The promoters of the City of Dreams Sri Lanka, the first of its kind integrated resort in South Asia have described it as both a game changer and a catalyst.

The mega deal was announced on Tuesday whereby John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) has partnered with world famous Macau casino operator Melco for its former’s $ 1 billion integrated resort project developed by subsidiary Waterfront Properties Ltd. (WPL).

Melco will also invest approximately $ 125 million in the fit-out and equipping of the gaming space. Melco is one of the world’s leading casino and integrated resort operators with internationally renowned integrated resorts in Macau, the Philippines and Cyprus.

As part of the collaboration between JKH and Melco, the integrated resort, which had previously been branded as ‘Cinnamon Life Integrated Resort’, will be rebranded as ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’. ‘City of Dreams’ is the flagship integrated resort brand of Melco.

The ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ will encompass a luxurious 687-key hotel branded as ‘Cinnamon Life’, which will comprise of a range of ballrooms and banquet facilities including an exhibition centre, that, together, can accommodate meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) events of up to 5,000 seats. It will also include a 113-key exclusive hotel and a 500,000 square foot shopping and entertainment facility, including the gaming operations.

The 687-key ‘Cinnamon Life’ hotel and related facilities are in the final stages of fit-out and completion and is slated to commence operations by the third quarter of the calendar year 2024. The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top 5 floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra-high-end luxury hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines. Melco’s ultra-high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.

Melco Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Ho said the company is thrilled to be part of landmark development in Sri Lanka and to be in partnership with John Keells.

“We believe Sri Lanka has immense potential and this opportunity complements our existing portfolio of properties,” he said.

Lawrence Ho also said City of Dreams Sri Lanka is expected to serve as a catalyst for stimulating tourism demand and promoting economic growth in Sri Lanka, drawing inspiration from the successful examples set by similar integrated resorts in other jurisdictions.

“We will continue to work closely with our esteemed partners and the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the success of this venture, and we expect to make a significant and positive impact on the local community and economy,” Ho said in a statement.

JKH Chairperson Krishan Balendra told the Daily FT that City of Dreams will be a game changer as integrated resorts have been for Asian countries such as Singapore.

“It is an iconic development that will offer a range of world class amenities and attractions, similar to other integrated resorts in the region like Marina Bay Sands of Singapore. The opening of two Integrated Resorts in Singapore in 2010, including Marina Bay Sands, resulted in an immediate surge in tourist arrivals to Singapore from an already high base. The impact in other Asian cities like Manila, where similar Integrated Resorts have been opened, has been positive,” Balendra said.

JKH Chief said Colombo has seen a number of new hotels opening in recent years and a few more are in the pipeline. However, as per a global consulting firm study the impact of an Integrated Resort in Colombo and their projections were that despite the new supply of rooms in the city, Sri Lanka will need even more rooms and investment with the expected increase in tourists arrivals that an Integrated Resort like City of Dreams Sri Lanka will drive.

“City of Dreams Sri Lanka should lead to a surge in tourist arrivals (especially high spending tourists), foreign exchange earnings, employment and economic activity in the country. Our announcement on Tuesday has been in the news around the world, which should increase the interest in tourism and investment in Sri Lanka,” emphasised Balendra.

Melco is an owner, operator and developer of award-winning integrated resorts around the world with hotels and casinos in Macau, the Philippines and Cyprus. Melco’s properties include 13 luxury hotels with approximately 6,300 hotel rooms, MICE facilities, internationally recognised shows and events, and over 1.2 million square feet of gaming areas. Founded in 2004, Melco is listed on the NASDAQ with a market capitalisation of approximately $ 2.9 billion as at 29 April 2024 (pre-COVID (December 2019) market capitalisation was approximately $ 11.5 billion), with over 20,000 employees.

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