By Gerardine Donough-Tan

When Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) announced on 15 July a “one-off workforce rationalisation”, it signalled the business predicament of big and small enterprises alike in the tourism industry as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

But in biting the bullet, the integrated resort is steeling itself for the tougher road ahead. RWS said it is embarking on “a transformation journey to build resilience and to be future-ready for the recovery of Singapore’s tourism economy”.

What are RWS’ current MICE challenges and ambitious plans?

MICE events have not resumed at RWS even as Singapore began easing strict coronavirus ‘circuit breaker’ measures. Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A. Aquarium and the casino have reopened for business, albeit only to Singapore residents, and all must comply with stringent safe-management measures.

No themed events can be hosted at the attractions, which are limited to 25 per cent of operating capacity. Large-scale events are still not allowed – and no resumption date is imminent. So, no meetings in the convention centre and Equarius Hotel either. Indeed, even dining is constrained; F&B outlets across Singapore can only seat up to five people per group.

“RWS continues to be guided by Singapore government advisories,” explained a company spokesperson.

But rather than echo the doom and gloom refrain, RWS is bravely looking at future prospects through its ambitious S$4.5 billion (A$4.63 billion) ‘RWS 2.0’ expansion. Announced in April 2019 and to be delivered in phases with targeted completion around 2025, there is no indication if it will proceed as planned, or some projects delayed or even canned. For now, the goal remains.

“RWS is fully committed to Singapore for the long term, and continues to pursue our future expansion and growth through the RWS 2.0 transformative journey. RWS 2.0 will strengthen our competitive advantage and revolutionise the visitor experience with next-generation tourism products,” said the spokesperson.

So, if all the grand plans materialise, what can MICE organisers and planners expect?

Universal Studios Singapore will unveil two new and highly popular entertainment concepts, Minion Park and Super Nintendo World. The S.E.A. Aquarium will triple in size and become Singapore Oceanarium. A new Waterfront Lifestyle Complex will have two hotels – luxury and upscale – and multi-functional event zone. Add an immersive Adventure Dining Playhouse, and – IF it all come to pass as planned – RWS 2.0 will not only increase MICE capacity but also further complement RWS’ proposition of blending business and leisure in one location.

Back in 2019, RWS CEO Tan Hee Teck said: “This major re-investment and expansion underlines our belief in the business model and the future opportunities that lie ahead when we complete the development.”

In updating micenet, RWS said it will “continue to deliver a multitude of exciting destination experiences from world-class attractions, uniquely-themed hotels, celebrity chef dining to MICE facilities and casino all in one location”.

We wish them luck, and hope to enjoy the enhanced product in the years ahead.