City of Dreams aims high in the sky

Thursday, February 5, 2009
Issue 603, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 1099
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The current economic climate is not holding back Melco from opening City of Dreams (COD) this year, instead the company has the ambition to lead Cotai to stand out as its own destination in Macau.

City of Dreams, the flagship property of Melco Crown Entertainment, is set to be open in the first half of this year. A major recruitment fair is going to be held this weekend at the Macau Tower as the company’s first move to recruit the 7,000 people the Phase 1 opening needs.

Greg Hawkins, president of COD, said in an interview with the Macau Daily Times yesterday that the local gaming market was “likely” to be saturated in a foreseeable future, and that’s why the latest Cotai property would not be just about casino experience.

“You got to look really long term in what’s happening in Macau. It’s easy to get to focus on the short term but clearly the longer term picture is very possible,” Mr Hawkins said.

“So COD has a range of food and beverage, hotels, brands and retail, providing with tourists and local experience, it’ll be very fulfilling and diverse,” he added.

When this integrated resort comes on the street possibly in May or June, Mr Hawkins said the focus would “shift away from gaming, despite it will still stay important, to a broad range of entertaining experience”.

The head of the US$2.1 billion mega resort said he did not foresee the competition on the Cotai Strip would be “cut-throat”, instead he believed that it would contribute to Macau’s sustainable growth.

“The opening of more large-scale integrated properties will continue to positively change the face of Macau,” Mr Hawkins said.

“Across the mid to long term the resorts which are open there will be combined to provide a Cotai experience,” he added.

According to Mr Hawkins, Cotai will become the “primary destination hub in Macau because of the scale, diversity and quality of the resorts”.

“Even the properties are operated by different companies, the synergy on Cotai is a whole. The movements and transfers of multi-site visitation between the properties is what will occur, as what you see in some other jurisdictions in Las Vegas,” he said.

For him, the more can happen on the Cotai “the better” as “visitors will stay for longer and prefer to stay there compared to the Macau Peninsula”.

Despite the pains caused by the financial crisis have been felt worldwide, Mr Hawkins still maintained a strong faith towards the opening of the flagship property.

“The property we’re bringing to the market on the Cotai is very much to be experienced for tourists coming in. Although the growth rate has fallen off a bit, there are still a big number of tourists coming into Macau, so the people are still there,” he added.

When asked what City of Dreams’ long-term plan was in terms of attracting customers to return, the president told the MDTimes the “wide spectrum” of products it is offering such as accommodation, entertainment, dining and retail would “surely drive loyalty”.

“Multi-stay particularly in some of the large integrated resorts is something that we see clearly growing,” Mr Hawkins said.

The accommodation COD will be offering includes Crown Towers, Hard Rock Hotel, Grand Hyatt Macau as well as an apartment hotel which will together provide up to 2,200 guest rooms and suites when the final phase of development is completed.

“With the different positioning of the hotels we expect a very high inbound use of the rooms with packages such as for trade and tourism,” Mr Hawkins said.

In the first phase of COD opening about 600 hotel rooms will be available which will then go up to 1,400 after Grand Hyatt is completed in the third quarter of this year.

“Room rates in Macau are a bit relative to the positioning of the property. I think we’ll be taking a competitive rate based on the brand of the hotel and in order to have it really competed between the market place,” Mr Hawkins said.

Keen to recruit locals”

The Phase 1 of City of Dreams project incorporates a large number of operating areas such as Crown Towers, Hard Rock Hotel, casino, retail and food and beverage outlets.

Mr Hawkins said they already had about 700 people “on board” and thus they were going to go from 700 to 7,000 over the next three or four months.

And the COD head said he was “very confident” in getting enough talents from Macau.

“At least 5,000 or 80 percent of the total will be locals. They’re looking at different market conditions at the moment and new career options,” Mr Hawkins said.

The positions which are open for locals in the upcoming recruitment fair are “across all levels”.

“We’re committed to developing locals through entry-level roles into managerial positions. We expect to fill a very board range of some entry-level and middle level management roles, and hopefully in the upper level management as well,” he added.

As for the about 20 percent of the 7,000 positions which will be held by imported labourers, Mr Hawkins said “predominately they will be hired from Hong Kong and mainland China to work in some specialised areas such as information technology and business”.

“Sometimes in areas with particular roles it is a need to get a nice blend of experience,” the COD president said.

“In Macau it’s grown so quickly in terms of opportunities for locals. When a company needs to bring in some experience which in times you will need to recruit offshore to assist with the local development process,” he added.

To Mr Hawkins, Macau residents tend to lack “experience in roles” although their attitudes, behaviours and passion are all “outstanding”.

“As there was such a large growth in a short time it’s about experience in roles which can increase your leadership and managerial abilities,” he said.

“Leadership principles are particularly important to individuals’ career growth and a successful operation of our business as well,” he added.

From being the CEO of VIP-oriented Crown Macau to the president of Melco’s flagship entertainment property, Mr Hawkins told the MDTimes the key was to take the experiences obtained from the past roles to “apply into City of Dreams project”.

“Having worked in Macau for nearly three years now, understanding the Macau market, the labour market, the products which tourists and locals are interested in and also challenges associated with the opening of the property, all give myself and my team a very good experience that serves as a good base for us to work positively in Macau,” he added.

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