New Macau casino bets on mainland, HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 12:00am

The newest casino hotel resort on Macau's Cotai Strip expects to rely, at least initially, on the mainland for about half its visitors, with another quarter coming from Hong Kong,

'I think you'd expect a large proportion from the PRC and Hong Kong,' City of Dreams president Greg Hawkins said. 'The core visitation segments, realistically across all operators in Macau, are similar. Mainland China, particularly southern China, and Hong Kong are the primary inbound segments.'

The casino-hotel development is the only project opening on the Cotai Strip this year.

With established long-haul markets the United States and the European Union hit hard by the global downturn, and with international travel in a slump, mainland and Hong Kong visitors are picking up much of the slack in Macau. In February just over half its 1.65 million visitors came from the mainland and nearly a third from Hong Kong, official figures show.

'We're conscious that they are the general inbound markets. At the same time, secondary markets, like Southeast Asia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, to some extent, are important as well. They are much smaller markets but they generally tend to be multi-stay markets,' Mr Hawkins said.

The heavy reliance on mainland and Hong Kong visitors will be reflected in the prices City of Dreams will charge. The first phase will open in June. It involves 620 rooms split between the Hard Rock Hotel and the more luxury-oriented Crown Towers, a casino, shops, restaurants and a dome-shaped theatre.

The five-star Grand Hyatt hotel will open in September or October and add another 600 rooms.

Mr Hawkins said: 'Business plans and key strategies need to be adaptable to existing conditions. So we've very much looked at what's happening in the markets, making sure our strategies are appropriate for the current market.'

Diversifying Macau's sources of visitors and extending their length of stay are key to the Cotai Strip's aim of becoming a tourism destination. Currently, The Venetian - the mammoth casino-hotel developed by Las Vegas Sands - is anchoring the strip. Other projects are on hold because of the financial crisis.

Mr Hawkins said the master plan for Cotai is at least four to five years from being fleshed out.

'I think it's when, from a consumer point of view, it's clear you have no reason to leave Cotai [that the strip will have arrived]. To me, that's about how diverse the experiences are across all of the properties - in a gaming, hotel, food and beverage, retail and entertainment sense ... I would have thought it's when at least another two or three properties are completed.'

The company behind City of Dreams is Melco Crown Entertainment, a co-chairman of which is Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, the son of casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun.