When Jennifer Welker published her coffee-table guidebook, The New Macau, in 2005, the map of Cotai - which at the time was slated to be the city's next humungous thing - was dominated by a large sign reading 'Watch This Space!'. That was before the global economic downturn, which saw casino operators call a temporary halt to the mammoth construction plans for hotels and malls - plus a plethora of gaming opportunities - on the reclaimed land bridge between Taipa and Coloane. 'Even now, Cotai is still in watch-this-space mode - we'll have to see what happens over the next couple of years as Macau moves forward and the economy makes a comeback,' says the American-born, Beijing-educated, author. Welker first visited Macau as a child, and by the late 1990s was dividing her time between Hong Kong and the up-and-coming city, working for Reed Elsevier publishing as a travel writer. An interview with Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson in 2004 gave her the idea of writing an up-to-date guidebook and she promptly based herself in the old village of Coloane. 'It was important for me to live and experience Macau as a 'local'. Back then, the city was on the cusp of a dramatic change and I wanted to be there to witness it. No one had envisaged a travel book like The New Macau before and I saw a need to share the story of a city in transformation.' The book was published to respectful reviews and healthy sales. The intervening years have allowed Welker to reflect on her adopted home, as there were concerns that Macau would blindly embrace materialism and modernity. 'Fortunately, Macau has done well to preserve its past so that even as flashy new buildings nudge their way into the city, the historical monuments still stand as testament to the city's Portuguese and Chinese heritage,' she says. 'For me, Macau is about a constant tussle between the old and new. On one hand there are people knocking on the door of change, and on the other you'll find staunch advocates of keeping Macau just the way it was even just 15 years ago - when you could stretch your arms out and not touch another person as you walked along Senado Square.' And Welker has gone from an enthusiastic observer to an active participant in creating the transformation with her role in destination marketing at the Venetian Macao casino.