
More importantly, the project has created a buzz from some big-name hotel players such as Fairmont and Westin,
according to a source close to Campeche tourism. Our source told us the
destination is in discussions with both companies but talks are still
in the preliminary phase. We’ll bring you the confirmed news as soon as
we get it. The destination's official website, www.campeche.travel, is in Spanish but agents can also check out www.campeche.ca for information in English.