Macao eyes international visitors


In a bold stride towards economic diversification, the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has unveiled an ambitious roadmap designed to reshape Macao into a multifaceted destination.

With a focus on reducing dependency on the gaming sector, the five-year plan involves specialised programmes tailored to propel tourism and leisure, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and big health, modern finance, new and high technologies, conventions and exhibitions, and culture and sports.

The plan aims to blend gourmet cuisine, leisurely escapes, sightseeing, high-end shopping, captivating entertainment, cultural immersion, cutting-edge medical facilities, and thrilling sports experiences to offer tourists a wholesome experience. This programme underscores the importance of nurturing a thriving gaming industry while adhering to the law. However, its broader vision extends far beyond the casino floors.

During an interaction with journalists who were part of the ‘Sands Lifestyle #ReDiscover Macao 2023’ familiarisation visit, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director of Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), shared that 2024 will see a heightened focus on international markets. Plans and strategies are already in motion, prioritising health and wellness, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions), sports, and culture to diversify the industry.

Fernandes provided insights into visitor numbers, revealing that pre-pandemic, in 2019, Macao welcomed 39.44 million visitors, primarily from mainland China. Around 7 million visitors came from Hong Kong, one million from Taiwan, and approximately 3 million from international markets.

Macao is steadily recovering from the impact of the pandemic, recording over 19 million visitors in the first nine months of the year, majority of them from mainland China. International visitors currently make up around 5 per cent of the total visitor numbers.

“While this is a promising start, there’s still a long journey ahead. With 10 months completed, the progress has been quite satisfactory. We can’t complain, considering the challenges of reinstating flights and engaging with cruise lines. We are actively working on resuming these services and are in talks with various stakeholders,” she said.

Macao is keen on engaging with international airlines, travel agencies, hotels, cruise companies, and media to reach its goals, she said. “We are enthusiastic about engaging with international airlines, not only those directly serving Macao but also airlines flying to the Greater Bay areas and Hong Kong. We are actively seeking synergies in these areas,” she said.

“Furthermore, we are in discussions with cruise companies to consider the possibility of making Macao a stop on their itineraries,” she said.

MGTO has embarked on an extensive promotional campaign in Hong Kong and mainland China. Roadshows and events have been conducted in various Asian markets, with plans extending into 2024.

She highlighted that the high tax on gaming (34 per cent of the revenue) and the new concession rules that seek investments in non-gaming activities and infrastructure are helping to diversify the tourism offering.

Answering a question from TTN, Fernandes said the Middle East market is not a major one as yet, but one that is showing promise. “We used to take part in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), but this year, we haven’t gone back to the Middle East yet as we are trying to prioritize; obviously, Asia comes in first. We’re pacing ourselves even as every market seems important,” she added.