'Rising star' looks to neighbours for help
Regional collaboration is an effective platform for Macau to further expand its meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market, especially in the long run, says the Macau Tourism Board.
Branded as a 'rising star' in the Pearl River Delta, the enclave's MICE and congress hospitality market has grown tremendously in recent years. The board's figures revealed that the number of MICE activities in 2002 was only 226, but it shot up to 360 in 2006. The number of participants had also grown from 28,386 to 57,089 during the same period. In the first half of last year, there were 169 MICE activities and 28,807 participants.
However, Macau doesn't see its booming industry posing a threat to its neighbours such as Hong Kong and cities in Guangdong. Instead, it is hoping for co-operation.
'We would be riding on mechanisms such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Tourism Marketing Organisation, Fujian-Macau collaboration, Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Co-operation to develop themed itineraries,' said a board spokesman. 'The collaboration also provides more access points to visitors and expands the transport network of Macau.'
Last year, the tourism authorities of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau agreed to adjust the co-operation mechanism and intensify joint promotions to build a world-class tourism brand for the three cities in the Pearl River Delta. It has already launched the first golf brochure on Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Macau, a product popular in Japan and South Korea.
'We will continue to develop more regional tourism brands and multidestination itineraries,' the spokesman said. He said Macau had been an important hub of eastern and western cultures for the past four centuries, which was reflected in the cultural mix that made up today's Macau. This is reflected in its architecture, religious rituals, customs and cuisine. 'Macau, as a multidimensional destination, provides tourism products that suit the interests of various types of visitors, and makes their visits more enjoyable,' he added.
In July 2005, the 'Historic Centre of Macau' was inscribed on Unesco's prestigious World Heritage List, the 31st World Heritage site in China. Apart from gaming and entertainment facilities, Macau offers a great deal to tourists, including temples, museums, fortresses, churches, gardens and exhibition galleries. In recent years, fusion cuisine has become trendy and the blend of the Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau over centuries led to the existence long ago of Macanese cuisine. The completion of luxury hotels and mega-resort shopping and entertainment complexes, featuring world-class convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities, have added new components to Macau's MICE and tourism industry that have created favourable conditions for its continued development.
According to the first quarter report of international property consultants Vigers, last year marked a new chapter for Macau's MICE industry with the opening of the 1.2 million sqft of gross function space at the Venetian Macao and the Ponte 16 Resort, accompanied by a five-star Sofitel hotel. New hotels to open this year include the Shangri-La, Traders, Galaxy Mega Resort and City of Dreams, providing more than 7,000 hotel rooms.
In addition, the Macau Business Tourism Centre, which opened in 2006, is a platform for the business tourism industry to communicate and to understand the needs of the local industry. 'Macau will capitalise on the opportunities to nurture the territory into a prominent business tourism destination in the region,' he said.
Melanie Foo-Tiplady, vice-president of sales and marketing, Wynn Macau, said Macau benefited from the growth in tourism in the region because of its strategic position within Greater China. She added that a combination of the Portuguese heritage and the development of world-class gaming resorts made it an ideal tourist destination for many.
'We'd like to see Macau transform into a true travel and leisure destination. We believe the opening of new resorts and hotels will contribute to its ongoing transformation, increasing visitation and consumer spending. With the dynamic casino industry, together with the growing non-gaming sectors, we believe Macau will continue to see rapid and steady growth.'
As the first integrated luxury resort with meetings and incentives facilities in Macau, Wynn Macau holds an average of five to six MICE events per week, with clients primarily from the banking and finance segment, and some telecommunications and legal firms.
Macau legislative councillor Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong said the enclave's MICE market only formally started last year when the Venetian Macao, offering 1 million square metres of conference facilities, opened.
'We need time to establish a better transportation network,' he said. 'There are plans to build light rail transportation and arrange more flexible work hours to ease traffic jams. We also have courses to train MICE event planners and these courses will gradually be upgraded into degree courses. Where there is demand, there will be supply.'