Genting plans Jurong hotel and new rides at theme park

With the toss of a ribbon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left), the guest of honour at Resorts World Sentosa's grand opening, and Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay awaken a dragon to set off pyrotechnics, unveiling a giant sculpture.

SINGAPORE - AS RESORTS World Sentosa (RWS) became fully operational on Friday, the company behind it announced bold plans to further boost its booming tourist trade.

A mass-market hotel boasting up to 500 rooms is being planned for 2015 in Jurong East, while two new attractions will be opened at the resort's Universal Stu-dios Singapore theme park.

The Genting Group spoke of its ambitions to expand into the region at the grand opening of RWS on Friday.

It is predicted to cater for 17 million visitors next year, a million up on this year's figure.

Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay said RWS has been a "game-changer" in the tourism industry, but added: "It doesn't mean our job is done."

The company's yet-to-be-named hotel, still in the design phase, will be built on a $238.2 million, 97,000 sq ft site along Jurong Town Hall Road.

Tan Sri Lim said there is still more to do to increase visitor numbers.

Over the last two years, RWS and its competitor Marina Bay Sands have been credited with helping to boost tourist arrivals by 36 per cent between 2009 and last year, when 13.2 million overseas visitors came. More than 45 million visitors have been to RWS since the opening of its first phase in 2010. From its projections, the $7 billion resort should recoup its investment by 2016.

RWS chief executive Tan Hee Teck said on Friday that with its six hotels and attractions such as the theme park and the recently launched Marine Life Park, RWS is one of Asia's largest family resorts where visitors can "spend three days, fully occupied".

A new Sesame Street indoor ride will open at Universal Studios Singapore in the first quarter of next year, and another attraction is slated for 2014.

Mr Tan added that, in a new campaign, the company will market RWS as a family-friendly destination that is more than just a casino, in a bid to draw both leisure tourists and gamblers.

Mr Lim said the new hotel will cater for the resort's next stage of growth.

The resort has been bursting at the seams, with an occupancy rate of more than 90 per cent at its 1,500 hotel rooms.

Mr Lim said that with the new hotel, the resort as a whole would have something for every segment of the market.

On gaming, he said the novelty factor among Singapore residents, which had provided the initial "adrenaline rush", had worn off. In the third quarter, RWS' gaming revenue fell 20 per cent from the figure in the same period last year.

"While the domestic revenue has fallen, the overseas gaming revenue will continue to increase, although not as fast a growth as initially," he said. "But we are here for the long term. We want to make sure our revenue build-up is sustainable." He added the group is interested in making a bid to build a casino in Japan as and when the regulatory framework is set up.

On Friday night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officiated at the opening ceremony of the resort. About 1,600 guests were treated to a gala dinner with performances by soprano Sarah Brightman.

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