A 15 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE OF INTERNATIONAL GAMING AND HOSPITALITY

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Wishing a very happy 15th Anniversary to Gaming & Leisure. It’s been nice to see the G&L’s growth through the years.

During this time, I’ve covered leisure technology topics including golf, spa and an occasional resort property from around the world. One of my favorite focuses has been on covering international gaming from regions as diverse as SE Asia to Russia, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere.

In some articles I’ve covered leisure software tools including Customer Relationship Management in Spas, Software Security, and Revenue Management in Golf Booking Systems. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of writing for G&L are the people I have had the privilege to profile.

Within this review of my contributions to G&L I’d like to select three topics, one from casino gaming, another from golf and the third from the spa and wellness industry.

Macau Gaming – In the Spring 2014 issue of G&L Magazine, our International Road Trip article covered The Bright Future of the Asian Gaming Market, 2014. Of particular focus was Macau, wherein I covered the growth of casino gaming in both Macau and across Asia. In 2014 I mentioned that, “Asia will increase its position as the gaming industry’s dominant market in the foreseeable future. Overtaking Las Vegas in gaming revenues in 2006, Macau’s growth has continued, most recently posting revenues six times greater than that of Las Vegas in the past year.”

My early trips into Hong Kong & Macau were in the mid-1990s, years before the return of sovereignty to China (Hong Kong handover 1997, Macau 1999). In the early visits to Macau, the only casino of size was the smoke-filled, oft over-capacity, fabled Lisboa. Along the streets at the time were smaller casinos teeming with guests, demonstrating a certain demand for an increase in casino gaming in Macau and along China’s borders.

Starting in 2002, numerous firms began developing casinos in Macau including a handful of Chinese groups and the Vegas icons — Melco Crown, Galaxy, Wynn, MGM, Sands and SJM Holdings. Hotels, restaurants, and high-end retail shops followed, benefiting from the influx of Chinese high rollers coming to town.

As the only place in China where gambling is legal, Macau exploded, growing into a $45 billion industry by 2013, nearly seven times greater than that of Las Vegas. In recent years, studies have indicated that the vast amounts of money coming into the city helped hide irregular activity – providing a cover for some to illegally move money out of mainland China. As a nation with strict capital controls, China began to crack down on junket operators that recruited the VIP gamblers, and reduced the length of stay for mainland Chinese in Macau. The anti-corruption campaign along with slowing growth had a significant impact. In 2015 the city’s economy shrank by 20% due largely in-part to the hit taken by the casino industry due to these controls. Gaming revenues tumbled 34% in 2015 to a five-year low, according to government data.

Golf in Vietnam – When I made my first stop in Vietnam in 1996 to visit the Song Be Golf Resort, it was one of only a few championship golf courses in the country. At that time there were only a half-dozen courses in the country altogether. SE Asian golf destinations at that time included Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Things have changed significantly for golf in the country. In recent months, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) had selected Vietnam as the 2016 Golf Destination of the Year for Asia & Australasia. This is the second time it had won the title, winning for the first time in 2013.

The IAGTO awards are voted by IAGTO golf tour operator members from 60 countries and consider:

  • customer satisfaction
  • quality of golf courses and accommodations
  • value for money
  • professional conduct of suppliers
  • support from local tourism industry
  • accessibility to tee time

In September and October (2015) I was asked to travel with Vietnam Golf Magazine to play, review and rank the top 25 golf courses and facilities throughout the country. This trip took us from the island of Phu Quoc at the southernmost tip of the country to Hanoi in the north. It gave me an opportunity to meet with many of the course directors and experience each course and facility firsthand. This “International Road Trip” had been covered by G&L Magazine in the Winter 2015 issue.

During our course reviews, we selected The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip as Vietnam’s top golf course. The World Golf Awards also selected The Bluffs as the World’s Best Golf Course 2015. In the Summer 2014 International Road Trip article for G&L Magazine was an interview with Colin Pine, General Director of Ho Tram Project Company. The article titled “Vietnam’s Newest Seaside Gaming Gem”, the site remains Vietnam’s top Integrated Gaming Resort.

With such a significant growth in the number of courses and the quality of golf in a short 20 years, I can see why IAGTO had selected Vietnam twice as the Golf Destination of the Year.

International Spa Management – Through the past 15 years, I’ve been involved in consulting and implementing Spa Management Systems around the world. I’ve also written about dozens of spas and spa conferences. In the Winter 2014 issue of G&L Magazine, I wrote about attending “Forum HOTel Spa, Paris 2014-2015” a leading spa conference held at the Paris Four Seasons George V.

That year (June 2014) as well as this year (June 2016) one of the featured speakers was Mr. Ingo Schweder. Since he epitomizes the growth and success of the global spa market in recent years, I’d like to use him as an example.

I first met Ingo in 2004 at the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai (Thailand) when he was Group Manager – Spa for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. The site was expected to be the world’s top spa village and was a month or two from opening. At the time he was on-site for some pre-opening work and was consulting on Spa IT solutions. Since that time, we had crossed paths a number of times at Spa & Hotel conferences in places like the Paris, Bali and Hong Kong.

In 2011, Ingo founded GOCO Hospitality, with offices in Bangkok and Berlin. From there they had a significant level of growth in their global spa consulting and management services. In a short few years, they have developed some of the top spa and wellness centers around the world, in exotic locations around Asia, Oceania, Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Having visited a few in SE Asia and Europe, I can attest that they are top of the line. Their success has been highly recognized with dozens of awards including: Top Spa Consultants, Best Destination Spa, Best Hotel Spa and Spa of the Year.

This is one of several groups that have done well in the expanding global spa market through the past fifteen years. Almost every resort will have a spa as part of their service offerings.

It has been a pleasure contributing international content to Gaming & Leisure through the years. Congratulations on the first 15, and best wishes for the years to come.

Based in Bali, Bill Healey has been consulting, installing, and supporting solutions in the global golf and leisure industry since 1982. He has been involved with over 1,000 systems installations in 40+ countries from North America to Africa to Asia and Australia.

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