Casting off city's gaming image for a diversified travel destination

Updated: 2016-10-18 07:35

By Lin Wenjie in Macao(HK Edition)

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Macao - the world's largest gaming center - is on its way to building a tourism center for all ages by introducing new hotels and recreational facilities.

Admitting that it's not an easy task, government officials believe that the biggest challenge lies in the task of shedding the city's rather entrenched image of being a sole gaming center.

"People still see Macao as a gaming city - that's an old image of Macao. We need to work hard to let people know what else Macao can offer besides gaming. Thus, changing people's perception of Macao is our priority right now," Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao SAR Tourist Office, told the Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macao on Sunday.

The Macao government is collaborating with tourist offices and the media in various places to foster diversified tourism markets in the city, emphasizing that they offer great growth prospects.

Casting off city's gaming image for a diversified travel destination

"Macao is a city full of tourism resources, combining old heritages with modern developments, Eastern traditions and Western cultures. With its unique geographical location backed by the Chinese mainland, the potential of developing the tourism industry is huge," Senna Fernandes says.

As part of the city government's efforts to boost tourism, two new integrated resorts swung into action on the Cotai Strip ahead of the mainland's National Day "Golden Week" holidays this year.

Wynn Palace - Wynn Resorts' second project in Macao after Wynn Macau - features a 28-storey hotel with 1,700 rooms, while the French-themed resort, the Parisian Macao, offers 2,950 guest rooms, and a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower with a viewing platform, where guests can enjoy a 360-degree view of Cotai.

On the policy side, part of the tax dollars from hotels and resorts in the city has been funneled into a tourism fund to finance tourism projects and promotional activities.

These efforts have turned out to be rewarding, with mainland tourist arrivals in Macao surging almost 7 percent during the week-long holidays, compared with a year ago, according to official statistics.

The occupancy rate of four- to five-star hotels in Macao reached 82 percent in the second quarter of this year - higher than the previous quarter and the same period in 2015.

The city's gaming revenue rose 7.4 percent year-on-year last month - up from 1.1-percent growth in August - to 18.4 billion Macao patacas ($2.3 billion), according to the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Revenue from the gaming industry had contracted for 26 months before August.

Meanwhile, support from the central government is also important to Macao's tourism industry. During his visit to Macao last week, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to help the city strengthen its sea management to develop the maritime economy.

"We now plan to develop maritime tourism, but it's not sure yet. Everything's still under discussion," Senna Fernandes says.

(HK Edition 10/18/2016 page6)