When tourism recovers in Asia, the integrated resort sector will become a hotbed for foreign investors and owner operators looking to capitalise on the market, says Matthew Pryor, managing director at Tenman Project Management, a leading project and programme manager for hospitality, integrated resorts and gaming projects in Asia
Travel restrictions. Vaccine shortages. Reimposed lockdowns.
It’s been a rocky road for tourism in South-east Asia the last 18 months. We’ve seen new waves of coronavirus hampering both domestic and international travel. Many of the larger Asian countries have fallen behind their counterparts in Europe and the US when it comes to vaccine rollouts, and the Delta variant is causing a serious rise in infections rates across much of South-east Asia.
Looking beyond the pandemic and making bold statements about the future is tricky. However, there is confidence in the market that tourism will make a comeback in 2022. And when it does, one sector is particularly rife for growth: integrated resorts.
A favoured destination
We know that there is a substantial amount of money sitting with private equity funds and owner operators ready to be invested in the South-east Asian hospitality sector, and a pent-up consumer demand for travel to resume. Set against this backdrop is a growing number of Chinese tourists in the region, which is driving investment in casinos and integrated resorts in markets like Singapore, Macau, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Now is a good time for the construction industry who will deliver on these projects to not just establish where the opportunities are but how they will be completed on time, on budget and to the highest quality standards, in markets with often challenging operating environments.
It’s not uncommon to hear that ‘anyone can build a hotel’. Whether that is true or not, it is an indisputable fact that integrated resorts are a completely different beast. An integrated resort is a destination, which incorporates not just more complex aspects of the built environment, such as gaming facilities, shopping experiences and convention centres, but more importantly it’s based on a vision. And that vision must be delivered.
How you make good on that vision for clients in South-east Asia largely depends on project management teams with long-standing local knowledge and the backing of global best practice.
Investors usually have support on the acquisition side, but when it comes to the actual development or repurposing of assets, they need guidance. Projects need to be delivered with integrity, process and procedures, but a Western approach alone can be incongruous with how business is conducted.
Building trust, understanding the pace at which business is conducted, and fostering strong relationships with contractors are cornerstones of success in this part of the world. More specifically when it comes to construction, the team’s technical expertise and ability to implement the highest standards of safety and quality during the project lifecycle is vital to a successful outcome.
This is where the backing of a large organisation with international best practice in innovation, health and safety and sustainability adds an important layer. Setting the right objectives from the beginning and managing the different stages of the project by integrating all the data in one place can smooth out difficulties further down the line.
Integrated resorts in Asia are more than just gaming facilities. They are complex and large-scale developments that turn into destinations, bringing different experiences together for people from around the world. The local teams leave the completed projects with new skills which they transfer onto their next venture.
In sum, as we eagerly await the escalation of vaccine rollouts in Asia and a return to tourism, hospitality investors must hone their strategies for how they will see integrated resorts to fruition in response to post-pandemic demands.
It’s impossible to say when the door to travel will reopen, but we know with certainty how we need to transform delivery to provide tourists in South-east Asia with the destinations that they so eagerly crave.