With the last of its almost 1,000 hotel rooms due to open in early 2020 and revenues continuing to rise, Philippines IR Okada Manila looks set to fulfil its enormous potential.
In the increasingly competitive cluster that is Asia’s land-based casino industry, the Philippines, and more specifically its Entertainment City integrated resort precinct, shines brightest as the region’s outstanding long-term growth story. Typifying the bullish estimations of analysts for Philippines gaming, Morgan Stanley’s Praveen Choudhary and Gareth Leung stated in a recent note that the market looks set to grow “faster than the economy, driven by low penetration, a strong local economy, supply additions, Chinese visitor arrivals, better VIP margins, favorable policies and infrastructure improvement.”
By pure numbers, Manila’s IRs booked year-on-year growth of 27% in 2018 to Php140.5 billion (US$2.8 billion) and are expected to have grown by another 11% in 2019 – stronger than its primary regional competitors in Macau and Singapore.
And right at the forefront of the nation’s gaming growth is Okada Manila – the most recent of Entertainment City’s IRs to open its doors also the largest with 500 gaming tables and 3,000 slot machines on a sprawling property spanning 44 hectares.
First opened in December 2016, it has taken three years for Okada Manila to finally reach completion but the long wait is just about over with the last of almost 1,000 rooms due to welcome guests in 1Q20. Ranging in size from 60 square meters to 1,400 square meters, they include three recently launched luxury villas that representatives of Okada Manila say have already proven extremely popular with high-end clientele.
That popularity has already been reflected in the property’s 3Q19 results, which saw VIP rolling chip increase 37.9% to JPY138.56 billion and mass table drop up 14.7% to JPY5.08 billion – continuing an 18-month trend of rising revenues as Okada Manila ramps.
However, it is in the mass market segment where analysts expect to see the most significant growth in the coming 12 months.
“We still expect mass volumes to pick up nicely at the property in 2Q20 when the full 500 new rooms are up and running at the hotel,” explained Union Gaming analyst John DeCree in a November note.
Likewise, Okada Manila’s non-gaming facilities feature an abundance of unique, mass market focused attractions clearly aimed at setting it apart from the Asian IR crowd.
Taking pride of place is US$30 million The Fountain, where music is choreographed to a fantastic array of light, water and sound all surrounded by more than a kilometer of entertainment space called the Crystal Corridor.
Targeted to become one of Manila’s main tourism icons, The Fountain is designed and developed by WET, the same team behind some of the world’s most popular water features in Las Vegas and Dubai.
Okada Manila is also home to the Philippines’ first-ever indoor beach club and nightclub, Cove Manila.
The hugely impressive space, all enclosed in a high-tech UVA- and UVB-protective glass dome measuring 100 meters in diameter and 30 meters in height, can host up to 5,500 guests at any one time while the smaller nightclub section features an ultra-impressive combination of audio, video and ambient lighting technologies including high-definition LED walls, motion video projectors, a hyper-advanced sound system and a kinetic centerpiece that can produce up to 10,000 special effects.
Cove Manila also features an advanced air conditioning system designed to emulate a vibrant bayside atmosphere by day and cool climate by night, plus an advanced broadcast studio that can globally broadcast events either live or delayed. Recent events have included world-renowned DJ Fat Boy Slim and the Miss Universe Philippines after-party.
Asked about the long-term plan for Okada Manila, a company representative told Inside Asian Gaming, “We are positioning it as an integrated resort with features that cater to different kinds of people.
“Okada Manila mainly stands for one thing: entertainment. While we have a casino and gaming area – possibly the largest in the country in terms of size and gaming options – we have a rich array of various amenities that truly spoil our guests with choices on how they would like to spend their time, from relaxation to shopping to dining and other kinds of entertainment.”
Okada Manila is also keen to push its MICE capabilities, describing Cove Manila as “not your typical corporate venue” and “an alternative location for those who want to foster creativity and encourage socializing.”
“One major trend in MICE is the growing preference for venues with demonstrable environment-friendly and green operations and practices,” the company says.
“Okada Manila has an efficient rainwater collection system that recycles water for use in our facilities. In the future, we will have a heat recovery system for cogeneration. We are also using high-specification low-e glass to greatly reduce our energy consumption, as well as maximizing natural ventilation and natural systems to ensure that our structures are sustainable.”
What is undeniable as we enter 2020 is that Manila’s IRs – once deemed a risky proposition for travelers due to concerns over security and the city’s well-documented traffic woes – are now using location to their benefit. The September 2016 opening of the city’s Phase 2 NAIA Expressway extension – a seven kilometer elevated toll road connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport with Entertainment City – has proved a game-changer for the precinct, cutting travel times for air arrivals from almost an hour to just 10 minutes. And it has been particularly beneficial for Okada Manila given its location as the first IR visitors reach once they turn off the expressway exit ramp.
In the longer term, the company is also exploring the possibility of developing its own cruise ship port in Manila Bay, allowing the property to capitalize on the Philippines’ growing cruise market. A proposed Phase 2 development, adding even more room supply, would include a variety of real estate investments such as condominiums and major brand hotels on land located adjacent to the current site.
As Union Gaming’s DeCree states, “The Philippines is one of the fastest growing gaming markets in the world, and when complete, Okada Manila is positioned to be a category killer in the market.”