Tweet One of the world's richest and most glamorous destinations is out to woo the new rich from Asia and Middle East. Yeoh Siew Hoon catches up with the folks at Monte Carlo SBM.
Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort
The closest I've come to Monte Carlo was sighting it from a cruise ship. We were docked outside while waiting for a boat to ferry us into shore.
From afar, it looked a little like Hong Kong or Singapore - lots of buildings on tiny slivers of land.
It is after all the world's second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican, and one of the world's richest places. Who hasn't heard of the glamour and wealth associated with names such as Prince Albert and Grace Kelly?
Thus, when I got an email from Axel Hoppenot, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing of Monte Carlo SBM, saying he would be in Singapore, and would I like to meet, I of course said yes.
I was curious to find out one, why he was in town and second, if the global financial crisis would take its toll on a place that relies on people with lots of money to spend on the fine things in life.
Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel & Resort
The answer to the first question was Monte Carlo SBM is opening an office in Singapore to look after the Asian markets. To the second, Hoppenot said, "The people with 40m yacht and below, they will be affected. Those with 40m yachts and above, they will not be."
Not knowing much about yachts and their dimensions, I am guessing that what he means is there is a line that divides the uber rich and the merely rich and that line determines who will come out of this current crisis relatively unscathed.
For example, according to Forbes, one of the losers of the financial storm is Bill Gates whose net worth declined to US$55.5 billion from $57 billion in the past month.
Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal saw £20 billion wiped out from his individual wealth in the last few months. He and his family however have assets estimated at £27.7 billion.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Adelson of The Venetian fame saw his net worth decline by US$4 billion between August 29 and October 1 to US$11 billion, according to Forbes.
This is of course not good news because he is, as the Financial Times reported, up to his neck in new casino projects - US$12 billion in Macau and US$4 billion in Singapore. But, by any standards, I think he still belongs to the 40m yacht-and-above brigade.
Back to Monte Carlo SBM. CEO Bernard Lambert told me that they've decided to open an office in Singapore because "Asia and Middle East are where the future is".
"The world is changing," he said. "With what is happening in the world, we simply cannot ignore the two markets of Middle East and Asia - it's where the new wealth is.
"We cannot just remain the same and banking on the same clients. Our clients are also getting older and we are not attracting their children, so we have to find new markets."
Hôtel de Paris
Currently, only three to four percent of Monte Carlo SBM's business comes from Asia. "The majority is Japanese business and we've seen a little pick-up from China and India," says Hoppenot. "Our goal is to double or triple that in five to 10 years' time.
"We intend to promote Monte Carlo as a unique, special destination and adapt ourselves to meet our new customers' needs and expectations," says Lambert.
It will be interesting to see how a European pedigree brand adapts to its new customers.
Lambert stresses that the gaming experience offered by Las Vegas and Macau is very different from that offered by Monte Carlo. "Ours is very personalised and unique. In the whole of Monaco, we have 100 tables in five casinos. The Sands in Macau alone has 800 tables," he added.
Altogether Monte Carlo SBM operates 900 rooms in four hotels, 100 tables and 1,200 slots.
"People come to Monte Carlo for the whole experience. Yes there is gaming but there are the hotels, restaurants, arts, glamour, history," says Hoppenot.
"It's for people who've seen and done everything. We're the only fairytale that lasts after midnight." Photos courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM