Integrated Resorts As Cultural Hubs

Integrated resorts (IRs) are known for throwing grand, elaborate events to wow their audiences. And why not? They boast ample space, high-tech facilities and extensive resources, all within a self-contained, well-run complex with all the necessary supporting infrastructure. Whether it’s a breathtaking water and lights show at the City of Dreams, an inspirational art installation at Marina Bay Sands or a local musical production at Resorts World Manila, visitors flock to these venues for the promise of a sensory spectacle of lights, sound and action.

However, through tailor-made extravaganzas, IRs are also able to showcase – albeit subtly – a destination’s culture, and incentive planners are beginning to consider ways to make use of these venues for unique experiences that combine big-show excitement with cultural appreciation.

Chef Stomp variety show at City of Dreams always brought the house down

The upper hand
The all-in-one integration of facilities and infrastructure at IRs gives them a natural advantage for large events involving arts and culture. In Macau, many visiting groups look at IRs as destinations in themselves. "A good example is The Venetian Macao for the Indian market," says Bruno Simoes of DOC DMC.

"Conference delegates will visit only the integrated resorts and end up not seeing anything else. They arrive, attend the meeting, functions and activities within the resort itself, and then leave."

The potential exists, therefore, for IRs to deliver cultural experiences to guests in a variety of forms or with a particular focus. The House of Dancing Water show in City of Dreams is a venerable, breathtaking extravaganza staged at the purpose-built Dancing Water Theater. Audiences are treated to an epic love tale told with the help of water fountains, acrobatics and other cutting-edge theatrical effects. The Venetian Macao, on the other hand, regularly runs cultural music and dance performances for corporate groups, while also being host to fascinating international exhibits, including the recent "Titanic: The Exhibition" and "The Human Bodies Exhibition".

In Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, as well as hosting concerts of major international acts and staging limited-run performances and exhibits, is also home to the locally conceptualised and produced, award-winning light and water show Wonder Full, which commands some 25,000 visitors a week. The resort also plays host to Art Path, which features 11 installations by internationally renowned artists.

Over on Sentosa Island, Resorts World Sentosa boasts the heritage-rich, multi-sensory Maritime Experiential Museum, which houses exhibits on Chinese pirates and the Maritime Silk Road, as well as the popular Typhoon Theatre, which simulates the experience of riding out a typhoon aboard a Chinese junk – only two of numerous events taking place at the resort. In the Philippine capital, meanwhile, Resorts World Manila puts on award-winning stage productions and also hosts concerts by some of the country’s most talented celebrity performers.

Getting ready for a performance at the New York area in Universal Studios, Resorts World Singapore

Mix and match
So the options seem endless, and this opens the door for incentive planners to bring imaginative requests to the resorts. Sands Cotai Macao offers personalised itinerary options based on a group’s background, goals and objectives. The same is offered at Marina Bay Sands, along with corporate group discounts. "We offer buyouts of theatre shows and private hosting of corporate groups for exhibitions,î"says a resort spokesperson. In a previous package, they also included a meet-and-greet session with the cast of the Broadway show Jersey Boys.

Likewise at Galaxy Macau, corporate groups are given the flexibility to mix and match its different entertainment offerings to suit their itinerary. "We find that many of our incentive groups like to tailor their experience," notes Paul Town, vice-president of hotel operations, Galaxy Macau. "Our sales team is able to package many different elements of our property to cater to their requirements." This can include booking performances at its exclusive lounge China Rouge for corporate events, or private screenings of current blockbusters and art-house films at the resort’s Director’s Club and the 400-seat Grand Theatre.

Event buyouts can also be accommodated at Resorts World Sentosa, as long as requests meet operation requirements, says vice president of channel development and attraction sales, Noel Hawkes. "We can arrange for early closure or pre-opening entry, depending on the nature of the event," he says. "Special requests are always welcome and the possibilities are varied. This can include a behind-the-scenes tour with the cast of our resident shows, museum tours at the Maritime Experiential Museum, as well as private Typhoon Theatre experiences."

These activities were conducted for the 2011 Chapitre by the Singapore Chapter of Chaine des Rotisseurs in October 2011. The black-tie event had 150 guests: "The programme started with a private tour of the museum, letting guests take in the sights at the Souk Gallery before heading straight for the Typhoon Theatre, a 360-degree multimedia theatre that takes visitors on a simulated voyage on board a ninth-century Chinese junk," recalls Hawkes. "Despite the black-tie dress code, all delegates were game for the thrills, and were high-spirited despite emerging from the theatre a little wet."

