The world’s abuzz about Singapore’s first two legal casinos since 1823, which open this year and are adding back a bit of “sin” to this traditionally straight-laced Southeast Asian city. They’re part of two resort complexes—costing upwards of $10 billion—complete with luxury shopping, spas, theaters, theme parks, celebrity-chef restaurants, and significant meeting and event space.
Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa Island opened first with four of its six hotels (including a Hard Rock Hotel) shops, restaurants, and Singapore’s first casino—helping to boost visitor arrivals 24 percent in February compared to 2009 figures. Universal Studios, with the world premier of its Madagascar attraction, opened in March. Two more hotels, a water park, maritime museum, ESPA spa, and what will be the world’s largest aquarium come later this year.
Meeting spaces accommodate up to 35,000 attendees and feature a ballroom for up to 7,300 seated guests, 46 function spaces, and a 1,600-seat theater. Resorts World has partnered with exhibition center Suntec Singapore, streamlining the planning process for meetings that use both venues.
The eagerly awaited and more upscale Marina Bay Sands soft opens on April 27, with 963 of its 2,560 hotel rooms; 1.3 million square feet of meeting and convention space; the city’s second Las Vegas–style casino; and luxury shops. The impressive Sands Sky Park, a cantilevered rooftop terrace that spans the tops of three 55-story luxury hotel towers, will be unveiled at the grand opening June 23, along with an outpost of the mega-watt nightclub Pangea.
Six restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Santi Santamaria, Guy Savoy and Tetsuya Wakuda will open throughout the year. In October, one of two theaters will debut with a production of The Lion King.
The hotels at the Sands and Resorts World aren’t the only new properties in town. Last year the stunning Capella Singapore opened atop a verdant hill on Sentosa Island. Ideal for small groups that require a touch of extra exclusivity, it combines colonial elegance with contemporary architecture amid a lush resort setting. Function venues overlook the South China Sea, plus there’s beach access, a tranquil spa and two excellent restaurants.
The artfully designed St. Regis Singapore provides luxurious comfort and impeccable personalized service, not to mention one of the best breakfasts in the city. Its signature Remède Spa and a wine bar with nightly free tastings top off any stay. Eight meeting and function rooms can accommodate up to 450 guests.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts refreshed the former Raffles Plaza when it took it over recently and added a Willow Stream Spa. The Fairmont Singapore is situated between its sister properties Swissôtel and the venerable Raffles Singapore, allowing planners to access all three brands to meet their group needs.
Engaging Off-Site Event Venues
Singapore continues to open new attractions that make for excellent off-site venues, notable for their unusual settings or historic significance.
The Peranakan Museum, housed in a former colonial boys’ school, explores the culture of descendants of Chinese and Indian colonial traders who married indigenous women. The museum’s permanent exhibit includes spectacular artifacts from the traditional elaborate Peranakan wedding ceremony. It has three event spaces.
MINT Museum of Toys showcases part of one of the world’s largest toy collections, at 50,000 pieces, with the oldest dating to 1840. Raggedy Ann, Mickey Mouse, Kewpie dolls, robots, rockets, Star Wars—all are represented. There’s a top-floor wine bar and main-level café.
Host a reception, three-course dinner, or small meeting in motion on the Singapore Flyer, a giant observation wheel with bird’s eye views over the city and sea. Each enclosed, air-conditioned capsule holds 28 passengers and includes audiovisual hook-ups and presentation screens.