It is not enough to bring (mega) events to Macau and expect them to attract thousands of tourists. First, we need to understand what Chinese tourists want. It will certainly not be exactly the same as in Las Vegas.
MB July 2020 Special Report | Crossroads of Macau tourism
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture made the headlines when she presented her maiden Policy Address last May: to host an international sports competition or event every month in the future.
“I know that when it comes to sports tourism the President of the Sports Bureau (ID), Pun Weng Kun, is already under a lot of pressure because what we want is to launch an international event. I hope the ID can do this,” the Secretary Elsie Ao Ieng U said during the debate at the Legislative Assembly.
To be confirmed, it will be a new bet by the government in tourist diversification, not least because, as the researcher Ubaldino Couto, from the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), notes, “we have not been holding significant sports events since the Asian Indoor Games in 2007.”
Mr Couto, Lecturer in Festivals and Events,at IFT’s School of Hospitality Management said: “The question is, of course, what kind of sports events we are to organise, and whether we can attract both competing teams and spectators because those are the ones we want in Macau. That being said, not all events are mega in size like the 2007 Games, they can be international tournaments of specific sports that draw in competitors, supporting teams and spectators. These smaller events can culminate to a large one.”
Advice also from Carlos Siu Lam, from the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies at Macau Polytechnic Institute: “Macau is still trying to diversify its tourism. However, as most of our tourists have been and are from China, there might be some differences in their preferences when compared with those of Westerners. For this reason, although Macau has got a number of US based companies, their non-gaming amenities might not perfectly suit their liking.”
Professor Siu states to Macau Business that, “this is something that Macau gaming concessionaires need to explore to make Macau’s non-gaming more successful in the future, thereby helping to achieve Macau’s tourism diversification“. He explains further, that according to the Las Vegas statistics, tourists there spent on average US$50 on shows and entertainment in their stay, “and this was much higher than what was spent by the mainland Chinese tourists in 2018 in Macau.”
As with the IFT colleague, Carlos Siu also understands “this is an area to be explored” and that “gaming concessionaires need to spend much time to identify their preferences and test what prices are acceptable to such tourists. All these are a gradual trial-and-error process.”
For example, two researchers from the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Macau, among them Glenn McCartney, studied the impact of a show like Batman Dark Flight (Studio City), and, “notably the study revealed that was essentially a peripheral attraction. In the absence of the ride, most respondents would still have visited the Integrated Resort.” That’s why they say: “the findings suggest greater assessment is required on the net economic and competitive worth of event and entertainment hosting at Macau’s IRs and in particular to Chinese audiences who make up most of Macau’s visitation and this study sample.”
On the other side, it is a fact that MGTO promotes year-round events via various tourism promotional channels to attract potential tourists and Professor Ubaldino Couto praises the efforts from, “the Chui Sai On’s last administration [that] has done a good job in incorporating this into Macau’s overall tourism strategy.” However, the research from Zhaoyu Chen, from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, “indicates that the tourists were not informed about these events and did not experience the events.” That’s why, “promotional efforts should allocate more resources to increasing the visibility of the events and the accessibility of the public to these promotional channels. These efforts will further enhance the destination image of Macau as a diversified city,” he said.
“There is a lack of understanding in this fast-evolving [Chinese] market,” concedes the Lecturer in Festivals and Events, School of Hospitality Management, once, “the market is just way too big for current research practices to fully understand its characteristics.”
“Previous research shed some light on this lucrative market, for example, the younger generation has a very different upbringing than their older counterparts, for example, they were exposed to western cultural elements including sports. This would naturally attract these youngsters to traditionally more western sports and their associated events, such as the NBA games, snooker tournaments, Wimbledon, etc. However, I think we should take a step back and think whether we should be solely tapping in to the China market, or should we be looking at the regional market, e.g. SE Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. These are also very lucrative markets waiting to see the world and participate in events!” concludes Ubaldino Couto.
Little or nothing will be as it was post Covid-19, at least for years to come.
“More people will be working from home and not venturing out as much,” states Andrew Pearson, Founder and Managing Director at Intelligencia Limited.
“I’ve argued for more eSports in Macau in the past and I still think this is a good idea. Even if you have small local events, you can get massive online audiences, which can help with worldwide marketing of Macau and the individual casinos,” Mr Pearson insists to Macau Business.
“eSports is not being taken very seriously in Macau right now, they have tried some events but they haven’t really taken off,” he recognizes, “but I do think it has a future here. Once Galaxy opens its new arena, they will be fighting with the Venetians to host big entertainment draws and eSports does that, no question.”
Andrew Pearson, linked to a Macau eSports association, also advises: “eSports is huge in China, so it’s only a matter of time before Macau sees its true potential. 50M monthly eSports gamers in China is a huge draw and the casinos do know they need to attract a younger clientele, and eSports players should be a perfect demographic to target.”