It might be a small country but Singapore doesn’t do things by halves. Marina Bay Sands is a case in point, so too is Marina Bay, the reclaimed land which the integrated resort sits on. The result of Singapore’s long-term vision and planning, the 3.6sqkm area was reclaimed during the 1970s and 80s, increasing Singapore’s land size to accommodate a rapidly growing population. It became the ideal spot to build Marina Bay Sands, now the biggest hotel in Singapore with more than 2500 rooms and suites. In addition to its three hotel towers, Marina Bay Sands boasts one of Asia’s largest convention and exhibition centres. The Sands Expo and Convention Centre offers more than 120,000sqm of meeting space, an 8000sqm ballroom that can hold up to 11,000 delegates, as well as two smaller ballrooms and 250 meeting rooms. Marina Bay Sands vice president of sales Mike Lee says since the hotel opened in 2010, there has been a “dramatic difference” in Singapore’s business events industry.
“We have facilities that weren’t here before and we have these capacities that they can do now,” he says.
From the outside, Marina Bay Sands runs like a well-oiled machine, seamlessly delivering events and serving the thousands of guests that come through the hotel’s doors every day. But an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the facility reveals just how much work and people power goes into running a resort of such a grand scale.
The integrated resort employs around 9500 staff members, who come in and out of work each day through a dedicated employee floor, known as the Heart of House. It’s practically a mini city, complete with a 7-Eleven convenience store, a healthcare centre and even beds for a quick snooze in between shifts. Staff uniforms are washed and pressed each day in a massive facility that’s fully automated. In total there are around 160,000 articles of clothing in the facility, which are individually tracked to ensure they go to the right employee every day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper is also provided every day in the Team Member Dining Room.
With occupancy rates sitting in the high 90 per cent range throughout the year, Marina Bay Sands was quick to refurbish its rooms despite only opening about seven years ago. The refurbishment works were completed in phases, with the final phase finishing in 2017. Marina Bay Sands’ 80-strong portfolio of restaurants is also constantly being updated and this year, the hotel’s international buffet restaurant RISE was completely transformed with brand new interiors and culinary offering. Despite being located in the lobby and having a 400-seat capacity, the new-look restaurant feels intimate thanks to its clever elevated design and layout. MBS hosted around 400 guests in RISE Restaurant for the ITB Asia welcome function in October, which included live cooking stations for an interactive cocktail dinner. The new-look restaurant can be transformed into a larger function space, with capacity for up to 1000 people.
Marina Bay Sands owns and operates all of its restaurants across the hotel, convention centre and shopping mall, including its celebrity restaurants, such as Adrift by David Myers, Spago by Wolfgang Puck and Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay. This is good news for event planners because it means all event bookings for restaurants are organised through one team, rather than liaising with a different person for each restaurant.
Lee says demand for out-of-the-box venues is becoming more prevalent among business events, especially for first time clients to Marina Bay Sands. The integrated resort is well-equipped with stand-out spaces for events, such as the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum, the versatile Event Plaza outdoor space, and the Sands SkyPark with its iconic infinity pool and 360-degree views of the city. The SkyPark Observation Deck is a top tourist destination by day, but by night, it’s the perfect spot for cocktail functions with capacity for up to 500 guests.
“We hoped it would be popular but we never dreamed it would become an icon like it is,” Lee says of SkyPark.
Lee says organisers often see better attendance rates when they hold their meeting or conference in Singapore, which allows associations and organisations spread their message further.
“That gives them better reach for whatever agenda they’re pushing,” he says.
Lee says repeat customers to Marina Bay Sands also reap the benefits.
“On incentives, they rebook the program because people tend to work harder, they see [Marina Bay Sands] as a reward,” he says.
And if you thought Marina Bay Sands was already big enough, think again. Lee says discussions are underway about a possible expansion.
“The only expansion we would do at Sands would have to be connected somehow with this facility,” he says. “We wouldn’t go over to Sentosa [Island] and build a competing thing, we’d want to add. We’ve talked to the government about that, we think there’s possibilities, those are in discussion.”