Up and coming soon?

Uncertainties cloud the progress of numerous new projects, as well as the revamp and expansion plans of the existing properties, due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) and other factors. Macau Business takes a look at the latest updates of these properties — some maintaining scheduled launch dates, others awaiting the soaring rebound of travellers, while some other require more time to be open for business.

Photos by Cheong Kam Ka

Grand Lisboa Palace — Make or break 

The project, marking its developer SJM Holdings Ltd as the last gaming operator in the city to set foot in Cotai, is not unfamiliar with delays. The management of SJM originally announced that the project opening date would be 2017, three years after the construction works started. However at least three fires and two fatal construction accidents between 2016 and 2018, alongside with the lashing of Typhoon Hato across the city in 2017 that caused 10 deaths, have pushed back the opening of the property multiple times.

In the latest interim report for this year, SJM, founded by the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung Sun, noted, ‘Construction work on the Grand Lisboa Palace… was completed in late 2019 and application was made for the relevant licenses to begin operation in the second half of 2020.’ 

‘Subject to obtaining the necessary operating permits, the project is expected to open by the end of 2020’, albeit the pandemic, the filing reiterated. With over 90 percent of the total area dedicated to non-gaming elements — including 1,900 hotel rooms from “Grand Lisboa Palace” and two hotel brands, in partnership with luxury fashion houses “Palazzo Versace” and “Karl Lagerfeld” — the property has been deemed as a “make or break” project by some analysts in terms of vying for the market share. The total development cost of the property is now estimated at HK$39 billion (US$5.03 billion), compared with the original price tag of HK$25 billion. 

Nonetheless, analysts have also casted doubts on the latest timeline. Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd noted in a recent report, ‘We are sceptical the property will open (at least in any meaningful way) until early next year’, as it expects the government inspection and recruitment process of the project will take time. ‘Final timing of opening and phasing will depend on various factors, including Covid-19 being under control, the further relaxation of border restrictions, IVS [Individual Visit Scheme] visa resumption, and the rebound of actual demand,’ it added.

Following the suspension of tourist visas of Mainland Chinese to Macau in late January over the coronavirus outbreak, including IVS permits and package tours permits, issuing will be resumed in Guangdong province in late August and will be reinstated across the entire nation in late September. However, slow recovery in the visitation figures is expected, as the number of visitors to Macau plunged 86 percent year-on-year to just 3.34 million in the first seven months of 2020. 

Addressing the launch of Grand Lisboa Palace, another brokerage, Union Gaming Securities LLC, said in a research note, ‘We do not include any meaningful revenue in our model until second-quarter 2021, which provides some conservatism in the event of a partial opening or slow initial ramp.’

Lisboeta Macau — Gaming ambitions fulfilled? 

Located just next to Grande Lisboa Palace, Lisboeta Macau draws on images of old Macau. There are some questions left unanswered about this new resort, namely, the kind of synergy that it is expected to develop eith Grand Lisboa Palace, the actual opening date and the possibility of including a casino in its premises.  

The HKD5-billion (US$650-million) Lisboeta Macau was developed by Macau Theme Park and Resort Ltd, linked to Angela Leong On Kei, the fourth wife of the late Stanley Ho and executive director of SJM Holdings, and other gaming veterans in the city. With a gross floor area of over 141,000 square metres, the property was granted a four-star hotel license by the regulator, the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), in August. The resort is said to accommodate three hotel brands: 574 rooms for “Lisboeta Hotel” that will showcase the ancient architecture style of Macau; 164 rooms for “Maison L’Occitane”, which is the first boutique hotel of French cosmetic brand L’Occitane; and 82 rooms for “Casa de Amigo” that is the world’s first Line Friends-themed hotel, featuring characters from the social media app Line. 

In addition, a Chinese seafood restaurant located in a replica of the former floating casino Macau Palace run by the Ho family and a bar in Lisboeta Macau were also granted operating licenses by MGTO last month. These moves signify the imminent opening of the property, whose construction works began in 2017 after sitting idle for years. So far Macau Theme Park and Resort has kept mum on when it will be operational and whether the opening date will coincide with Grand Lisboa Palace. 

The firm only said in the topping out ceremony of the project in 2018 that the property might open its doors by 2020. A director of Macau Theme Park and Resort, Arnaldo Ho Yau Heng, who is also a son of Angela Leong and president of international business development of SJM, noted at the time the property might include a casino, being subject to the government’s decision. 

It remains unclear as of now whether the gaming vision of the resort can get off ground. The project also features a number of leisure and entertainment attractions, such as, Asia Pacific’s first urban zip-line, the first indoor skydiving facility in the South China region and Macau’s first IMAX and MX4D theatres.

While Grand Lisboa Palace and Lisboeta Macau is said to be linked with a bridge, exact details on how these two properties will work together are yet to be unveiled.

The Londoner Macao and Four Seasons Grand Suites — Awaiting an influx of travellers

The US$1.35-billion (HK$10.46-billion) transformation of Sands China Ltd’s existing Sands Cotai Central complex into The Londoner Macao is scheduled to be ready progressively over 2020 and 2021. The revamp of the former Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central into The Londoner Hotel and a casino in the revamped British-themed resort should be done by this September, the management of the gaming operator has said earlier this year.

But, on a public occasion in August, Wilfred Wong Ying Wai, president of the operator, said that though the Londoner Hotel and “its supporting amenities” could be ready in the third quarter of this year, the exact launch date depends on the visitation figure. “Only when there is a significant increase in visitors’ arrivals to Macau will we consider opening [the facilities],” Mr. Wong said at the time. “It doesn’t help our business to launch a new hotel now due to the low occupancy rate.”

