by Terence Baker | January 01, 2006

Palm Trump International Hotel

Trump’s tulip: A rendering of Donald Trump’s planned Palm Trump International Hotel & Tower in Dubai

Think big. It’s a time-honored dictum, and at present, perhaps the biggest thinkers around are that select group of ambitious and deep-pocketed developers of megaresorts, those big-budget palaces of hospitality offering the best of everything, including plush guest rooms, gourmet dining, pampering spas and state-of-the-art meeting facilities.
    Case in point: Michael W. Sansbury, executive vice president, hotel operations, for the Nassau, Bahamas-based Baha Mar Development Co. “We’re targeting what we call the ‘massive-affluent,’” he says, referring to a planned $1.6 billion, multi-hotel megaresort to be called Baha Mar. “We have looked at places such as Las Vegas and Atlantis, here in the Bahamas, and we saw that there is demand for more resorts that are large, upscale and luxurious.” 
    Megaresorts offer a transformative experience for their surroundings as well as their guests. Just 30 years ago, for example, Cancun remained a sleepy region dependent on its fishing industry. Today, despite sudden setbacks like Hurricane Wilma, the area is studded with huge, luxe hotels harboring some 30,000 rooms and all the pricey day and nighttime recreation its privileged guests could desire.
    And more are on the way, all over the world. The following is a selection of megaresort projects that take the art of thinking big to a whole new dimension.

Bahía de Luperón
Dominican Republic
Sunny destinations close to the United States have obvious appeal to megaresort developers which is why Dominican Republic-based Costa BayanA is building an 11,000-acre project comprising three upscale resorts AtlanticA, BayanA and OceanA on the Bahía de Luperón coast between Montecristi and Puerto Plata. The development broke ground last September.


Caribbean creation: A plan of AtlanticA in the Dominican Republic


    The first property, AtlanticA, will open in December of this year and feature 3,500 rooms and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. When the entire project is completed (within eight to 10 years), guests will find a marina, four additional golf courses, 260 yacht hangers, three cruise ship piers, 28 boutique hotels, 850 shops and restaurants, 10,000 guest rooms and private residences and an international airport with planned connections to cities such as London, Madrid, Miami, Milan, New York, Paris and Rome.
    Pierre Schnebelen, president of Costa BayanA Partners, says the megaresort “will deliver the highest level of luxury to the most sophisticated clientele.”

Macau/Hengqin Island
The ancient Chinese territory of Macau spent centuries under Portuguese rule until it was handed over to China in 1999. Today, this “special administrative region” (meaning it retains its capitalist system for now) consists of three islands Coloane, Macau and Taipa and most of the upcoming development will be on Taipa, specifically on the Cotai Strip, a wedge of land recently reclaimed from the sea and now linked to China by a bridge.
    Among significant projects in the pipeline:
    " Wynn Macau is set to open this fall. While still building, the property already has announced plans for an expansion; by early 2007, the megaresort will have cost an even $1 billion and will cover 16 acres with a total of 600 rooms, 100,000 square feet of casino space, 28,000 square feet of shopping, a spa, a theater, numerous entertainment venues and 223,000 square feet of meeting space.
    " Due for early 2007 completion is the 3,000-room Venetian Macau Resort Casino, with a price tag of $2 billion. Owned by Las Vegas Sands, the company that jump-started the Macau renaissance when it opened the $240 million Sands Macau casino in 2004, this megaresort will occupy a site “roughly half the size of the Las Vegas Strip,” according to a spokesperson. The property will offer 1.8 million square feet of meeting and convention space, 1 million square feet of shopping, 546,000 square feet of casino space and a host of restaurants, spa facilities and entertainment venues.
    " Also expected to open in 2007 is the $975 million, 600-room MGM Grand Macau. This 28-story property will have a curved facade meant to mimic the South China Sea flowing past its doors. Expect mega-amounts of convention, shopping and gaming space here, too.
    " This past November, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts announced two new properties coming to the Cotai Strip by the end of 2008. The 500-room Shangri-La Hotel, Macau, and 1,000-room Traders Hotel, Macau, will share the same 39-story building. A spa and a restaurant have been announced, but there’s no word on the amount of meeting space.
    " Pioneering Macau developer Stanley Ho and his Melco International started work last May on a $1.2 billion megaproject featuring an underwater casino, three hotels and a theater, among other amenities, that will open in mid-2008.
    With little vacant space left to build on within the three Macanese islands, investors now are looking across the Cotai Strip bridge to China, where the town of Zhuhai sits on Hengqin Island, part of the Chinese province of Guangdong. Last October, Las Vegas Sands announced plans for the new Hengqin Island Resort here. The 1,300-acre property will include several upscale hotels, approximately 1,500 rooms, numerous residential villas, convention facilities, a theme park, a marina and an outdoor amphitheater, among other attractions. Opening is expected before 2010, but no timeline has been announced as yet.