City enjoys big dividends

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am

The Mice industry in Macau is riding the crest of a wave and poised to reap the benefits of an upturn in the global economy.

Observers attribute this success to the Macau Government Tourism Office's (MGTO) support plan introduced last May and which was extended to the end of last month. Another boon was the government's decision to establish a Conference and Exhibition Industry Development Commission.

Robert Rogers, who runs Event Management and Production, says the MGTO's efforts are reaping dividends for the sector. 'They are proactive in getting their local suppliers together with overseas managers. Some of the networking events they put on really bring out an A-list of event professionals. I was also very impressed last year when MGTO was offering subsidies on bulk room bookings,' he says.

While the fallout from the global credit crisis affected other destinations last year, Macau's Mice performance was generally buoyant. The sector experienced a drop in the second quarter, but outperformed in the third and fourth quarters, according to official figures.

There were a total of 1,485 Mice events with an average duration of 2.04 days, attracting 660,881 participants and visitors. The average duration for 1,405 meetings and conferences stood at 1.97 days, with a total of 134,864 participants. In addition, the average duration of the 80 exhibitions was 3.36 days, with 526,017 people attending. The HK$20.8 million budget for Support to Business Tourism between January and March 31 this year won applause from trade and tourism officials, who play an active role in overseas Mice fairs and organise training seminars for the sector. These include Continuing Education Unit credits to help frontline staff qualify for the Certified Meeting Professional certification programme. 'While 2009 was affected by the global economic situation in the same way as other destinations, with its high quality and ever-developing infrastructure, we believe Macau is well placed to take advantage of the upturn when it comes,' says Jo?o Manuel Costa Antunes, MGTO's director.

'From May 18, 2009, to March 17, 2010, the programme has supported [including those pre-qualified] 62 meetings and conventions, 32 exhibitions and 48 incentive travel events, involving an estimated budget of HK$45.23 million. The bounce back in business is illustrated by the 3,000-room Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel. Wolfram Diener, vice-president of conventions and exhibitions at the Venetian, believes an almost 100 per cent year-on-year increase in terms of booked business will be seen this year.

Event planners, such as Rogers, are equally confident. 'We have around 30 trade shows confirmed for 2010. For us in Macau, trade shows with a strong focus grow faster than sourcing fairs. The corporate meeting business rebounded very strongly with a really furious start into the new year,' Rogers says. 'Certain industry sectors such as health care have recovered faster and the incentive element for corporate meetings has significantly regained more importance.'

For Bruno Sim?es, chief executive of DOC DMC Macau, which caters to inbound Mice business, more needs to be done to find versatile venues.

'Though there are new meeting facilities in the Macau Science Centre, it's not very special. We are often on the look out for historical outdoor space for groups of between 200 to 300. At this moment, Macau only offers Fisherman's Wharf as a choice,' he says.

The Science Centre, which opened last January, features a 700-square-metre multifunction convention hall and four small meeting rooms. The 550,000-square-metre Galaxy Macau resort is due to open in the first quarter of next year and will offer 2,200 five-star hotel rooms, suites and villas, world-class gaming and entertainment facilities, and more than 50 food and beverage outlets.

'For now, business has bounced back and the market is much busier now. However, hotel rates did not come down last year and are going up slightly this year,' Sim?es says of the business outlook.

But he warns against complacency. 'Macau needs more co-ordination between several government departments that indirectly effect Mice and its overall success. For instance, the Immigration Department can aid with easy processing of clients while also welcoming experienced professionals to work in Macau.

'If the Conference and Exhibition Industry Development Commission works well we will have good news soon.'