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IN-DEPTH 20 October 2016
The Future of integrated resorts
Want to stay ahead of the curve as casino resorts evolve into the future? Stop thinking of resorts as casinos with auxiliary facilities attached, but instead as one seamless entertainment offering, say casino design specialist YWS Architecture & Design
By Gambling Insider

Seventy years ago, gaming-centric venues were dominated by tables and slots. Today’s integrated resort is anchored in gaming and supported by integrated amenities.

But the next evolution of gaming and entertainment has arrived.

As designers think about what customers want as well as looking for what’s next, they think about first impressions and consider flow of space to aid the movement of people. They are deliberate in their selection of finishes, lighting, and sound. They care about back-of-house efficiency to ensure a memorable front-of-house experience. Most importantly, they know when a place is well designed and branded, and know that customers will notice too.

To help them better understand what customers want, designers focus on understanding the patrons’ attitudes, interests, lifestyles, personalities, values, social class, and opinions. Called psychographic segmentation - this analysis is helping the creative community intuit what customers want and integrate these trends into their design. To engage both today and tomorrow’s consumers of leisure, design industry leaders such as YWS Design & Architecture continue to rethink the Integrated Resort (IR).

YWS’ CEO Tom Wucherer talks about the future of Integrated Resorts globally, saying that consumers are moving away from mega resorts in favour of culturally authentic attractions that tell stories, allow for rapid consumption of multiple experiences and promote interaction and exclusivity.

In Wucherer’s view it is all about the customer. He says customers want to experience a venue on their own terms. Though clear that he does not believe the traditional foundations of hospitality, gaming, retail, dining, and entertainment (HGRDE) are to be ignored, he reiterates the need to know the preferences and behaviors of the customer.

The path forward for integrated resorts will look and play more like leisure and entertainment districts than a single casino. They may be designed with central piazzas that allow people to sit, mix or mingle, yet provide easy flow that leads people outward to multiple light-filled gaming niches, unique retail offerings, themed food and beverage venues, large convention spaces that could operate as showrooms and meeting spaces, small VIP lounges, or even a sea life park proximal to a handful of museums.

Michael Stewart, YWS Global Director of Design emphasises that designers want to put together a compelling design story on every project. “To do that we are putting guests in the driver’s seat by gauging individual interests and gathering psychographic consumer insights.”

In an integrated resort it is easy for visitors to leave one activity and move to another. In fact, the speed of interaction of different spaces has increased. Technology has changed how consumers navigate an Integrated Resort. People use phones to solicit and generate information and experiences quickly. Stewart says: “We want to create spaces where people visit all of the amenities, but do not miss the interactive possibilities of colliding with other people.” In Stewart’s view, accidental collisions are part of the fun and a major reason people come to leisure and entertainment districts.

In terms of design trends he says that designers will be looking to open up space, connect the inside to the outside and bring in more daylight to create open environments that are more customer friendly.

The casino-centric venues of yesteryear morphed into a concept where a multitude of amenities was attached to the gambling space. Convention spaces were added to increase frequency of use during the week. Eventually, pools and restaurants were added, spaces were enlarged and nightclubs were conceived to extend the use of the facility into the night.

Today’s integrated resort is really more of a district that is fully integrated with amenities and operates as a fluid, market-driven space. It is comprised of targeted micro-environments that offer a plethora of things to do. Instead of gaming as the anchor, gaming is just one among many reasons to visit.

These concepts started in the United States, but are being quickly assimilated in gaming locations around the world. In Macau, for instance, the government sees opportunity to become a world centre of leisure tourism and has encouraged casinos to diversify their offerings. Singapore also sees value in growing their resorts. One resort in Singapore originally focused on business and convention travel. A second resort focused on family tourism. Both have a casino.

The formula for IRs of the future? Think of them not as casinos with amenities, but as casinos that are integrated into these amenities. Think of fun. Think of Disneyland, but shrunken so that anyone can get anywhere quickly on foot. Add in a mix of retail offerings that offer the unique and unexpected. Design world class themed restaurants and bars that honour regions in which they exist and offer a wide variety of beverages so customers can hang out and relax with friends. Finally, have traditional and technology-based games at the ready for play time.

YWS is in the business of designing gathering places for social amusements. From a designer’s perspective, there is plenty of fun that comes during a project’s start up design meetings. But the firm’s team all agrees that the satisfaction they get when they see people enjoy a venue they worked on, just might be the most fun of all.
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