Two years since opening, Marina Bay Sands is delivering on all fronts, especially in the hosting of quality meetings and events. Brad Foster caught up with Las Vegas Sands Corporation senior vice president of sales and resorts marketing, John Mims, for an update.

JOHN MIMS
Las Vegas Sands Corporation senior vice president of sales and resorts marketing

Q: You’ve been open two years now. How has the venue been received in terms of the MICE sector?

A: It’s been received very well. The property this year to date has been running at 100 per cent occupancy; our meeting facility has not only won a number of awards but we have been able to continually announce new large conferences and conventions being held here that are either in Singapore for the first time or back in Singapore after a long absence. SIBOS, for example, is with us in 2015. That’s the first time they’ve been back in Singapore for six or seven years. I think our great people and our great facilities, which are combining to attract conferences of this calibre, speaks for a very successful welcome for us into the Singapore landscape.

Q: And the SkyPark is popular for the group sector?

A: So popular that the biggest challenge for us with our SkyPark is managing all the groups who want to utilise its facilities. The SkyPark was built with our hotel guests in mind, our meetings guests in mind, and also for the general public. We open it up so people can come and see Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia all from our rooftop. We’ve had some great events that have used our cantilevered area at the far end for special events, and then we have spill over into our gardens and park area where we do special events and receptions for our corporate guests. We also integrate the outdoors with our dining options – KU DE TA and Sky on 57. It’s a great mixed use venue that we’ve had some great take-up on.

Q: Talking to other hoteliers in Singapore there appears to be an “us and them” mentality – “us” being the standard hotel offerings and “them” being Marina Bay Sands. It seems that everybody is talking about Marina Bay Sands.

A: I think of it a little differently. Because of all the things we’ve brought to Singapore – the entertainment, the SkyPark, the Art & Science Museum – we’ve actually created venues that support Singapore. That’s made Singapore an even more attractive destination and that increases the value of Singapore, which is good for all the hotels. I don’t really think of it as us and them. I actually think that our structure as an integrated resort – like our competitors in Sentosa – is that we continue to create this environment that you want to come to Singapore and you want to have your meetings in Singapore because there’s so much to do when you’re here. I think we’ve actually helped the occupancy and the rate across the board in Singapore. I think we’re supporting each other.
And quite frankly, some of the events are so big that we can’t house everybody so we need the support and the help of other venues, and that’s positive for all of us. I think it’s been net positive for all of us.

Q: Is the association sector using this facility as well?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Because I have heard in the past that some associations may say they can’t or won’t hold their meetings in a venue that has a casino.

A: Is there a casino here? [laughter] What’s neat about the facility is that the casino only takes up about three per cent of the total square footage of the property. You do get that objection by certain industries, but what happens when you’re here is that I can take you and show you our rooms, I can take you to see our meeting facilities, the SkyPark, wherever, and you’ll never even go in the casino or really even see it. It’s not like a typical casino property where you have to walk through the casino to go to the lobby or wherever. Marina Bay was built in such a unique way that you can go around the property without going in the casino. Once you do the walkthrough and you see the vast landscape that we’ve created here, and all the attractions that we have here, and you don’t see the casino, your perception changes. Let me tell you it is a spectacular casino, but there’s so much more that it is a venue of choice for our MICE clients.

Q: Do you get involved in environmental initiatives or CSR initiatives?

A: Absolutely. We were just awarded a major green award in Singapore – the Green Mark Gold Award – from the Building and Construction Authority Singapore.
I think that’s a great accolade for us when you consider that you can build something as large as we have and still be considered a green building.
In addition to that, we’re also launching some green initiatives specific to the meetings industry [in October]. Our platform for meetings is Sands Meetings which ties all of our properties globally together. Part of that is an eco-Sands Meetings so we can go to our customers and offer them specific things that are tailored to their needs – what they need in their meetings – but are eco-friendly. As an example, rather than offering them bottled water we will provide filtered water in a pitcher, we’ll offer recycled paper, and we’ll provide lighting that doesn’t use as much electricity. The environment is important to us.

Q: The importance of food at meetings and events has grown considerably. Is that why you have invested heavily in having people who are on the cutting edge in this area
of your business?

A: That’s exactly right. We’re now being known as this venue that has these great restaurants and these great celebrity chefs. Not only do the chefs like working here and having an outlet here, customers love coming because we have some of the best celebrity chefs in the world. Sky 57’s executive chef is Justin Quek’s celebrity restaurant – the only one he has now; and he’s had restaurants in Shanghai and Taiwan. He’s here almost as often as I am. He creates these awesome dishes that people come and really want to experience.
We have Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney. The only other restaurant that he has opened [outside Sydney] is here. This integrated resort that we’ve built here is attracting great chefs, is attracting the meeting planners who want to have the experience [of good food] in a dine-around. You can’t do that at a normal hotel or a single property. Here you can do a dine-around every day of the week with a different celebrity chef. We have almost 60 restaurants here including our celebrity chef restaurants.
Not a lot of people know that our chairman, Sheldon Adelson, started in the meetings industry. He was a tradeshow organiser. So all of our properties are built with Mr Adelson’s input because he really gets it [the meetings market]. He understands what the facilities should look like, how they should be integrated into the entertainment and the rooms and everything else.

Q: Like Singapore, Macau is really moving ahead. I know that your responsibilities extend there. How is this market shaping up?

A: Macau is unbelievable. Macau has continued to recreate itself. In addition to The Venetian and the great meeting space there, we also have The Sands [Macao] and the Four Seasons, we now have a Conrad, a Holiday Inn, and a Sheraton [which opened on September 20]. We have these brand new hotels, part of what we call the Sands Cotai Macau; we have this great meeting space, great restaurants, great integrated resorts. We have almost 10,000 rooms there. We have six properties, all integrated. Great for meeting planners.
We’re running about 90 per cent occupancy in Macau. As I said, these properties that Mr Adelson builds all have the meeting planners in mind.
What’s really special about Marina Bay, the Venetian Macao and our Las Vegas property where we started is that every one of our properties is Mr Adelson’s vision. He really gets it. Our venues are really a home away from home for meeting planners.