MACAU'S tourist industry faces a new challenge with the opening of the international airport. The enclave has, until now, been geared to gamblers. The vast majority of the seven million visitors a year who arrive by jetfoil or ferry had only one destination in mind - the casinos. But, with the onset of international flights, Macau must cater for a new breed of tourist seeking more family-oriented entertainment. To this end, the Japanese group, Sega, is developing a Disneyland-style entertainment complex on Taipa. The Mandarin Oriental is building a US$16-million sport and leisure complex on 17,000 square metres of reclaimed land. Meanwhile, for those unable to adjust their holiday schedules to the annual Macau Grand Prix, a 'Grand Prix Museum' will duplicate the thrilling experience with a simulated race track. Motor sports fans will be able to experience the high-speed sights and sounds of driving a racing car around the famous Guia circuit - and even feel the g-forces endured by the drivers. St Paul's, the enclave's most famous historic landmark once renowned as the finest church in the Far East, has also been given added tourist appeal with a new museum built behind the mysterious facade. The museum designers have produced a partially open showcase to illustrate what the church looked like when it was built in 1602. Tombstones of Japanese Christians, who fled to Macau from persecution by the shoguns, can now be seen behind windows while their chalices, crucifixes and silk vestments are on display. Hoteliers are preparing for an influx of tourists, although the boom is expected to be gradual rather than overnight. Still, with six million additional visitors a year forecast by 2003 - and 1.6 million hotel guests predicted during the airport's first year of operation - hoteliers have dramatically increased capacity. The number of hotel rooms has doubled to around 10,000 since the airport plan was announced. Among hotel groups to open in Macau since the announcement have been Holiday Inn, New Century and New World. Others, including the Marriot, Sheraton and Hilton, are reportedly interested in the US$1.5-billion Nam Van Lakes development, a massive reclamation project for a city-within-a-city which will increase the size of the enclave by 20 per cent. Completion is scheduled for 2000. A major challenge facing the tourist industry is to increase the average stay of visitors. At the moment, that stands at 1.3 days. But the Macau Government Tourist Office hopes added attractions will increase the average stay to two days - representing a huge cash injection into the local economy. Hoteliers are certainly banking on the turn-around in tourism fortunes. Room occupancy was a few years ago hovering around 72 per cent but, with the downturn in Hong Kong's economy together with new hotels competing in the market, occupancy has since slumped to 50 per cent. The exhibition and conference business is also being keenly studied. Exhibition organisers could hardly have been expected to select Macau in the past, since delegates would have to travel through Hong Kong, where facilities and attractions are boundless. But many hoteliers believe the airport will give Macau a better chance of attracting this lucrative business and conference facilities are being developed or upgraded in most big hotels. 'We are certainly optimistic,' said Mandarin Oriental assistant manager Paul Rene Lee. 'But the key issue is new business from Taiwan. That is where we are expecting the real boom to come from.'