Sands Cotai Macao
Earlier this month, Sands Cotai Macao brought a preview of its world-class facilities to Tokyo and Osaka with a product seminar. The objective was to showcase the extensive integrated resort consisting of The Venetian Macao, The Plaza Macao featuring Four Seasons Macao Cotai Strip and Sands Cotai Central, featuring the world’s largest Conrad, Sheraton and Holiday Inn.
The resort boasts over 600 luxury duty-free retailers, international cuisine, world-class entertainment choices, 274 meeting rooms and a host of other services and amenities. A fleet of over 150 ferries, coaches and cars provides rapid connections to the airport, ferry terminals and border crossings. Sands Cotai Macao is positioning itself as Asia’s top business and leisure destination.
Taking the message to the rest of the world is Brendon Elliot, vice president of sales & resort marketing for Sands China Ltd. Before joining the company, Elliott – who comes from Australia – held senior positions with various brands such as Grand Hyatt, the InterContinental Hotels Group, the Walt Disney Co and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
What is the purpose of your visit to Japan?
We are visiting Osaka and Tokyo to grow awareness of Sands Cotai Macao and the integrated resorts that we operate to the bookers of Japanese travel directly. We have had appreciation events for our key partners and we want to give them an update on why Macao continues to be an exciting destination for Japanese.
How important is the Japanese market?
In Macao, it is the 5th largest market for visitor arrivals based on the first half of the year. For the Venetian Macao, it is the 4th largest market. Based on the first six months of this year, we welcome about 280 Japanese visitors a day into our resorts. That’s about 51,000 from January to the end of June, a 15% increase over last year. On July 1, Air Macao resumed daily services to Narita, so we will see a significant increase in Japanese visitors, plus the enhancement of services to Osaka.
Overall, if we look at Macao as a destination for Japanese, the numbers are about 171,000 for the first 5 months, which is up 12%. Of all Japanese guests who come to Macao, 25% choose to stay at the Venetian Macao. That is a phenomenal market share for any one hotel in any city.
How are the three hotels at Sands Cotai Central doing?
The average occupancy rate in June was 99% for the Holiday Inn 99%, 84% at the Conrad at 84% and the Venetian was about 92%.
How do you market the brands?
We position Holiday Inn as a leisure hotel, so we focus on driving transient FIT (Frequent Independent Traveler) customers and leisure guests there. The Conrad Macao is the luxury meetings hotel within Sands Cotai. We’ve had about 15 events at the Conrad since its opening earlier this year, which exceeded our forecasts.
The Sheraton, which opens in September, will bring its own clientele through the Starwood network and its loyalty program. It is the largest Starwood property in the world at 3,800 rooms. It will be catering to all segments based on its sheer size.
For the Venetian, we have done a lot of marketing on social media through blogging and word of mouth. We have a significant partnership with JTB, H.I.S. and other operators in Japan and we have relied on the traditional travel agents to market our product. We haven’t really done any direct advertising – no TV commercials since the opening of the Venetian 5 years ago.
However, we are currently evaluating our need to come out with more interactive and social media as we look ahead to 2013. We are looking at that with our partners to create more of a destination approach. If that approach is successful, our hotels will be successful.
What about the meeting trade?
Sands Cotai Central will have 12 junior ballrooms and one grand ballroom. The breadth of Sheraton, Conrad and Holiday Inn combined is really creating a formidable destination for large-scale incentive and corporate groups. Nowhere else in Asia can manage 10,000 delegates within a five-minute walk of a convention center. There is nowhere else in Asia where you can move across five brands – Conrad, Four Seasons, Sheraton, Venetian and Holiday Inn.
The Venetian is a 3,000-suite hotel but with the Sheraton, we will have a new destination for large-scale groups. We have some groups of up to 10,000 coming over the next year. We have 6,000 rooms over three hotels in an area the size of Manhattan. Normally, that many rooms would require 12 hotels in any other city.
We have created the supply; now we have to work on the demand. Our main strategy is to position the Sands Cotai Central as the ultimate meetings destination in Asia. If you haven’t been to Macao lately, you haven’t been at all. Macao five years ago is not the Macao today. That’s the message we are taking to the world.
What sort of feedback have you received from Japanese?
Japanese appreciate the diversity of products that we have. With the Holiday Inn at a mid-scale price point, it has created a new level of accessibility for Japan that the Venetian did not have.
Japanese are becoming more savvy and we are seeing a shift in booking patterns with more FIT travellers. Low cost carriers are changing the power of the consumer in Japan over the next 12 months. I think there will be more younger travelers. So what can we do to appeal to them? What is different about Macao?
Asians probably have two things more in common than anywhere else. They love to shop and eat. Westerners don’t necessarily travel to shop and eat. They travel to relax and do nothing or discover. The Japanese like heritage, that component of discovery. We try to create all of those in Macao. It has a good balance of entertainment through concerts, entertainment, Sino-Portuguese culture, great food and a lot of shopping.
People think Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise, but Macao is a unique experience. The whole island is duty free.
Are there any special requirements for Japanese visitors such as Japanese-language signs?
We don’t even have English signs. Before, Japanese signs were a requirement for a destination to secure Japanese travellers. Look at how Hawaii, Australia’s Gold Coast etc really made a concerted effort to be welcoming to the Japanese by reducing the language barrier. I think today’s Japanese traveller is more educated and more willing to learn. Apple or Android devices all have Google translate and maps, so it is not so important. We have many Japanese speakers, of course, in each hotel, front office, concierge and even in sales.
For more information, visit http://www.sandscotaicentral.com/