WHEN Mr Gerard Sintes looks out from the dust-covered window of his office, the resident manager of Shangri-La International's newest hotel can see the properties of at least three of his competitors. It so happens that all three are racing against time to spruce up their properties in time for the Shangri-La Manila's opening on April 27. Although the appearance of the Shangri-La Manila - the Kuok Group's 21st opening in its 10-year history - has shaken the normally staid hotel industry, speculation is rife on whether there will be enough guests to fill all the new and renovated rooms in the capital's business district. An anticipated growth in tourist arrivals has been sluggish, foreign businessmen fear the capital's chronic power cuts and kidnappings of executives and their families, and economic growth this year will not go much beyond a disappointing one per cent. But the temporary lull in tourism and investment has not discouraged hotel owners from expanding their presence in the Philippines. Last year, Shangri-La opened the US$63 million EDSA Plaza Hotel, where occupancy figures have hovered between 70 per cent and 80 per cent, and the opening of its first resort in the Philippines - the 359-room Mactan Island - is only a few months away. Across the street from the Shangri-La Manila, major renovation projects have been launched at its closest rival - the 17-year-old Peninsula Hotel, with about 600 million pesos (about HK$183 million) going towards room and lobby renovations. Down the street at the Mandarin Oriental, management has just spent 35 million pesos on new function rooms. And a stone's throw away, the Intercontinental Hotel has closed for six months for a total re-make. And after months of delays, the New World group is in the final phase of construction on its first property in the Philippines - a 400-room hotel, also located near the Shangri-La. The New World and Shangri-La are the first deluxe hotels to open in the Makati business district in almost two decades. ''We're happy with such a boom,'' said Manila Peninsula public relations director Mila Magsaysay-Valenzuela. ''It keeps everybody on their toes.'' Shangri-La will have about 350 rooms ready for its soft opening later this month, and the entire property up and running by November. The key market will be business travellers from within Asia. Shangri-La International has spared little money on the 703-room hotel, located in a prime position on the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues in the Makati business district. Mr Sintes said more than US$100 million has been invested in the hotel, designed by the Hongkong-based Hirsch Bedner & Associates. With power cuts of up to 10 hours striking Manila every day, the hotel spent US$441,000 to import four powerful generators from the US. ''The guests won't notice a thing when the power goes out,'' Mr Sintes said. Continuous power is not the only perk the Shangri-La has in store for its guests. The entire fourth floor has been devoted to fitness buffs, complete with a cold water plunge pool, steam baths and executive massage centre. With a staff of 1,200, Mr Sintes said the Shangri-La would set itself apart from its competitors with superior service. Most staff are new to the industry, and intensive training sessions have been designed to encourage them to make decisions on their own. ''We mold them our way,'' Mr Sintes said. ''Training and personalised service are our main tools to distinguish ourselves.'' The hotel sent 18 senior staff to Shangri-La properties in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for four months of specialised training. The 24th and 25th floors have been designated executive floors, with extras like butler service and lounges. Business travellers will have large desks, faxes and computer points in the guest rooms, and a 24-hour business centre. Another special touch will be found in the ground-floor shopping mall, where hotel staff decided to try to lure exclusive shops selling regional products.