MICE industry (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) is not bringing the expected results to Macau. The Government talks about collaborating with Hengqin, but one must not forget the mega-investment that Galaxy is making and which will open next year.
MB July 2020 Special Report | Crossroads of Macau tourism
We read on the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) website that, “A period of rapid and unprecedented infrastructure development has shaped Macau into a promising business tourism destination among other top-notch Asian cities,” and, “Despite being only 32.9 km2 in size, Macau is home to an array of premier conference and exhibition venues. … In line with the expansion in convention and exhibition sector, as well as the overall development in lodging, retail, dining and entertainment areas in recent years, Macau has been attracting a growing amount of Business Tourism visitors and incentive travellers worldwide.”
The reality, however, is not as encouraging as the words of the local Tourism Office.
The MSAR is ranked 48th in the ranking of world cities to the International Congress and in the Convention Association’s last report, the real contribution of the MICE industry is really low: “Macau’s leisure spending is 96 per cent, business spending 4 per cent. Talk about the MICE spending, “it is quite minimalistic,” indicated Glenn McCartney, Associate Professor in International Integrated Resort Management at the University of Macau. Professor McCartney did not take into account the significant subsidies that the Government injects into this industry.
Another Macau scholar, Florence Lei, Coordinator for the Department of Government Studies program at the University of Saint Joseph, studied the benefits of, “the relatively small convention industry.”
Ms Lei concludes that, “in line with previous studies, the present model shows that if the cost of providing gambling service is relatively low, it is optimal for a city to export relatively more gambling service than convention services.”
For all this, it was not exactly a surprise when the Chief Executive said in his recent Policy Address: “The weight of emerging industries in the economy in general remains relatively low. The weight of the convention and exhibition industry and of the cultural and creative industries promoted by the Government, the Gross Domestic Product does not reach 1 per cent.”
It was not a surprise, but it was the first time that anyone in the Macau government took the problem so head-on.
So straight forward… that a few days later the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong, in the same place, was ‘obliged’ to clarify that the MICE industry is one of the areas in which Macau should focus on. According to the Secretary, “despite having a weight in the GDP below 1 percent”, it has, “a relevant boosting effect”, having contributed in bringing, “considerable income” to different sectors of the economy.
Still, to yield results, Lei Wai Nong pointed to Hengqin Island, since cooperation is expected to generate, “economic returns through the model of ‘one event, two locations’”.
There are valid reasons for Macau not to drop the MICE sector.
In addition to the investments already made (especially in the Venetian), Galaxy Entertainment Group is building the new Galaxy International Convention Centre (GICC), a facility that is set to open in the next year. Galaxy plans to invest between HKD45 billion to HKD50 billion (with Phase 4).
Galaxy describes it as, “Asia’s most technologically advanced event facility”, and it will cover 40,000 square meters of MICE space including a 10,000-square meter exhibition area, a conference hall, and a 16,000 seat Galaxy Arena for concerts and sporting events.
Lui Che Woo, chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group, said: “We are honoured to introduce state of the art MICE and arena facilities to attract new visitors and complement the Macau government’s vision of diversifying the economy and developing Macau into a world centre of tourism.”