Underrated cultural components
At the recent 25th Annual Aliw Awards, a prestigious award-giving body for the Philippines’ live entertainment industry, Resorts World Manila bagged three titles for its local production of The King And I – Best Musical Production, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Stage Director for a Musical. This followed sweeping nominations for another local stage adaptation of The Sound of Music, the country’s longest-running theatre production. In addition, local band Draybers, which plays regularly at the resort’s popular Bar360, was rewarded Best Group Performance in Hotels, Music Lounges and Bars.

Resorts World Manila, since opening in 2009, has long been a supporter of the country’s performing arts. The only problem is that visitors are not aware of this, and when it comes to art and culture, groups tend to look outside the integrated resort.

Sonia Lazo of Intas Destinations explains that her clients seek two things when it comes to culture-focused travel. "European clients will usually look to the islands and the old parts of the city," she says of planning their itineraries. "If I have clients who want particularly to gamble, see shows and go to the clubs, then I would consider [the integrated resort]. But for most of my clients, it doesn’t suit their requirements."

Meeting groups in Singapore, too, generally don’t consider IRs for art and culture activities. "They don’t come as the first choice, to be honest," says Janet Tan-Collis of destination management company East West Planners. According to Tan-Collis, groups who are interested in more cultural aspects of the city tend to seek out specialists to conduct in-depth talks, along with a tour of relevant sites. "When groups consider integrated resorts, they look at meeting space, and what they can achieve with it. And then they look at the periphery for what they can add to the itinerary, because it saves time," says Tan-Collis. "Normally, we include [cultural activities] as part of a programme, but it’s not a highlight of their event. I would say these are pocket requests."

Supporting local talent is Resorts World Manila's long-running mission

Making considerations
For now then, weaving custom-made cultural elements into an itinerary at an IR remains a rarity, and one that takes some planning to achieve, because the resort’s normal operations must not be disrupted. "It’s very difficult for the shows to be used for your own private functions," says Tan-Collis. East West Planners has yet to plan a culture-centred itinerary at an IR – sometimes the options just don’t fit with the resort’s schedule, or it doesn’t fall within the group’s objectives. "The programme you do for an incentive really has to fit its prime aims," she says. "I think that comes as the first priority, but it certainly is something worthwhile to consider. The fees, coordination and timing are critical."

Potential remains, nonetheless, and with destinations fostering connections with visitors through their integrated resorts, one could argue that it is only a matter of time till these resorts become cultural hubs in themselves.



"Resorts World Manila relentlessly champions Filipino performing arts and talent. The rest of the world gets to see the best of what the Philippines can offer."

– Martin Paz, vice-president for integrated marketing, Resorts World Manila

"The shows that we put on reflect the melting pot of culture that is Singapore. As an integrated resort that welcomes large numbers of tourists from across the globe, entertainment is an important part of the experience. We are proud that our efforts are contributing to the growth of the entertainment and live music scene in Singapore."

– Andrea Teo, VP entertainment, Resorts World Sentosa


"At the moment, integrated resorts in Singapore showcase mainly works of international artists and performances. More local performances could be staged to give the audience a better understanding of our unique, multiracial culture."

– Selina Grocott, regional director, Singapore & Malaysia, Pacific World



TITANIC: THe Exhibition
Get a boarding pass – that corresponds with a real passenger of the original Titanic – and hop aboard to learn about the ship’s creation, design and tragedy through interactive exhibitions, organised in partnership with National Geographic.
Venue: Hall F, CotaiExpo, The Venetian Macao
Showing until: February 24, 2013

The Human Bodies Exhibition
Explore the human body through this fascinating exhibit featuring full-body and organ specimens, photographs and informative videos that detail the intricate workings of the body’s structure and systems.
Venue: Hall F, CotaiExpo, The Venetian Macao
Showing until: February 24, 2013

FUJIANS: THE Blue Ocean Legacy
Learn about the Fujian people’s seafaring journey through China to Southeast Asia in the 1800s and their influence on China’s commerce and culture as they settled in the region, as depicted through a thousand-year-old stone carving, an 1828 land title deed and various rare artefacts.
Venue: ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands
Showing until: February 28, 2013

A tale of mystery and the war between good and evil is told through thrilling acrobatics, performed by the international, award-winning Shenyang Acrobatic Troupe, with dynamic music, dance performances and mystifying illusions.
Venue: Festive Grand Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa
Showing until: March 10, 2013

The Art of Brick
View New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya’s extraordinary LEGO brick sculptures. Fifty-two are featured in this extraordinary display of ingenuity and imagination, among which is a specially commissioned sculpture of the ArtScience Museum.
Venue: ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands
Showing until: April 14, 2013


Pacific World

East West Planners

Intas Destinations



Johna Baylon


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