Macau government officials and enclave business leaders are embarking on an overhaul of the Chinese territory’s economic focus. And to make sure the world knows about the region’s efforts to diversify away from its gaming-first mentality, a delegation representing the city is crisscrossing Europe to spread the word that Macau is open and ready for both leisure and business travelers.
Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, the top government official in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR), departed Macau this week with numerous business leaders in tow to promote the region. Among the delegation are Pansy, Daisy, and Lawrence Ho, three relatives who respectively head up or control significant ownership positions in three of Macau’s casino concessionaires. MGM China, SJM Resorts, and Melco Resorts.
Ho’s delegation additionally includes Sands China President Dr. Wilfred Wong, Wynn Macau Vice Chair and Executive Director Linda Chen, and Galaxy Entertainment Director Philip Cheng Yee Sing.
Pansy Ho is co-chair and executive director of MGM China, while Daisy Ho is chair and executive director of SJM. SJM is the legacy firm of the Ho children’s late father, Stanley Ho, the so-called “king of gambling” who controlled a monopoly on casino gambling in Macau for decades until the turn of the 21st century.
Lawrence Ho is the founder, CEO, and chair of Melco Resorts.
Macau is no longer the high-roller paradise it was for many years until China President Xi Jinping ordered the region to more closely monitor VIP junket groups. Junkets had transported China’s wealthiest residents to the tax haven of Macau.
In exchange for complimentary luxury travel to and from Macau, plus extravagant accommodations, dining, and entertainment, the VIP guests pledged to gamble a certain amount of money in Macau’s private high-roller rooms. Xi believes many affluent mainlanders used the VIP junket scheme to move large sums of money through the tax haven of Macau.
The junket industry has essentially folded in Macau. Along with fewer high rollers, the hand of Macau’s six casino operators was forced to pivot towards the mass market last year by the Macau government. The gaming companies were told to collectively invest $13.5 billion into nongaming projects. The nongaming spend came in exchange for the casinos receiving fresh 10-year operating privileges that run through 2033.
Mass Marketing Macau
The delegation led by Chief Executive Ho is touring Europe and promoting the Chinese casino hub’s many capabilities for exhibitions and conventions, as well as new leisure tourism offerings such as Melco’s recently opened Studio City water park.
Macau has long relied most on mainland China for visitation, but with many more guests needed to warrant the $13.5 billion in nongaming spend, Ho and the casino leaders are appealing to relatively untapped markets like Portugal, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
The number of international visitors to Macau is still relatively low, with an average of only about 1,600 international visitors per day in February, rising to around 2,000 in March,” said Macau Government Tourism Office Director Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes.
Of the more than 39.4 million visitors who traveled to Macau in 2019, only 3.1 million arrived from outside of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
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