Landing International Development Limited held a press conference and groundbreaking ceremony for its new US$1.5 billion Philippines resort on 7 August where the company went to great pains to explain its unique IR concept. Too bad the message was lost among the remarkable chain of events that followed.
“There are many critics out there but each time we conduct a presentation explaining what we are trying to do, 10 out of 10 people come out of these sessions understanding and supporting what we are trying to do with our resort in Manila.”
Those were the words of Landing International Development Limited’s Chief Operating Officer Jay Lee during a press conference on the morning of the company’s 7 August groundbreaking ceremony for its planned US$1.5 billion integrated resort in Manila’s Entertainment City precinct. They are also the words Landing no doubt hopes make it through to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, currently the main man standing in the way of its IR dream becoming a reality.
As readers of our IAG Breakfast Briefing e-newsletter would know, the groundbreaking ceremony was ultimately overshadowed by news that the entire board of the company’s Philippines partner – Nayong Pilipino Foundation – were fired by Duterte that very day over the terms of the land lease deal it had signed with Landing, described by the President as “grossly disadvantageous.”
He has since ordered a full probe into the deal, followed more recently by a proclamation that no new casinos would be allowed in the Philippines under his watch.
Frustratingly for Landing, the details of its Manila integrated resort – to be named NayonLanding should it actually get off the ground – have been lost in the furore.
So what exactly is it that the company plans to build?
“I was quite surprised that for such a huge metropolitan city, there isn’t a core family destination resort currently in the city,” says Lee, “so what we are building will be one of the largest family leisure integrated resorts in the world. It will cost US$1.5 billion.
“I think the core attraction of the resort is actually the attractions themselves. This will house the largest or second-largest indoor theme park in the world. You will have three massive theme parks including a water park, a cultural park and a movie theme park all combined within our resort and this by itself will position Manila in the space of the family destination resort. It will even compete with Universal Studios Singapore.”
Landing is promoting NayonLanding as incorporating three key elements, each of which it says will provide its own unique benefits. The theme parks are number one.
“I think family attractions will do very well here,” Lee offers. “It is a very family-oriented place and I think it will go very well with the population.
“The family leisure entertainment aspect is our key point of difference from the other resorts in Entertainment City. We have a huge attraction business, whether it is the indoor movie theme park, the Nayong Pilipino Water Park or the Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park.
“The Filipino cultural theme park … I think the Philippines has a very culturally diverse, attractive, rich history and culture and what we are doing is using the contents and rich history and putting it in a modern interpretation and platform that will correlate to the audience.”
Element two is MICE and what Landing says will be Manila’s biggest column-free, pillar-free ballroom.
“This will only strengthen the Philippines’ position as a preferred MICE venue,” Lee explains. “Our ballroom will seat 5,000 people in a column-free space which will allow us to do a lot of concerts and shows that will differentiate us from other competitors in the region – not just within Entertainment City but within the entire region.”
Third, of course, is the casino, set to cover the top two levels of the luxury hotel complex including a “sky casino” on the top floor targeted at premium guests. Again, Landing claims that its target casino market separates it from its Entertainment City competitors – Solaire, City of Dreams and Okada Manila.
“I look at the current crop of casinos here and a lot of them are really focusing on locals – they are not bringing the regional tourists to Manila,” Lee says. “To give you an analogy, in Korea our casino (Landing Casino at Jeju Shinhwa World) is a foreigner-only casino. Many of our guests have not been to Korea or to Jeju prior to our opening, so tourism is a key attribute.
“The facilities in Korea prior to us opening were sorely lacking in terms of meeting the expectations of the premium or premium mass customers and also in terms of giving them the amenities and supporting facilities they expect.
“By having such a huge family leisure entertainment complex in Manila we are creating a destination, another choice for these regional travellers. The main segments currently coming to Manila are Koreans and Chinese. I think you will find – and we obviously have regional sales officers in China and Korea – our ability to drive this new market will be second to none.
“So I don’t think this is a crowded market. It depends on the kind of product you are presenting to foreigners.”
Landing, predicting that around 30% of resort visitation will come from international visitors, contends that its existing Landing Casino database gives it an immediate headstart in luring customers to the Philippines – primarily from China, Korea and Japan.
Likewise, it wants to bring Filipino performers back home to highlight its entertainment program.
“In Korea, 80% of our total employees are local Koreans and I would expect given the skill set the local Filipinos have that the percentage at NayonLanding would be much higher,” Lee says. “We are looking at 85 to 90%.
“This resort is about showcasing Filipino culture, showcasing Filipino talents. There are a lot of Filipino entertainers and performers working abroad. In Singapore, a lot of the show performers are all young Filipinos. These are the type of skilled workers that I think would be very attracted to the idea of coming back home to develop this.
“Even the designers working on this resort, I did not choose any international design companies, I chose a local firm to help us because I want this resort to be a showcase of local talent in the Philippines.”
The biggest question right now remains whether Landing will have anything to showcase at all. Despite being issued a provisional casino license by Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR two weeks before its Manila groundbreaking ceremony, President Duterte has promised to prevent any such circumstance via a nation-wide moratorium on new casinos. Yet, asked about the criticism of Duterte and others, Landing is sticking to its guns.
“It’s only normal for critics to question what we are planning to do,” says Lee. “For me the important thing is to educate and let the audience follow in order to understand what we are trying to do with this project.
“Once you understand, we want you to be the judge.”