Story by KRISTIE THONG with initial reporting by BRAD FOSTER

Macau’s unrivalled reputation as the top gaming market combines undying efforts to transform the destination into a mecca for meetings and incentives.

The Macau of today, positioned in the Pearl River Delta near China’s Guangdong province, just 60 kilometres from Hong Kong, thrives on old-meets-west characteristics, with recent additions complementing its historic legacies, many of which are protected by UNESCO World Heritage status.
Tourism remains as one of Macau’s primary industries, fuelled by a lucrative gaming market which saw over 28 million tourist arrivals in 2012. But as the Macao SAR and central governments sought to diversify the economy by expanding the net appeal to non-gaming visitors, MICE is one market that has made substantial headway in recent years.
“The MICE market has developed along both demand and supply lines,” Galaxy Macau hotel operations assistant vice president Tim Gan said.

On the supply end, the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) has recently launched an incentive travel stimulation programme. Applications will have to go through a pre-qualification process conducted by MGTO; on top of a strict focus on incentive travel activities, the support will only be extended to events that employ local suppliers legally registered in Macau. This criteria allows Macau to ensure MICE business brought into the country fully experience the value and quality of its suppliers.
MGTO is also focusing a lot of its attention on MICE tradeshows around the world, including a presence at the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo in Melbourne, the upcoming Incentive Travel & Conventions Meetings in Shanghai and the Worldwide Exhibition for Meetings, Incentive Travel and Events (IMEX) in Frankfurt.
These efforts have succeeded in a gradual boost to Macau’s reputation as a business events destination, evident by an 8 per cent increase in the number of events hosted in Q4 2012.

“On the demand side, visitors to Macau are clearly looking for experiences that provide all the great aspects of a luxurious weekend getaway, one that offers the very best in accommodation, dining, entertainment, meeting facilities and more, in a way that makes them feel at home and catered for,” Mr Gan said.
Despite the growing potential of Macau as a MICE destination, some event planners cited the lack of air access from key cities such as Singapore and Malaysia, which are popular transit hubs for other parts of the world such as the US and Europe. While flying into Macau from most parts of China is not an issue, a more common and less convenient way for delegates is to fly to Hong Kong and then take a ferry into Macao.