by Michael C. Lowe | March 01, 2011

Last year, Singapore's skyline saw two major additions -- the US$5.5 billion, 2,500-room Marina Bay Sands and the US$4.4 billion, 121-acre Resorts World Sentosa. They likely helped this island nation achieve its 13th consecutive month of record international arrivals this past December, with 1.1 million travelers.

This year promises to be notable thanks to a huge new horticultural park project and a significant convention center expansion.

Gardens by the Bay A 250-acre development in the Marina Bay neighborhood, Gardens by the Bay features a variety of event, function and dining facilities.

Bay South, opening by the end of this year, will be the largest of three gardens at 133 acres and will exhibit tropical flora throughout its several areas, including a conservatory complex that will feature a cloud-forest biome (or ecosystem) and a Mediterranean environment biome, both of which will be available for events.

Nearby are several areas with horticultural themes in addition to a grove of 180-foot-tall "supertrees," or vertical gardens, connected by aerial walkways. The structures, covered with tropical flowering climbers, fan out at their peaks to form canopies and will be lit up after dark. The grove also features a dining area flexible for functions.

Bay South's main event space is a five-acre event lawn (complete with a stage equipped with a retractable canopy) with space for up to 7,000 people.

The next largest garden area is the 79-acre Bay East complex, which incorporates a previously built marina and offers lush landscaping and myriad fountains. The site affords easy access to all manner of waterfront recreation, including canoeing, kayaking and boat races that can be viewed from a series of stepped timber decks.

Connecting Bay East and Bay South is the 37-acre Bay Central, a 1.7-mile waterfront promenade.

Other news In the wake of a US$63 million rebranding and renovation, the 454-room Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa reopened in January as Singapore's only beachfront resort, offering 16,642 square feet of function space.

The 241-room Ibis Sin­ga­pore Novena opens this month near the central business district, offering free Wi-Fi, a gym and an on-site restaurant.

On the convention beat, facility management company Singex announced last month that it will add 86,000 square feet of meeting and prefunction space to the 1.3 million-square-foot Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Center. Dubbed the MAX Atria @ Singapore EXPO, the new facility will feature 23 additional meeting rooms and is expected to open in early 2012.