Crown calls for upgrade of tourism infrastructure

Crown Casino boss Rowen Craigie has called for more investment in Australia's tourism infrastructure, from airports and hotels to faster visa applications, to attract middle-class Chinese tourists as rival hot spots such as Singapore and Macau covet the valuable gambling and leisure demographic.

Crown Casino boss Rowen Craigie has called for more investment in Australia's tourism infrastructure, from airports and hotels to faster visa applications, to attract middle-class Chinese tourists as rival hot spots such as Singapore and Macau covet the valuable gambling and leisure demographic.

Unveiling a 22.9 per cent fall in full-year profit to $395.8 million, the owner of casinos in Perth, Melbourne, London and Macau is set to splurge billions on a new gambling-hotels facility at Barangaroo, while also participating in a government review to build a casino in Brisbane.

But Mr Craigie said more needed to be done to polish up the nation's tourism and entertainment infrastructure if it wanted to gain a larger share of the huge middle-class Chinese holiday market.

"It's going to be a lot about the ability to get that middle-class Chinese tourist to come to Australia," Mr Craigie said.

"Visas become important, direct flights, what's the airport experience, what's the accommodation like, the restaurants ... language skills of staff servicing those markets.

"That middle to upper Chinese tourist market, which every country in Asia and around the world is chasing, gets back very much to what are the competitive fundamentals of your tourism industry."

Crown is hoping to play both sides of the tourist battle through its 34 per cent investment in Melco Crown Entertainment, the operator of the City of Dreams casino resort in Macau, and its casinos in Australia.

But its portfolio had mixed results for fiscal 2013 as VIP high rollers were scarce in Macau following the changeover in Chinese leadership, while crowds of premium mass market gamblers in Australia boosted earnings at its flagship Crown Melbourne casino.

Normalised group profit - excluding variations in the win rate in VIP gaming and $70 million lost from its investment in rival casino group Echo - rose 14 per cent to $473.2 million.

Continued weak consumer sentiment and disruptions to patrons from refurbishments resulted in revenue from its main gaming floor at Crown Melbourne rise by only 0.9 per cent. Basic games and pokies were down, with the gaming floor dragged higher by the premium mass market betting in private rooms within the casino.

VIP gaming revenue at Crown Melbourne lifted 9.2 per cent.

At its Perth casino main floor gaming revenue rose 9.7per cent, and VIP revenue rose by 3.3 per cent.

The Macau market was subdued with growth of only 5 per cent against recent highs of closer to 40 per cent year-on-year growth.

Shares in Crown closed an at all-time high on Friday, up 76ยข at $14.34.

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