Hong Kong plays second fiddle to Macau?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2008, 12:00am

Major pop music acts now head across the Pearl River Delta to perform in Macau, lured by higher fees and bigger venues

Hong Kong may be losing top international musical acts to Macau because it is crippled by a lack of high-capacity concert venues and outdone by casino venues paying more attractive artists' fees.

American soul singer Beyonce, pop girl outfit The Pussycat Dolls and R&B group The Black Eyed Peas are some of the acts that have performed in the former Portuguese enclave. None of these acts staged shows in Hong Kong while visiting Macau.

Neither is Hong Kong on the itinerary of British band The Police, who are due to appear in Macau over the Lunar New Year.

The trend has worried music fans, who are concerned about missing a chance to see their favourite artists if they cannot schedule trips to Macau.

Concert promoters who have been bringing international shows to Asia say Hong Kong is likely to lose certain acts.

They say that apart from the tempting artists' fees casinos can afford, some acts will choose to bypass Hong Kong if they are performing in Macau.

'Casino venues offer as much as double [the artists' fee], if not more,' said Nigel Peters of Midas Promotions. 'Many bands and artists depend on the money they make from touring rather than selling records, because of piracy.

'If I were an artist and I didn't know how long I'd be around for, I might take the chance to perform at a casino.' Artists aiming at a more mature generation would be more likely to perform in Macau, he added.

Michael Roche of Lushington Entertainments said while the fact that Macau casinos were able to afford good fees was positive in attracting international acts to the region on the whole, it was not good news for Hong Kong. 'Many of the Macau concerts depend on getting business from Hong Kong concertgoers. So, some might not want to play in Hong Kong if they are already playing in Macau.'

Another draw is the 15,000-seat Venetian Macao Arena, where international acts have been queuing up to perform since it opened last year.

In addition, Macau has started to flex its exhibition muscles, with the Venetian Macao's 100,000 square metres of display area - equal to approximately the total combined exhibition space at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport.

A spokesman for the Venetian said more international concerts would be staged this year, but declined to reveal names.

Music fan Kong Cheuk-lam, an office worker, believes Macau will rise to be a major rival to Hong Kong, especially with international concerts now having to be staged at the 13,000-seat Arena at AsiaWorld Expo during renovation of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Computer professional Chan Chun-fai, 29, said: 'If a show is taking place at the weekend, I can still arrange to spend a night in Macau. But if it's on a weekday, I'm afraid that not many people would make it and that would affect the atmosphere.'

Colleen Ironside, senior vice-president of Live Nation, which is bringing The Police to Macau during the Lunar New Year holiday, said the band was available to play in Macau only at that time and people in Hong Kong usually did not go to shows on the first day of the holiday.

'Each case is different and it depends very much on the artists. Some are very particular about the prices, the venue or the audiences,' she said.

But all is not lost, concert promoters say. 'Not all artists will take the big bucks,' said Mr Peters. 'Take [Icelandic singer-songwriter] Bjork, for example. She would never do it in a million years.'

International acts that have confirmed dates in Hong Kong include the American rock band My Chemical Romance, Bjork, US pop outfit The Backstreet Boys and rock band Maroon 5.

* The articles on this page are edited versions of stories which were published in the South China Morning Post on 28 January

Bitter rivals?

With 23 casinos generating GBP301.8m in revenue, Macau overtook Las Vegas as the world's top gambling destination in 2006.

Boasting quaint historical sites of Portuguese origin, a buoyant gaming industry and luxurious hotels, Macau is an increasingly popular tourist destination that boasted a record 18.4 million visitor arrivals in 2005.

Hong Kong has two major convention and exhibition facilities - the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in the downtown area and the AsiaWorld-Expo located right next to the airport - which provide over 134,000 square metres of rentable function space. Macau has 100,000 square metres of display area at the Venetian.

Handling 47 million passengers and 3.7 million tonnes of cargo last year, Hong Kong International Airport is one of the world's busiest. It has won numerous prestigious international awards.

Macau's international airport handled five million arrivals in 2007.

Language Focus

Fill in the blanks with the words you have learned.

12. The country's economy was ___________________ by runaway inflation and rampant corruption in the government.

13. Eager to ___________________ his managerial muscles, the newly-promoted director of the company has initiated a host of new policies aimed at enhancing work efficiency.

14. A new road will soon be built to ___________________ the town.

15. Filled with strawberries and cream on the top, the cake looks very___________________.

16. The hotel is under ___________________ now. It won't be open to the public until early next year.

Think About

1. What do you think Hong Kong can do to enhance its attractiveness in the face of fierce competition from Macau?

2. Prepare a list of the tourist attractions in Hong Kong and Macau. Compare and contrast the two places as ideal holiday destinations.

3. Instead of competing, some tourism professionals say Hong Kong and Macau should work together to promote their role as gateways to China and attract more tourists. Do you agree with that view? What can governments do?

The links below contain information about the tourism industries in Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong Tourism Board:


Hong Kong Hotels Association:


Macau Government Tourist Office: