Plenty of choice: New resorts and hotels are opening in the capital

By sheer numbers, Manila is in the midst of a phenomenal hotel construction boom. According to Smith Travel Research (STR), Manila had 9968 hotel rooms under construction or planning as of April 2013, representing 43% of STR’s count of existing supply. Mumbai, with the next-fastest growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region, saw 25%, according to STR. The only Asia-Pacific city with more hotel rooms in its pipeline was Shanghai, however, it had a growth rate of less than 10%.

The huge numbers of new rooms owe largely to efforts to develop the city’s gaming industry. In a project that began more than a decade ago, a planned cluster of four large casino resorts is beginning to take shape in Metro Manila’s Parañaque City. Called Entertainment City, the planned gaming district is set on 8 sq km of reclaimed land on Manila Bay. The first resort, Solaire Resort and Casino, opened its doors in March 2013 with 488 rooms, while more than 3000 rooms were in the pipeline at Solaire and two other resorts that were under construction in 2013.

A few miles away in Pasay City, another casino resort, Resorts World Manila, has been operating and gaining popularity since 2010. The resort is especially popular among Manila residents, domestic tourists and overseas Filipinos, drawing around 20,000 visitors a day and up to 30,000 on weekends by the summer of 2013. The owners recently announced plans to move ahead with the resort’s second phase, which will increase room count to more than 2300.

The casino resorts are seen to be tapping into a mostly separate market from standard hotels. Leo Venezuela, director of investor relations at Bloomberry Resorts, owner of the Solaire Resort and Casino, told OBG, “We have two markets: a mass market, which is mostly domestic, and high rollers, who are a very specific group of people, mostly from mainland China. We won’t be targeting ordinary international tourists.”

Like the other resorts under way at Entertainment City, Solaire is aimed at tapping into the mostly Chinese high-rollers who currently frequent Macau, while also targeting the Filipino mass market with a Vegas-style experience. Bloomberry Resorts is a locally listed company majority-owned by billionaire Enrique Razon, who made his fortune managing commercial seaports. A “phase 1A” to be completed in 2014 will add another 308 rooms and will bring investment in the resort up to $1bn. The timing of a second phase will depend on how quickly visitor numbers increase.

The next to open at Entertainment City will be City of Dreams Manila, a $1.3bn development that includes six hotel towers with 950 rooms. The project is a joint venture of local real estate billionaire Henry Sy’s SM Investments and Melco Crown Entertainment, a Hong Kong-listed company that operates resorts in Macau. At a promotional event in October 2013, developers said the resort would open in mid-2014.

TWO RESORTS DELAYED: The other two Entertainment City resorts have been held up for different reasons. The largest, Manila Bay Resorts, with 2050 planned rooms, broke ground in early 2013 but has been set back by legal troubles. The project’s main owner, Japan’s Universal Entertainment, and its owner, gaming billionaire Kazuo Okada, came under official investigation in 2013 in the Philippines and the US. Okada and Universal were also tangled in a US court battle with former partner Wynn Resorts, whose private investigation prompted the official ones. The US FBI was looking into whether payments that originated from Universal’s US unit were bribes to former Philippine gaming officials. Philippine investigators accused Okada of setting up local fronts to hold the legal minimum 60% domestic ownership of the resort’s land. As of November 2013 Okada was seeking to resolve the latter issue by attracting a Philippine partner, but his ability to raise financing for the $2.5bn project was in question.

Another Entertainment City resort, Resorts World Bayshore, was indefinitely postponed as a result of a mid-2013 downturn in global investor appetite for emerging-market investments. The developer, Travellers International Hotel Group, is a joint venture of Malaysia’s Genting Group, which owns the Resorts World brand, and Alliance Global Group, a major domestic conglomerate. Travellers, which also owns Resorts World Manila, planned to raise up to P42.3bn ($1bn) in a local initial public offering (IPO) in mid-2013 that would have gone mainly to the Bayshore project. Instead, Travellers scaled down to a P17.7bn ($426.6m) IPO in October 2013 and said it would focus on expanding Resorts World Manila. Plans for Resorts World Bayshore called for 800 rooms in its first phase and 2500 total.

