ST May 6, 2010
Uproar over Marina Bay Sands conference woes
By Ng Kai Ling & Lim Wei Chean
ORGANISERS of the first conference held at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) are looking into taking action against the integrated resort (IR) for the problems which plagued the event from the word go.
They say MBS failed to deliver the 'unmatched guest experience' it promised when it first signed the deal early last year.
Mr Yap Wai Ming, chairman of this year's organising committee for the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) conference, said they will take stock of all the things that went wrong before meeting MBS to discuss the issue. He did not give a date for the meeting.
The IPBA conference, a prestigious meeting of lawyers now into its 20th year, was the first event hosted at the IR, which threw open its doors on April 27 after months of delay. More than 1,000 lawyers and judges from all over the world, including the United States, Japan and Chile, attended the meet, which started on Sunday and ended yesterday.
By the time it was over, delegates had compiled a long list of complaints about MBS, ranging from minor irritations to major flaws:
- At the five-star Marina Bay Sands Hotel, some delegates spent the first night without air conditioning.
- Some guests had to make calls using their mobile phones because the room phones were not working.
- Some rooms had no hot water or working toilet flushes.
- Facilities like the gymnasium, spa and swimming pool were not ready for use.
But the problems did not end at the hotel rooms.
At the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, sound quality in the conference rooms was poor, and meetings were interrupted by construction noise or worse.
Mr Yap said an IPBA committee meeting had to be reconvened along a corridor because of loud piped music playing in the meeting room. He said MBS told them it was unable to turn the music off as the sound engineer was not around.
To add insult to injury, the power went out for more than half an hour in the conference room on Tuesday during the address by the Chief Justice of the Australian state of New South Wales.
The inadequacies so irked the delegates that one of them, lawyer Axel Reeg from Germany, raised a motion during the annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday that the association take a 'fair and tough stance' against MBS for not delivering what it promised.
'The conference has been world class. The venue was presented to us as going to be world class. Sadly, it is not yet world class...I think we should rename Marina Bay Sands to Construction Bay,' the 51-year-old told the assembled lawyers at the AGM.
Mr Yap said MBS should have been more honest about the progress of the IR right from the start, when it knew that its planned opening last December would have to be pushed back because of unforeseen construction setbacks and labour shortages.
Five hours before my friend was due to check out, the hotel staff thought that she and her husband had already checked out. The hotel staff assigned the room to a new guest and insisted on sending his luggage to my friend's room.
My friend had to tell them exasperatedly, "Wait, WAIT. You are making a mistake. This is MY room. You can't give a stranger a key to enter into MY room. This is a security breach!!"
She also telephoned several times to ask for mineral water, but it never came. Oh, and she had to use her own handphone to call. The telephone in her hotel room was not working.
There were other horror stories - about hotel guests getting stuck in lifts etc. In one case, the lift worked, but only partially - the door opened only halfway, so the hotel guests had to squeeze their way out.
A terrible start, for the highly-billed IR. What happened to the quality control?