English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Long Haul Rewards

Glyn Thomas talks to Matt Hurst, Executive Vice President – Casino Operations and Marketing at Tiger Resorts

Once the centrepiece of a feud between casino owners, challenged by ownership percentages but now back on track and due to open in a year’s time, Manila Bay Resorts looks as if it will finally take its place amongst the top resorts in Asia.

Matt, that period of disruption must have taken its toll on the project but is it all now behind you?

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Our team has become even more galvanized from having pulled through some of the challenges in the past and we are now pressing forward full of confidence in the iconic property that we are soon to operate. We are looking forward to and focusing on the many opportunities in front of us, not looking behind.

Can you say with confidence that the project is on track for a December 2016 opening?

A project of this scale and scope represents a massive challenge, but yes, we are confident we will deliver by December 2016.

During the period of delay in construction was there opportunity to take review the project and consider design and hospitality issues more closely?

We are constantly reviewing our offering in light of new things we learn and from feedback from our future business partners. It was partially due to this that we requested an extension to our license as we wanted to incorporate several design changes we felt enhanced the property in many ways.

The addition of Antonio Cojuangco as a major equity partner has resolved ownership issues but does he bring more to the table?

Our partnership with All Seasons Hotels and Resorts, whose chairman is Antonio Cojuangco, gives us a fantastic partnership here in Manila. Mr. Cojuangco has been involved in the hospitality industry here for some time, is a well-respected member of the business community and a major supporter of the arts.

Whilst competition is always fierce between casino operators in a resort do you feel that your development will be welcomed by the other major existing projects on the island as “adding weight” to the destination as a whole?

I think the other operators are all smart people. I think they realize that while we compete vigorously, we have more to gain through cooperating to co-brand and co-market Entertainment City Manila in order to foster and develop tourism for the Philippines and to develop international visitation which is the key to success for all of us. We look forward to working with them to achieve this.

In the topping out ceremony in July of this year you unveiled plans for the non-gaming phase of the development that will follow. Can you say more about this?

Phase 2 of our project is slated to add another 1,000 upscale hotel rooms, with slightly more modest sizes than the grand rooms (starting at 60m2 and 80m2 for each tower respectively) we will have at Phase 1. We will add additional Food & Beverage offerings, car parking, but most importantly we will massively expand our retail offering from approximately 7,500m2 to 75,000m2. This will add a new dimension to the property and is very exciting for us, as Manila has very strong retail business and it also makes us a lot more attractive for international visitors looking for an all-round experience.

Finally, whilst it looks as though the odds were stacked against you for a while, in reality the downturn in the Macau market may well play into your hands on a long term basis. Is that as big a factor as some are commenting or do you believe the project stands up regardless of other trends in the region?

There is plenty of scope for growth in Asia for integrated resorts, and the downturn in Macau has had little effect on our planning or our confidence. I think the re-set in Macau is a good thing long term, as there is a shift towards a long-term sustainable business model focusing on mass and premium mass. More properties are now making a genuine effort to develop non-gaming attractions, and that will spread throughout Asia. We have always had a very strong portfolio in that area so we are well set, however my meaning is that as other operators also begin to bring those amenities on line it helps grow the market overall which is good for everyone.