MORE HIGH-END COMPETITION: While the casinos target a niche market, their hotels are likely to prove popular options for mainstream tourists. Resorts World Manila boasts that its 342-room Marriott enjoys the highest occupancy rates in Metro Manila, thanks partly to the resort’s convenient location directly neighbouring the Ninoy Aquino airport. The resort has a 172-room Maxims, and the resort’s expansion, due in 2017, will bring a 350-room Sheraton and another 200 Marriott rooms. Solaire’s hotel, operating under its own brand, has received high ratings in early reviews posted by non-gamblers on websites such as hotels.com.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ rapidly growing economy is spurring investment in business-oriented hotels in Manila’s main business districts of Makati City, Fort Bonifacio and Ortigas Centre. Six business-oriented hotels were under construction in Manila as of October 2013: the 215-room Citadines Salcedo Makati, the 252-room Worldhotel and Residences Makati, the 577-room Shangri-La at the Fort, the 438-room Grand Hyatt Manila (also in Fort Bonifacio) and the 313-room Marco Polo Ortigas. Also being planned were another Citadines in Ortigas, a Mövenpick Hotel within Makati’s Picar Place development, and a Conrad Hotel that will adjoin the SMX convention centre in Pasay City.

A broad mix of investors are involved. The Citadines projects are being developed by the chain’s owner, Singapore’s Ascott Group, the world’s biggest serviced apartments’ manager. The Hong Kong-based ShangriLa and Marco Polo groups are developing their own hotels, in partnership with local developers Alphaland and Xian Tian Ti, respectively. The Fairmont and Raffles is a joint venture of local developer Ayala Land and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Hotel Investments, while the Grand Hyatt is a joint venture of local conglomerate GT Capital and Japanese financial services firm Orix. The Conrad Manila is a project of SM Investments Corporation, a top conglomerate. The Conrad will adjoin SM’s SMX convention centre within the Mall of Asia complex. The Worldhotel and Residences is being developed by H20 Ventures, a unit of Singapore’s China Oceanis. Picar Place, a planned cluster of three towers that would be the country’s tallest at over 300 metres, is being developed by AMA Group, a local private education company undertaking its first major real estate project.

MID-RANGE ACTION: In the mid-range market, Ayala Land is developing a national mid-range chain under its own Seda brand, launched with a 179-room hotel in Fort Bonifacio in 2012, followed by hotels in the southern cities of Cagayan de Oro and Davao. One recent mid-range project and another under construction are located within shopping areas: the 348-room Holiday Inn & Suites Makati opened within Ayala Land’s Glorietta Mall in April 2013, and a 415-room Novotel Manila was due to open in 2014 in Araneta Centre, a shopping and entertainment district in Quezon City.

Condotels, in which developers sell individual rooms to investors who then share the hotel’s income pool, are a common method of financing mid-range hotels in Manila. Megaworld is building a 400-room condotel called the Belmont Luxury Hotel and is marketing a 610-room condotel called the Savoy Hotel, both in Newport City near Ninoy Aquino airport and Resorts World Manila. Megaworld also operates two mid-range hotels in Manila under its Richmonde brand.

EMERGING BUDGET CHAINS: With domestic tourism growing at rates of more than 20% a year, and an increasing portion of international visitors arriving on budget airlines, investment in budget hotels has also heated up. At least four groups are building up budget hotel chains, with Manila figuring prominently in those plans. Wyndam Hotel Group, the top player in budget hotels globally, has been most active, with 17 budget hotels across the Philippines under its Microtel, Days Hotel and Ramada brands, with three in Manila. Thailand’s Red Planet Hotels is also opening six hotels in the country under a franchise agreement with Malaysia’s Tune Hotels between February 2012 and October 2013. Red Planet was due to open four more Tune hotels by May 2014 and had six more in planning stages. Of the first ten hotels, six will be in Manila.

Also, SM Investments Corporation (SMIC) and the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group are planning a nationwide chain under the Park Inn by Radisson brand, and Ayala Land announced in 2013 that it would introduce its own national budget hotel brand in 2014. Christina Bautista, vice president at SMIC’s SM Hotels and Conventions unit, said the group planned to open about one Park Inn per year and would co-locate them with the group’s SMX convention centres and near the group’s existing malls. SM opened its first Park Inn in 2013 in Davao.

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