Rooftop at Marina Bay Sands

Rooftop at Marina Bay Sands

Latest figures show that gambling has proved to be a winning bet for the Singapore Government  with record tourism figures for the  island state ever since its two “integrated resorts” were completed. And that really annoys Australia’s richest man and biggest casino owner, James Packer, who is losing customers to Singapore.”They are a country that used to get the same number of tourists as Australia. They are now at 11m tourists. We are at 5m. And they have stated publicly that they (want) 17m tourists in 2015.”

The Australian article states that Singapore has experienced 13 consecutive months of record visitor arrivals, achieving its highest ever monthly total in December with 1.1m visitors, 16% more than the previous year, thanks to the new $4.4bn Resorts World Sentosa casino and the $5.94bn Marina Bay Sands.

JAMES Packer has a clear message for the federal and state governments and the Australian tourism industry: “It is time for the rubber to hit the road.”
Facing a new competitive challenge for the Asian tourist dollar from Singapore, which now boasts two of the most valuable and profitable casino resorts in the world, Packer says the time for talk is over.
“One of the problems for state and federal governments of both political persuasions in Australia is that no one sets any key performance indicators for tourism,” he tells The Weekend Australian.
“That lets people muddle about on things with good intentions without ever actually making the rubber hit the road. Whereas in Singapore, it is all about the rubber hitting the road.
“They are a country that used to get the same number of tourists as Australia, around 5 million. They are now at 11 million tourists. We are at 5 million. And they have stated publicly that they have an aim and ambition that they will receive 17 million tourists in 2015.”
Singapore has just enjoyed 13 consecutive months of record visitor arrivals, achieving its highest visitor arrivals for a single month in December with 1.1 million visitors, 16 per cent up on a year ago.
The prime reason is last year’s opening of the $4.4 billion Resorts World Sentosa casino and the $5.94bn Marina Bay Sands, the second most expensive casino in the world. Or as Packer calls them, “integrated resorts”.
Both are estimated to have contributed 1.7 per cent of Singapore’s nominal gross domestic product last year when GDP rose a stunning 14.7 per cent.
Packer has more reasons than most to be concerned about the rise of Singapore.
Their impact on the regional casino market led to an 8 per cent decline in VIP turnover at Packer’s two Australian casinos, Crown in Melbourne and Burswood in Perth, in the six months to December 31. Burswood suffered most, with VIP revenue down 14.3 per cent compared with Crown’s 5.5 per cent fall.
Crown generates 15 per cent of its casino revenues from high-rollers.
But Packer says the issue is about more than just Singapore. It is the way Australia sells itself to the world, and specifically affluent Asians, as a tourist destination. “We are not saying it is the government’s fault. We are saying we would like to work with the government to try and make Australia a more attractive and compelling and successful tourism destination,” he says.
The issue is even more pressing in light of the recent events in Japan and the floods and cyclones in Queensland, which are expected to put further pressure on Japanese tourism, the fifth-biggest provider of inbound tourists to Australia behind New Zealand, Britain, the US and China.
“We all thought the Oprah exercise (where Tourism Australia last year paid $1.5m for 100 minutes of US exposure on Oprah Winfrey’s TV chat show) was fantastic, but when I was in America just recently I saw an advertisement with three Americans in a Land Rover driving around a paddock watching kangaroos. And I thought to myself, it is a lovely image but to be kind, it is very niche, ” Packer says.
On this point, he says Crown wants more from what he terms his “silent majority partners”.
“The total taxes we paid last year to the three levels of government — federal, state and municipal — was well over double our net profit after tax. We believe we are investing in our businesses, providing the government with an excellent economic return for our licences and we also think we are working hard to ensure that our other stakeholders benefit from our business,” he
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