Singapore Casinos Benefiting From Increased Visitation

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Posted on: March 21, 2022, 01:27h. 

Last updated on: March 21, 2022, 01:27h.

Singapore casinos are major beneficiaries of increased international travel into the island city-state, which is soaring in 2022 so far year-over-year.

Singapore casinos travel China Asia COVID-19
Passengers arrive in Singapore under the republic’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program. Singapore’s two integrated casino resorts are seeing more guests since the introduction of the VTL scheme last fall. (Image: AFP)

The number of foreigners entering Singapore this year is surging compared with early 2021. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) reports that there were 57,000 international visitors in January and 67,760 more in February. The figures represent respective year-over-year increases of 273% and 144%.

These figures show there is healthy demand for short-term visits to Singapore,” explained Keith Tan, chief executive of the STB. “Travel recovery will be gradual this year, but we are cautiously optimistic as there is strong pent-up demand for travel to Singapore, even from longer-haul markets.”

Singapore has a duopoly on land-based casino gambling held by Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa. Marina Bay Sands is controlled by US-based gaming giant Las Vegas Sands. RW Sentosa is controlled by a unit of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group.

Vax Express Lanes Fueling Recovery

Singapore deployed a program tailored towards returning international travelers last fall. Known as Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs), the scheme allows fully vaccinated travelers from certain countries to come and go without quarantines.

Tan says the program has been a success. The VTL arrangement was launched after Singapore’s population eclipsed the 80% vaccination rate milestone.

While the VTL strategy is a positive step for Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World, many more foreigners are needed to keep their thousands of hotel rooms occupied and expansive casino floors bustling. Specifically, Chinese visitors. And that’s quite difficult with the People’s Republic maintaining its zero COVID policy, which continues to keep its borders largely impassable.

“Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa have historically enjoyed significant revenue from Chinese travelers for their casino, hospitality, and shopping operations,” said Accenture’s Mike Tansey, who leads the consulting firm’s travel and hospitality coverage of the Asia Pacific segment. “The longer China stays closed, the slower the [Singapore] tourism recovery.”

2019 gross gaming revenue (GGR) for Sands and RW totaled approximately $3.35 billion, with Sands accounting for the majority of the casino win at $2.17 billion. With Singapore closed to much of the outside world in 2020 and 2021, GGR dropped to around $820 million and $940 million during the past two years. Full recovery to 2019 GGR levels isn’t expected until 2026.

Conventions Booked

The late Sheldon Adelson built his Las Vegas Sands empire with a convention and large-scale meeting framework. The gaming magnate believed such exhibitions were key to the integrated resort concept.

Sands stayed true to that mission with its multibillion-dollar Singaporean investment. And the good news for the two casino resorts is that 2022 is expected to be the year when such major MICE events return.

The Singapore Airshow in February drew nearly 13,000 attendees. But much larger events are slated for later in the year. Food&HotelAsia is behind two, with its food and beverage showcase in September expected to draw 35,000 attendees, and its hotel show in October projected to count 30,000 attendees.

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