Macau Opinion | Cosmic MICE

Last week, this column touched on the 2017 MICE results, following the publication of the annual survey for the sector.

I don’t want to go back here on the limited results exhibited or the concerns about data reliability expressed then. That topic discussion was a timely reminder of an earlier report on the development of the sector.

In late 2013, the “Commission for the Development of Conventions and Exhibitions,” (which was created in 2010) opened a public tender for a research project titled “Study about the Plan for Development of Conventions and Exhibitions.” A summary of the main findings of that study was published in late 2017.

This is a sector often identified as critical to the diversification of the economy. It can indeed play some role there. It is true that the attractiveness of the city as a place for events of that nature also depends a lot on the health of the casino sector. In that sense, this sector would also be strongly affected should gambling suffer a shock. But it is also true that it may diversify its sources of customers and build on other factors for tourism attraction.

Further, it may act as an anchor for a significant number of small and medium local providers of all kinds of services, helping to strengthen the local economy’s resilience in the event of some kind of major predicament elsewhere. In some measure, it is plausible that it can reduce the reliance of the local economic fabric on the health of the casino industry.

Without question, then, a careful study helping to identify the main factors shaping the growth of the sector, and setting some strategic framework for its development was indeed opportune. The findings of the study, as expressed in that “summary” document, offered regretfully less guidance than what might be desired. One cannot avoid the impression that an opportunity was missed.

The document (I’m considering here the Portuguese version) could do better in both explaining its practical objectives and the rationale underpinning its recommendations. The language is often repetitive, formulaic and vague.

Moreover, it displays obvious translation problems that reflect poorly on the work itself and on the publishers. None is possibly more striking than the provision of policy recommendations both at the “macroscopic” and “microcosmic” level! This creates an unavoidable comic effect. And yet, it is less than funny. After all, this is an official document on public policy, right?