Hospitality sector cashes in its chips
Visitors spending a weekend or more in Macau have never had a greater choice of places to stay - whether five-star hotels or quiet out-of-the way pousadas. Hotel rooms and occupancy rates have risen from last year, largely thanks to the casino resort operators.
The 213-room Mandarin Oriental was one of two prime hotels to open this year. 'We offer an oasis in this busy city, yet are connected to the best in entertainment and shopping via One Central,' says general manager Martin Schnider, of the mixed-use facility featuring spas, shops and serviced apartments. Many visitors will also welcome the waterfront hotel's absence of gaming.
Encore, the 414-room all-suite boutique hotel alongside sister resort Wynn Macau, swung open its doors in April. The Encore Tower boasts attention to detail, with every suite looking over Nam Wan Lake.
Several hotels will open next year, with the Galaxy Macao on Cotai positioning itself as an Asian destination resort. Banyan Tree and Hotel Okura will also be among the big names. The Banyan brands itself as an urban resort, and 246 suites will be the largest in Asia, starting with 92 square metres for the smallest suite. Each suite will feature a private relaxation pool.
Later next year, parcels five and six at the heart of Cotai Strip will be home to Sheraton Macau, the Shangri-La, Traders Hotel and St Regis Macau.
'We will become a multifaceted entertainment city in which gaming is one option among many,' says Sheraton Macao's managing director Josef Dolp. 'In a five-hour radius of Macau, the two biggest markets - China and India - will continue to create an influx of tourists.'
Smaller properties are also benefiting from the robust tourism rebound. The only training hotel in town, the 20-room Pousada de Mong-Ha Hotel, is popular among regular travellers. Director Gloria Wong says: 'Our occupancy is basically similar to our industry partners. We are expecting to have 80-90 per cent occupancy until the end of the year. Since we have only a limited [number of] rooms, privacy is pretty high because even a small group can easily occupy all rooms.'
For traditional players, such as Hotel Royal Macau, success comes down to a combination of simplicity, efficiency and an emphasis on anticipating the needs of its clientele. 'We focus on our niche and deliver the value that our guests are consistently looking for,' says deputy general manager Kevin Chan. 'Undoubtedly, the luxury five-star hotels changed a lot in the last few years. The Las Vegas-style resorts attracted most of travellers' attention, but it does not necessarily mean every traveller is willing to pay the price to stay there.'
A total of 8,629 rooms are planned for the next couple of years - mostly in upscale hotels, suggesting there will only be a handful of mid-range operations.
But MGM Grand Paradise president Grant Bowie believes there is still room for the smaller hotels to grow. 'Tour group visits are increasing every quarter, while the number of non-five-star hotel rooms remains less than half of the total of 19,000 rooms on the market. There seems to be potential for growth among the mid-range hotels,' he says.