Work hard, play hard

By developing more leisure experiences, Macau is confident that its corporate visitors will also be enticed to stay longer

With borders now open, the Macau government and business events stakeholders have intensified their efforts to create more leisure tourism experiences – that can be built around corporate events and meetings – to lengthen the stay of business travellers to Macau.

As part of the diversification of its offerings, the Macau government has adopted a “1+4” plan. It refers to the ongoing development of Macau’s tourism and leisure industries but with an additional focus on four new industries – big health, high-tech, modern finance, and conventions and exhibitions including culture and sports.

Studio City is a Hollywood-inspired, cinematically-themed resort on the Cotai Strip

The “1+4” plan will clarify the development direction of some industries, and will also include the Cooperation Zone in Hengqin.

According to the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), the city will host around 700 to 1,000 convention and exhibition events this year, up at least 40 per cent when compared to 2022.

Overall, the tourism sector has been off to a great start, with 200,000 visitors in 1Q2023, buoyed by business events such as a large-scale international corporate conference with over 10,000 attendees in April, and a 4,000-pax finance conference in May.

An IPIM spokesperson explained: “This is why we sent representatives to wave our flags at global events like UFI Global CEO Summit 2023, held in Portugal in February. We also attended UFI Asia-Pacific Conference last March to attract international organisers. So far, gaming expo G2E Asia 2023 has confirmed its return in July along with the UFI Asia-Pacific Conference in 2024; it’s the first time the conference has come back since its debut in Macau in 2008. These demonstrate their confidence in our future.”

Aside from promoting Macau on the global stage, IPIM also develops trade partnerships, as well as tie into event calendars to craft guided local tours suitable for corporates and event visitors.

Meanwhile, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) remains in charge of promoting incentive tourism, since it was transferred to the portfolio of the Secretary for Economy and Finance on February 1, 2021. To further develop the incentives sector, MGTO launched a Travel Stimulation Program.

Under the programme, MGTO provides approved applicants with appropriate destination support, such as souvenirs, cultural performances, half-day tours to experience the Historic Centre of Macao, and more.

In order to be eligible for the programme, corporate groups must include at least 25 non-Macau participants and stay for a minimum of two consecutive nights.

Aside from incentives, the programme also covers wedding tourism, student tourism, and sports tourism.

An aerial view of Macau (Photo by Macao Government Tourism Office)

The private sector has also stepped up efforts to court more international groups as visitors return.

Melco Resorts & Entertainment has currently secured around 10 international events – spanning from meetings to incentives – that will happen over the next six months. Groups vary in sizes, with the largest at around 900 pax.

Its spokesperson shared that more investments will be poured into its non-gaming activities, which aim to bring “world-class shows, art exhibitions, fun-filled family attractions, as well as modern and interactive cultural venues to Macau”. In line with this, Melco Resorts & Entertainment also launched Asia’s first-ever residency concert series.

Other fresh attractions include the opening of Melco’s own branded hotel, Epic Tower, and an all-year-round indoor waterpark in April, all of which are part of Phase 2 of Studio City.

Other projects in the pipeline include the soon-to-open W Macau, as well as new retail and F&B outlets. Upgrades will also Grand Hyatt Macau’s meeting and function facilities.

All of these facilities aim to attract local families and foreign tourists alike, complement Melco’s existing hospitality offerings and further boost the company’s MICE business,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, event management and teambuilding planner smallWORLD Experience is currently rebuilding its team, much like many other businesses in Macau.

Its executive director, partner, Bruno Simões, told TTGmice: “The resumption of business activities only commenced two months ago. Numerous operators, such as restaurants, transportation companies, and event service providers are still grappling to meet current demand.”

Regardless, he is optimistic of Macau’s business events future, adding that he plans to “begin promotional campaigns during the upcoming summer season.”

Although the industry has been down, we are confident that brighter days are ahead. We are currently in the process of healing our wounds, and eagerly await MICE recovery this summer. Let’s stay positive and keep pushing forward!” Simões said.