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Macao announces economic diversification to boost meetings and events

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Macao, the Special Administrative Region of China, has announced that it will diversify its economic strategy beyond integrated tourism – that is, gaming – to focus on technology, modern finance, health and wellness, plus meetings, conventions, sports and culture.

“We had a very good tourism base with gaming and tourism coming very closely together in Macau in particular…this is like our basic industry,” said Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao Government Tourism Office.

“But the government feels we should have a more diversified portfolio.”

The 30km2 cluster of islands to the south of mainland China and linked to Hong Kong by the USD 18.8 billion Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge will next year begin a five year plan known as the “one plus four strategy”.

De Senna Fernandes said the tourism office would “play a very big role in delivering the new diversified economy” as it worked to find customers across the four new sectors.

“This year we secured our bread and butter – the China mainland market and also Hong Kong – but our next focus for 2024 and beyond will be the international markets,” she said, adding that the office would work with international airlines flying into Hong Kong as well as directly to Macao.

Apart from traditional partners like travel agencies, tour operators and hotel chains she said, “obviously we are looking at working with international media, both traditional media as well as the new types of media with so many different social media platforms and behaviours are different, usage is different, demographics are different”.

Macao had 39.4 million visitors in 2019, about 28 million from mainland China, seven million from Hong Kong and one million from Taiwan, with three million from other international markets. While the numbers dropped significantly during the years of pandemic lockdowns visitation has been rebuilding quickly.

“In the first nine months of this year we have had almost 20 million visitors,” said de Senna Fernandes.

She said her office did not really promote gaming as this was not necessary but the casino operators in Macao faced the highest government taxes in the world at 35 per cent on gross gaming revenue and a requirement with every licence that they contribute another four per cent for education, social welfare and charitable causes.

The government announcement came as casino operator Sands Lifestyle group undertook a mega-familiarisation, with more than 150 people, including micenet, being flown from around the world to sample the luxury hotels, shopping centres and experiences Sands has built in its entertainment complex at Cotai as well as the Portuguese/Chinese culture of old Macao.

Macao has the largest number of five-star hotels in the world and more than 300 Michelin starred restaurants, many of which are in luxury hotels. Sands’ Cotai precinct has more than 28,000 hotel rooms plus massive plenary and exhibition spaces which saw one hotel stage a pop concert for 15,000 fans during our visit.

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