Singapore’s Resorts World cuts visitors forecast

ALEX KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer
LA Times

Singapore’s Resorts World, which plans to open Southeast Asia’s first Universal Studios theme park early next year, has slashed its 2010 visitor forecasts in the face of a global economic downturn.

The resort, which will also feature four hotels and a casino when it opens in the first quarter, expects to see as few as 12 million visitors next year, down from an initial forecast in 2007 of 15 million, Resorts World spokeswoman Krist Boo said Thursday.

The project’s cost has jumped 27 percent to 6.6 billion Singapore dollars ($4.5 billion) over the last two years because of more expensive construction materials and a redesign of the park.

The resort, which broke ground in April 2007, plans to open two more hotels, the world’s largest oceanarium, a water park and maritime museum over the next two years on 49 hectares (121 acres) of Sentosa island — a quarter mile off Singapore’s southern coast.

Boo declined to comment on revenue estimates, but said that the company lowered its expected investment rate of return to between 12 percent and 13 percent from a previous forecast of 15 percent.

“There have been some revisions to the revenue numbers,” Boo said. “What we think will decrease is spending per visitor.”

Singapore, which is suffering through its worst recession since splitting from Malaysia in 1965, is hoping Resorts World and the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino — due to open by the end of this year — will help revive an ailing tourism sector.

Resorts World also hasn’t filled some of its retail space yet, Boo said.

“To be honest, the retail landscape is a little challenging,” she said.

The number of tourist visitors to Singapore fell 12 percent to 3 million during the first four months of this year from the same period a year ago. The Singapore Tourist Board said earlier this year that it expects tourist arrivals to drop to between 9 million and 9.5 million this year from 10.1 million in 2008.

Singapore’s economy, which relies on exports, finance and tourism, shrank an annualized, seasonally adjusted 14.6 percent in the first quarter, and the government expects gross domestic product to contract as much as 9 percent this year.

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