The Macau hotel occupancy rate just hovered at 11-12 percent in the second quarter of this year, the latest government figures suggested, and it remains to be seen how the resumption of the tourist visas to Macau for mainlanders in August and September will affect the overall tourism market.

Besides the newly branded 600-suite Londoner Hotel, The Londoner Macao — whose overhaul works began in 2018 — features another new 370-suite “Londoner Court” and existing hotel properties; namely, Conrad Macao, Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St. Regis Macao. The refurbished complex will also add a new 6,000-seat arena, new dining and entertainment offerings and recreations of classic British landmarks, including an exterior façade of the property modelled on the world-famous Palace of Westminster and Houses of Parliament and a replica of Big Ben.

In its 2020 interim report, Sands China reiterated, “We expect the Londoner Court suites to be completed in late 2020, and overall The Londoner Macao project to be delivered in phases throughout 2020 and 2021.”

Including the US$1.35-billion remodel of The Londoner Macao, the operator has planned to spend an aggregate of US$2.2 billion to upgrade some of its Cotai properties. Another ongoing upgrade work is Four Seasons Tower Suites Macao, a tower next to the existing Four Seasons Macao hotel originally designed as condominiums for sale. The tower has been rebranded as The Grand Suites at Four Seasons, which provides 289 luxury suites in size from 2,000 square feet to 4,700 square feet for travellers.

‘The construction of The Grand Suites at Four Seasons is now complete,’ Sands China stated in the latest interim report. ‘We have initiated approved gaming operations in this space and are utilizing suites on a simulation basis for trial and feedback purposes.’

The Grand Suites was supposed to have a formal opening in the second quarter of this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the official launch to an unspecified date.

Galaxy Phase 3 and Phase 4 — Unquantifiable impact

Phases 3 and 4 of Galaxy Macau, which will add more non-gaming elements to the flagship property of Galaxy Entertainment Group, were first scheduled to be completed by 2019 and 2020 respectively. The HK$50-billion (US$6.45-billion) expansion plan, however, has been beset with delays, including a fatal construction accident, and the latest completion dates have been postponed to the first half of 2021 and 2022 respectively.

But more delays might be expected. ‘We continue to make good progress with our development projects, including Cotai Phases 3 and 4 as well as existing enhancement projects at our resorts,’ said the gaming operator in its 2020 interim report. ‘We will try to maintain our development targets, however due to COVID-19, development timelines may be impacted. At this point we cannot quantify the impact but we will endeavor to maintain our schedule.”

The operator has also reduced the proposed hotel room supply of Phases 3 and 4 of Galaxy Macau. Until the interim report of 2019, Galaxy Entertainment Group had described the two new phases as including “approximately 4,500 new hotel rooms” in total, but this figure was downsized to “approximately 4,000 hotel rooms and villas” in the annual report of 2019.

Starting from the first quarter 2020 report, the scale was further adjusted downward to “approximately 3,500 hotel rooms, including family and premium high-end rooms and villas.” While the operator did not provide any specific reasons for the shrinkage of the room supply, brokerages have pointed out that this move underlines the plan of Galaxy Entertainment Group to focus on building more luxury and larger hotel rooms for the high-end tourism market.

In addition, Phases 3 and 4 are expected to boast an additional 400,000 square feet of MICE space, a 16,000-seat multi-purpose arena and some new gaming, dining and retail areas. 

Crystal Pavilion at Wynn Palace — Remains as scheduled 

The US$2-billion (HK$15.5 billion) extension of Wynn Palace, including the so-called Crystal Pavilion non-gaming complex and an associated hotel tower of 650 rooms, has so far progressed as scheduled, albeit the global pandemic.

In the 2020 interim report, Wynn Macau Ltd noted, ‘We have continued with the design stages of developing the Crystal Pavilion at Wynn Palace… We currently expect construction of the initial phase of the Crystal Pavilion to begin in late 2021.’ The management of the gaming operator has previously noted the expansion on a 7-acre parcel next to Wynn Palace might last at least three years and could be ready by 2024 at the earliest.

The Crystal Pavilion is said to include an art museum, theater and interactive installations, expansive food and beverage offerings and other entertainment elements.

Resorts World Macau — Mystery continues

Despite the topping-off ceremony for the main infrastructure of a new hotel project zoned in Nam Van in July, its developer has continued a low profile approach without divulging any details of the development, including its launch date, development cost, and entertainment offerings.

The property, sitting on a reclaimed parcel of 8,100 square metres near Praca de Ferreira do Amaral on the waterfront of the Nam Van district, is branded as “Resorts World Macau” and developed by Treasure Island Entertainment Company Ltd, in which Genting Hong Kong under Malaysian hotel and gaming operator Genting Group holds a 75-percent stake.

In its latest annual report for 2019, Genting Hong Kong remarked the property would house a hotel and a casino — the gaming space is ‘subject to the approval from the Macau government’ — without providing any other information. It remains unclear whether the firm is proceeding to pursue the gaming vision, and which gaming operator it will cooperate with to run a satellite casino on the site.

Genting Hong Kong was first involved in the project in 2007 for purchasing a 75-percent stake of the site at HK$1.46 billion, and the group revealed a year later the parcel would turn into a 21-storey five-star hotel tower with gaming facilities. The parcel has then been idle for years until recent times, but the company has not commented on whether the current development follows the 2008 plan.