MANILA, Philippines - Luxury hotel chain Nobu Hotels is opening its first hotel in Asia at the $1.3-billion casino, hotel and entertainment complex, City of Dreams Manila.
Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro, who is one of the investors behind Nobu Hotels, made a surprise appearance at the launch event in Manila.
Nobu investors De Niro, celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Hollywood producer Meir Teper and Nobu Hospitality CEO Trevor Horwell initially appeared via video feed at the press conference. But after a "techical glitch", they appeared on stage along with Macau tycoon Lawrence Ho and Australian billionaire James Packer, to cheers from the audience.
Nobu Hotels will open at the City of Dreams Manila developed by Ho and Packer's Melco Crown Entertainment and SM Group's Belle Corp. The resort complex is scheduled to be opened later this year.
"Hello, Manila, It's great to be here. I'm very happy to see that we're finally having a hotel at the City of Dreams with our partners Lawrence Ho and James Packer. We look forward to it being a big success," de Niro said. (Watch:De Niro talks about Nobu)
Matsuhisa, the Japanese chef behind the successful chain on Nobu restaurants, said he is very excited to open the first Nobu Hotel in Asia in Manila.
"I want to see everyone smiling in Manila eating my food," he said.
De Niro recalled how he became an investor in Nobu more than twenty years ago.
"I was having dinner at Matsuhisa in LA... And I said, if you ever want to open a restaurant in New York, give me a call. I knew it would be a big success in New York.... We had no idea it would get to where it did and it's just proof of how great Nobu's food is," the actor said.
De Niro also promised he will be back in Manila for the opening of Nobu Hotel.
Asked why Nobu Hospitality chose Manila as its first Asian location, Horwell said it was a right fit, from the location City of Dreams, to the partners.
"I think the fit was right from Nobu's side, coming to Manila because of the destination, City of Dreams... We felt the partners were right. We knew the partners and their vision for the City of Dreams was very important. Naturally we believe the staff within the Philippines would be perfect to deliver the service, which is Nobu service," Horwell said, adding that the Nobu Hotel Las Vegas' general manager is a Filipino.
Ho, co-chairman of Melco Crown, said they chose to bring Nobu Hotels to Manila because of the city's "exciting potential".
"You know Manila ticks all the boxes for all the exciting potential that we see in developing an integrated resort and tourism... Nobu as a brand and hospitality giant is indisputable. As our promise to the Filipino people, we want to bring something exciting and totally unique and new. We're very proud to be the first resort to have the Nobu brand in Asia," Ho said.
Horwell admitted he did not expect Nobu Hotels to expand this fast, after opening its first hotel just last year. "We're doing incredibly well in Las Vegas. We're leading the luxury market... We look forward to a future in Asia," he said.
Nobu Hotel Manila promises to deliver a celebrity-inspired luxury experience for discerning travelers. It will feature the famous Nobu restaurant, as well as a spa, tea house and other facilities.
Horwell is confident the hotel will do well in Manila. "We don't go in a market where we don't believe we will do well. We do believe we will do very well and raise the bar in terms of hospitality... We didn't think Asia would come as fast as it did, but we're very happy to be coming to Manila and we really believe in the success of City of Dreams," he said.
Meanwhile, the City of Dreams Manila is expected to employ around 5,000 once it is completed. Armin Raquel Santos, executive vice president of Belle Corp., said the complex will have three hotels - Crown Towers, Nobu Hotel and a third one that has yet to be named.
Santos said City of Dreams Manila will have six towers of hotels with 950 rooms, as well as an entertainment park.