Making Macau appealing


World heritage site and gamblers’ paradise, this city is hoping to broaden its tourist appeal. 

 

MACAU has long been known for its thriving gaming industry. But that ’s just one aspect of the city. Macau government tourist office director Joمo Manuel Costa Antunes tells China Business Weekly reporter LILLIAN LIU about the city’s efforts to become a tourist destination with something for everyone. 

Joمo Manuel Costa Antunes

What’s the most significant recent development for Macau’s tourism industry? 

Macau has reached a very special stage. It’s a city that has for many years been known for its tourism. Two years ago it was recognised by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as a world heritage site — the 31st site in China to be included on the list. 

This recognition has given the city a boost. It’s an important title for us to use to promote Macau, a good asset for the city, and it indicates that it is different from other cities in the region. 

What is the city doing to cater for business travelers? 

We will improve Macau’s cultural resort with modern facilities including new large-scale convention and exhibition spaces. 

I believe these new facilities will take Macau to the next level. At the moment, we only have convention and exhibition space for around 3,000 people, but with new facilities we can cater to 8,000 or 10,000 — or even more. One of our largest (convention centres) will open in August, and other centres will open in the next year. 

A new convention centre is scheduled to open this year. The largest of its kind in Asia, it will be a great opportunity to explore a bigger market for exhibitions and conferences. 

Macau has already successfully organised big events, some of them indoors. In late 2005, we successfully held the 4th East Asian Games and we are expecting the 2nd Asian Indoor Games in October as well as the 54th Macau Grand Prix in November this year. Macau is an experienced host of large-scale events. 

Macau will reportedly increase its casinos from the current 26 to 35 by 2010. It’s estimated the local gaming sector’s annual revenue will reach 100 billion Macau patacas (US$12.5bil) in 2010. How will the new casinos benefit Macau’s tourism industry 

Entertainment is an important part of Macao’s appeal to tourists. In addition, we have other entertainment facilities and adventure games and activities that are suitable for the whole family. 

Macau has been recognised as a world heritage site. How does the city combine conservation with the tourism industry? 

As the “historic centre of Macau”, we go to great lengths to preserve the city’s heritage because we are proud, and it is our responsibility, to be listed on the prestigious World Heritage List. 

Last year was 2006 Macau World Heritage Year and we held a series of heritage promotion campaigns such as the Macau Heritage Passport and the Macau Treasure Hunt. 

We also developed the Macau Heritage Tour to showcase our unique tourism. Heritage is not just about buildings; it is also about culture and economy. 

What we have is different to other cities in the region. Macau’s cultural and historical heritage can bring economic benefit to the city. 

Where do the majority of Macao’s tourists come from? What do visitors spend on average per day? 

Tourists from Hong Kong used to make up the bulk of our visitors, which is natural given the geographic proximity. 

But we’re seeing more and more business travelers and holidaymakers from the mainland. 

The mainland is now our key tourist market. Hong Kong is second and Taiwan third. After that it’s Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. 

Total visitor expenditure in the city topped 74.7 million Macau patacas (US$9.2mil) last year — a 20% increase on the previous year’s 72 million Macau patacas (US$8.9mil). 

Macau is hoping to bring in more tourists

Visitors spent over 23.6 million Macau patacas (US$2.9mil) from January to March this year, with gaming accounting for 77%, a 43% increase on the previous year. 

Each visitor to Macau spent about 1,610 Macao patacas (US$200) in the city last year. That figure increased to 1,649 Macau patacas (US$204) from January to March this year. 

What’s the biggest problem facing Macau’s tourism sector, and what can be done to improve the situation? 

The biggest problem we are facing is the short length of visitors’ stays. Over the last three years, more than 50% of tourists have made one-day visits. 

We want them to stay longer than that, though the occupancy rate in hotels is fairly high — a good 70%. 

Transport needs to be improved for us to attract more tourists. We are launching direct flights to more cities in Asia, such as South Korea and Japan. A direct flight to Australia will also take off soon. 

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